Skylake i5 NUC Review (NUC6i5SYH / NUC6i5SYK) – Part 2/3: Benchmarks

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.

nuc6i5syh_cpuid

Benchmark Results

Intel Iris Graphics driver for Skylake version 20.19.15.4331 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

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:

nuc6i5syh_3dmark

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.

nuc6i5syh_3dmark_excel

Cinebench R15

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.

nuc6i5syh_cinebench_r15

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.

nuc6i5syh_cinebench_excel

PCMark 8

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.

nuc6i5syh_pcmark8_excel

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.

Test CPU usage Comments
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.

Fan Noise

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 Further

Read also the other parts of this review!

9 Responses

  1. Martin says:

    Is it possible to run some older benchmarks – like 3DMark06 (http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/legacy) or the X3 Rolling Demo (http://www.egosoft.com/download/x3/demos_en.php?download=145)? They may be old, but for me the were good predictors of the system performance of the games of that era – and are (in the case of X3) still fun to play ;). Thanks a lot!

  2. Grant Russell says:

    Hi Olli, I appreciate you giving some attention to HEVC video, but I am concerned that your benchmarking method is inaccurate. Can you share what type of software you used, and also what the specs of the sample video are (resolution, and bitrate)?

    Hardware decoding of HEVC video using the Intel iGPU is mostly only possible using LAV filters, within a program like MPC-HC. Benchmarking can be done using a tool called DXVA Checker.

    Check out these results of the Intel HD 530: http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?p=1735714#post1735714

    You’ll notice they test a ridiculous 300mbps bitrate 50fps 4K HEVC video and it plays back at around 115fps. Most 4K HEVC video is around 20-40mbps (Neftlix 4K is 15mbps) so the 115fps performance on the 300mbps sample is insane.

  3. Olli says:

    Hi Grant,

    Thanks for your comment. By no means I tried to make a benchmark for HEVC decoding here. I tested already the low end Braswell last summer and that could handle 80 Mbps HEVC streams easily. Skylake can handle pretty much any 8-bit HEVC stream you throw at it. However, as soon as you try to feed 10-bit HEVC for it, it will choke if the resolution is high enough (4k). This is expected as there is no full HW decoding of 10-bit HEVC. 10-bit is the bit depth for coming 4k Bluray so we can expect more 10-bit content in the future.

    For HEVC HW decoding I used Kodi 16 and MPC-HC. When playing 8-bit HEVC content, it did not really matter how much the bitrate of the stream was, as the GPU handles that. For 10-bit testing I tried to play out this ~50Mbit/s 10-bit HEVC video: http://demo-uhd3d.com/fiche.php?cat=uhd&id=25

    • Grant Russell says:

      Ah, so sorry Olli. I realize now that reading your article on a mobile browser was cutting off part of the frames of that chart. I couldn’t see the 8/10bit part.

      Glad to see that your results were inline with others.

      I don’t think many people are interested in 10bit h265, and i hope the industry ignores 10 bit h265 the way they ignored 10 bit h264.

      Do you think in the future you would consider using DXVA Checker to benchmark HEVC hardware decoding?

      I love your site, I’ve made reference to your articles on r/htpc a few times

  4. mini2mini says:

    Hi Olli, could you run the Dolphin emulator benchmark on the Skylake i5 NUC?

    Anandtech always uses Dolphin to show CPU performance.

    It’s very easy to do this, just google “Dolphin Benchmark” and download the 7zip file, extract it, run the exe and open the .elf file there. Completely standalone package.

    For example, the NUC5i7 uses 636 seconds, the NUC5i5 uses 830 seconds. My first gen i7 (120W) gets 1200+ seconds for comparison)

    (won’t link to anything to avoid disappearing in the spam filter)

  5. DdKk says:

    Hey, great reviews, I bought a NUC6i5 thanks to it being perfect for me.

    Are you positive you ran 60fps YouTube videos? Edge doesn’t seem to even support that option, I don’t see anything 60fps above 1080p in my Edge (watching some Dota 4K60fps clips):

    https://www.reddit.com/r/Windows10/comments/3f4hg6/microsoft_edge_doesnt_support_4k_60fps_youtube/

    In Chrome I cannot run 4K60fps, stutters like hell. 1440p60fps seems to bbe the limit, it uses 100% of CPU in Chrome but seems to run.

  6. Jim says:

    So, it’s 25% faster than my last years I5 Nuc. Not really worth the $400 upgrade unless I’m a crazy gamer with money to burn. I wish you could give me the magic month the I7 Skylake NUC is going to be on Amazon for sale.

  7. Adrian says:

    If fan noise is very important for me (no gaming, development and VM use) would you say the NUC5i5 is quieter than the NUC6i5?

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