In the second part of our Skylake i5 NUC review we run some popular benchmarks on it to get an idea how does it perform compared to the Skylake i3 NUC and the previous generation NUCs. If you came here via a search engine, I’d suggest you take a look at the first part of the review first. We’re going to run our standard setup which is 3DMark, Cinebench and PCMark.
Intel Iris Graphics driver for Skylake version 220.127.116.1131 was used for all of the following tests and screen resolution was set to 1920×1080. All the benchmarking below was done using Windows 10. The NUC was equipped with two Kingston HX421S13IB/4 memory modules (8GB total, dual-channel active). If you’re interested in a similar NUC than what I had for the results below, check out the price at Amazon.com for the whole package.
3DMark is a popular benchmarking suite that benchmarks video and gaming performance of the computer. The Skylake i5 NUC scores the following results in these tests:
The results are better than I had expected. The Skylake i5 NUC beats every other NUC I have tested, including the Broadwell i7 NUC, by a good margin. It’s also significantly faster than the Skylake i3 NUC, no doubt due to the 48 execution units and 64 megs of embedded DRAM that the i5 GPU has versus 24 EUs and no eDRAM on the i3. But seriously, that’s 45% better result in the Firestrike test than the Broadwell i7 did.
Cinebench runs 3 separate benchmarks and gives us figures that are comparable. First a simple 3D car chase that measures mainly the GPU (OpenGL) performance. The result is in frames per second. Second there’s a rendering of 3D model with all cores. This stresses purely the CPU. Finally there’s another rendering of the same model, this time using just a single CPU core.
If I was happy to see that the i3 model beat every other NUC before it in the OpenGL test, I was blown away to see that this Skylake i5 model beats the i3 with 56% better result. No doubt due to the much better GPU again. The CPU tests provide a more predictable result though. In pure number crunching the Broadwell i7 NUC is approximately 20% faster than the Skylake i5, which in turn is approximately 20% faster than the i3 model. If you’re not that much into gaming or other GPU intensive things, this is the number to pay attention to.
PCMark 8 is a benchmarking utility to test the performance in typical office and creativity related tasks. Below you can see the results of my benchmarking. As you can see, when we leave the GPU-intensive gaming zone, the differences are more subtle. The raw CPU power of the NUC5i7RYH helps the Broadwell i7 NUC to take the first place in the Creative and Work tests, whereas the Skylake i5 NUC takes the pole position in the PCMark 8 Home test. However, the Skylake i3 model is not doing that badly, perhaps indicating that for your conventional desktop usage it might offer the best value.
Video Playback Performance
For any video playback it’s important that the GPU supports hardware accelerated decoding of the video. Otherwise the CPU will need to take care of the decoding and that can be quite taxing when watching for example 4k videos. Out of the modern video codecs the Skylake NUC supports hardware decoding of H.264 video and HEVC video. However, both only in their 8-bit variants. Google’s VP9 video gets only partial hardware acceleration. As a result some of the tasks are offloaded to the GPU, but the CPU will still need to do some of the decoding.
I set out to watch several video clips and at the same time stare at the CPU usage percentage in the task manager. This highly scientifical and accurate method gave me the results below.
|8-bit HEVC video (4k@60fps)||10%||Video player software must support HEVC HW decoding. Kodi and MPC-HC do.|
|10-bit HEVC video (4k@30fps)||100%||The CPU is maxed, but the video is almost watchable.|
|10-bit H.264 video (1080p)||25%||Hi10p format typically used for anime.|
|YouTube, Firefox (4k@60fps)||20%|
|YouTube, Edge (4k@60fps)||5%|
|YouTube, Chrome (4k@60fps)||100%||Video is almost ok, some skipping. YouTube will feed Chrome a VP9 stream, which is only partially HW decoded.|
|YouTube, Chrome (1440p@60fps)||40%||CPU is powerful enough to handle 2560×1440 VP9 video.|
The CPU fan keeps relatively quiet. Most of the time in normal use I can’t hear the thing at all, but if you stress both the GPU and the CPU at the same time the fan will start to spin faster and faster. At its loudest you could compare it to a CPU fan in a laptop. In general I was positively surprised how well the fan speeds are kept under control. The Broadwell i7 NUC was noisy as hell and I was afraid this NUC could be something similar, but no. If I only stress the CPU using Prime95, the CPU fan will speed up a step or two, but doesn’t get to a level that I would really pay any attention to it. If run Prime95 to stress the CPU and Furmark to stress the GPU I can finally get some more noise from the NUC, but it’s still nothing like the i7 was.
During the benchmarks above the CPU noise never rose to a level that it would have irritated me. However, keep in mind that the noise levels are a very subjective thing. Some might tolerate more noise than the others.
Read also the other parts of this review!