The Intel NUC lineup has traditionally contained models from low end Celeron-based units to the upper middle-class Core i5. However, before the current generation of NUCs there hasn’t been a model powered by a Core i7 processor. That’s one thing that changed earlier this year when Intel released the NUC5I7RYH model powered by the low-voltage U series i7-5557U CPU. Coincidentally, this is the same CPU that you can get if you order a 2015 version of 13-inch MacBook Pro with the most powerful CPU that’s available (trivia: Apple charges $300 to change i5-5257U to i7-5557U in a MacBook, whereas Intel takes only $140 to move from a i5-5250U to i7-5557U in the NUC). Today, we take a look at what the Intel NUC5i7RYH can do for you and compare the performance.
The NUC comes as a barebone device, meaning it has the unit itself, but you will need to add the memory and some form of storage. This also means, that you will need to install the components that come inside your NUC. This is luckily a very trivial operation and you can manage it easily, even if you never built a PC before. Just be sure to choose components that work together with your NUC. If you want to play it safe, look at the NUC Guru tool on this site that will suggest you parts that are known to work together with the NUC. In the video here I’ll install the parts into a low-end Braswell NUC, but there’s no difference in practice between the various models. The i7 has an additional M.2 slot, so if you plan to install an M.2 device, it’s an additional step.
- Intel Core i7-5557U Processor, max. 3.4GHz, 28W TDP
- Intel Iris Graphics 6100 GPU
- 2 slots for DDR3L-1600/1866 memory modules, max. 16 GB
- 2.5″ slot for a SATA drive
- M.2 slot for SATA or PCIe SSD or other device
- Intel Wireless-AC 7265 adapter including Bluetooth 4.0 support
- Mini DisplayPort 1.2 connector supporting 4K @ 60 Hz
- Mini HDMI 1.4a connector supporting 4K @ 30 Hz
- 4 USB 3.0 ports
- Consumer infrared receiver for remote controllers
It’s worth pointing out that this is the first Intel NUC that has Iris Graphics GPU built in.
Let’s have a look around the box. From outside the thing looks exactly the same as the Core i3 and i5 models. You’ve got the glossy top cover that will show all the dust and scratches very easily. To avoid some of them I recommend peeling the plastic cover only after you’ve done with the installation.
The front of the NUC sports two USB 3.0 ports, an audio jack and an infrared sensor. One of the USB ports (the yellow one) supports fast USB charging in case you want to charge your phone, iPad or other mobile device from the PC. The power button and the HDD LED is on top of the case.
On the backside there’s a DC connector, Mini DisplayPort connector, Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 ports as well as a Mini HDMI connector. The NUC supports output via the DP and HDMI connectors simultaneously for use with multiple displays.
Time to pop out the bottom cover by unfastening the four screws. The NUC5i7RYB motherboard has components on both sides. On the underside we have mainly components that do not need to be touched, such as the CPU, the heatsink and the fan. All the connectivity for user-added components resides on the top of the board. We can notice that the actual mainboard is pretty much the same as the one used for the i3 and i5 NUCs. Also, the same BIOS updates apply for all of these models, so it’s plausible that they’re all the same. See my Broadwell i3 NUC review for a more detailed description of the mainboard.
There are 2 DDR3L SO-DIMM slots that do take 1600 MHz SO-DIMMs with operating voltage of 1.35V. This is important as the common 1.5V memory modules will NOT work. The NUC in general seems to be a bit picky regarding the memory, so it’s best to install memory that is known to work with the NUC. The technical product specification from Intel says that you should use 1600 MHz memory, but the i7 version does actually support 1866 MHz version. The RAM speed will make a difference when using GPU intensive applications as the RAM is used also by the GPU. If you are unsure about the memory modules, have a look at which components our NUC Guru would recommend you and you won’t end up with incompatible memory. Price difference between 1600 MHz and 1866 MHz is small.
Besides the memory, most of the users are going to be interested about the M.2 slot where you will likely install an SSD drive. The slot does support M.2 SATA SSD drives and provides a maximal throughput of 540 MB/s. The same slot also supports M.2 SSD PCIe drives (PCIe x1, x2, and x4) with max throughput of approximately 1600 MB/s. Currently the PCIe drives are rather expensive, but this will likely change in the future. The slot supports M.2 2242, 2260 and 2280 form factors.
The motherboard provides WiFI chip soldered down on the board. It’s a rather capable Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 802.11ac device that also includes BlueTooth 4.0 on the same chip.
I wanted to see how the 28-watt Core i7 is kept cool. You need to remove the mainboard from the chassis to have a look at this side of mainboard.
Basically, there’s just the processor, heatsink and a fan as well as the CMOS battery on the bottom side. The heatsink is attached with a few screws and there’s the factory-delivered grey thermal paste that I know some people have changed to a good quality silver-based thermal compound such as Arctic Silver. Based on my experience the factory compound is just fine and there are no significant gains even if you change the compound.
In the next part of this Broadwell Core i7 NUC5i7RYH review we’re going to install Windows on the NUC as well as take a look at how does it manage various tasks and how does it compare to the other NUC models in the benchmarks.