As there has been quite much interest on using the NUC as a miniature gaming PC and especially as the benchmark results in the previous part of this review were looking so positive, I decided to try out some gaming with the NUC.
The games below are a random mix of reader suggested games and my old favourites. I don’t hold any illusions that the NUC could beat much bigger desktop PCs with discrete graphics adapters, but I intended to find out how much it could be used for some casual gaming.
Heroes of the Storm
I used the same replay of a game played on the Towers of Doom map that I used during the Skylake i3 NUC review. The numbers below I got with Fraps while playing the same replay again and again. Basically the game seemed to be very much playable with 1920×1080 resolution, even if I tried increasing the graphics quality settings. Approximately 50% better results are seen for i5 when compared to the i3 model.
|VSync||Off||Off||On (60 fps)|
Dirt 3 represented the racing genre here. It’s not exactly the latest rally game, but it is still a lot of fun. The game was playable on 1080p resolution with a correct combo of the parameters. The results below are achieved with the internal benchmarking option found in the graphics settings. I did test some of the same settings on the Skylake i3 NUC and the i5 seems to provide approximately 50% higher frame rates.
|VSync||On (60 fps)||On (50 fps)||On (60 fps)|
Team Fortress 2
TF2 is a bit older game as well, but as one reader asked me to try it on the i5 NUC, I downloaded it from Steam (for free!) and installed. Then I found a semi-standard benchmark replay here that I used from the console with “timedemo benchmark1”. With the following settings, I got average of 48-49 fps for both 1920×1080 and 3440×1440 resolutions! This was likely due to the vsync being enabled and me using a 50 Hz refresh rate.
- Model detail: High
- Texture detail: High
- Shader detail: High
- Water: Simple reflections
- Shadow detail: Medium
- Color correction: Enabled
- AA mode: 2xMSAA
- Filtering mode: Anisotropic 2x
- VSync: enabled
- Motion blur: disabled
DOTA 2 seemed to be fluid and playable on 1920×1080 resolution, as is expected for a couple of years older game.
|All other options||On||On|
Skylake NUC as a HTPC
Since the i3 NUC will do all the same things equally well, I did not write a separate HTPC chapter for the i5 NUC. Read what I had to say about the i3 model as a HTPC and all of that will apply to the i5 as well.
The Skylake i5 NUC is a winner in many ways. Compared to the previous generation it has gained significantly in the performance department. It beats the Broadwell i7 NUC in all but the few tests that require pure CPU power. Also compared to the Skylake i3 model it’s a significant step up in performance. I for sure did not expect to see a 50% increase in most of the benchmarks and games when comparing the i3 and the i5 models. Growing the gap between the i3 and the i5 probably helps to differentiate these products in the market. Okay, it does not have HDMI 2.0 and it does not decode 10-bit HEVC material, but other than that it’s extremely capable mini PC that I can recommend.
Intel is positioning this NUC as a gaming solution and we found out that it’s not totally unreasonable. Gaming performance was surprisingly good keeping the context in mind. This is still a 15-watt CPU with an integrated GPU – there’s no chance it will come close to the 60-watt CPUs with a discrete GPU that alone takes more than 100 watts. Anyhow, in our tests it was apparent that at least some not-so-cutting-edge games will actually be enjoyable on the Skylake i5 NUC.
It would also offer a capable PC for anyone looking to replace their older desktop PC with something that takes less desktop real-estate.
Definitely this NUC was one of the most positive NUC product launches since the launch of the original NUC. If you’re interested in one building yourself one, look at the recommended setups below or visit our resident guru, the NUC Guru, who can recommend you parts that are known to work with each other.
Lean and Mean
By choosing the smaller chassis and a PCIe based M.2 SSD drive you can keep the footprint small and the performance big. Faster CL13 memory is good option, as you pay almost no premium of it with the current prices. I would not try this setup with Windows 7, as the NVME drive can be a bit difficult to get working on Windows 7. Windows 10 should be fine though.
A more mainstream setup with the higher case and a conventional (but still fast!) SATA SSD drive. This matches the setup I used for this review.
Read also the previous parts of this review.