Skylake NUC Review (NUC6i3SYH): Benchmark Results (2/3)

In the second part of our Skylake NUC review we install Windows 7 and then Windows 10 on the Skylake Core i3 NUC (NUC6i3SYH) and run some popular benchmarks on it to get an idea how does it perform compared to 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.

Windows 7 Installation

After the difficulties with the Windows 7 installation on the Braswell NUC many have asked me already how difficult it is to install Windows 7 on the Skylake NUC. The unfortunate answer is that it’s exactly the same hassle to install Windows 7 on the Skylake NUC as it was for the Braswell model.

I wrote an article on how to prepare the Windows 7 installation for USB 3.0 support, but you can nowadays also use Intel’s Windows 7 USB 3.0 Image Creator tool, which basically does automatically all the steps I described in that article.

When you finally have Windows 7 up and running you won’t have any network connectivity. What you need to do is to download the WiFi/LAN drivers on another PC and move them to your NUC (on a USB stick for example) and install. When you get network connectivity, you should spend a few hours downloading the latest Windows patches. In the end when all is said and done, you’ve got a working Windows 7 system and everything runs smoothly.

Windows 10 Installation

After Windows 7 I decided to try Windows 10 instead. I used Windows 10 November 2015 image, also known as version 1511, and installation itself was uneventful and as expected. However a driver from Intel’s download center was needed for both the WiFi and Ethernet adapters before the system was fully usable. When the networking was up and running Windows automatically installed the necessary drivers for rest of the NUCs components.

Benchmark Results

Intel HD Graphics driver for Skylake version 20.19.15.4300 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).

3DMark

3DMark is a popular benchmarking suite that benchmarks video and gaming performance of the computer.

Skylake Core i3 NUC 3DMark Results

When looking at the results, they compare very favourable with the results of Broadwell NUC. Basically the Skylake i3 NUC reaches the same performance levels that the Broadwell i5 NUC does and beats the Broadwell i3 NUC here with a clear margin (16-34% better results).

Skylake NUC (NUC6i3SYH) 3DMark Results

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.

Cinebench Skylake i3 NUC Results

In the OpenGL test, the new Skylake NUC racks the highest score I’ve ever measured on a NUC: 40.77 fps, beating even the Core i7 model NUC5i7RYH. The tests that measure pure CPU power show a bit less impressive result: 255 cb for multi-core test and 94 for single-core. Still a steady 12-14% increase when compared to Broadwell i3 NUC.

Cinebench results for Skylake i3 NUC

PCMark 8

PCMark 8 is a benchmarking utility to test the performance in typical office and creativity related tasks.

Below you’ll find the results for this benchmark. The number in brackets is just for comparison and it is the result for the Broadwell Core i7 NUC (NUC5i7RYH), which is the only other model I’ve benchmarked with PCMark 8 so far.

  • Home 3.0 Accelerated: 3070 (3205)
  • Work 2.0 Accelerated: 3977 (4644)
  • Creative 3.0 Accelerated: 3494 (4557)

Here the Broadwell i7 NUC shows quite a bit better performance. This is of course expected, as there’s less GPU-related tasks in these benchmarks and more CPU-intensive tasks instead. The 28-watt Broadwell i7 as a raw CPU is significantly faster than the new 15-watt Skylake i3 and we’d be shocked if that wasn’t the case.

Gaming Performance

Out of popular request I’ve decided to give a few games a shot. I’m not really a gamer, but decided to give Heroes of the Storm, Dirt 3 and FIFA 16 demo a try. If you have suggestions on gaming benchmarks for the future, leave a comment below. It’s clear the tiny NUC is not a serious gaming PC, but my intention was to see what it can do and what not.

Heroes of the Storm

I downloaded a replay of a game played on the Towers of Doom map and used the same replay for taking the each of the results below with Fraps. Basically the game seemed to be pretty playable with 1920×1080 resolution, as long as you did not use very high settings. Basically it was surprisingly fluid with medium or low settings, depending on the resolution.

HeroesOfTheStorm

Resolution 1920×1080 1920×1080 1280×1024
Graphics quality Medium Ultra Ultra
Texture quality High High High
Anti-alias Off Off Off
VSync Off Off Off
FPS High 48 29 39
FPS Low 31 19 26
FPS Average 39.7 23.6 31.7

Dirt 3

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.

Dirt 3 Rally, Skylake i3 NUC

Resolution 1920×1080 1920×1080 1920×1080
Preset High Medium Low
Multisampling Off Off 2x
VSync Off Off Off
FPS Average 31.28 35.64 30.23
FPS Low 26.85 29.67 24.90

FIFA 16 Demo

I also tried a demo of FIFA 16 from EA Origin. It was also playable, where the 1920×1080 resolution resulted in a result of Min/Max/Avg of 26/37/31.7.

FIFA 16 demo on Skylake i3 NUC

Noise Levels

Benchmarking the system usually stresses the CPU and the GPU to a limit and this in turn increases the heat put out by the components. Thus it is a good moment to reflect on the noise levels the NUC reaches. What I always do with the NUCs is to reduce the lowest fan speed in the BIOS to 25%. This does not stop the fan from spinning up when it is needed, but it will make it almost silent when the CPU is not in heavy use.

I’m happy to report that noise levels were very low throughout the testing. The fan does spin up a little bit during stress testing, but still remains quiet. However, keep in mind that these are very subjective things and you might tolerate more or less noise than I do.

Summary

Performance gains over the previous generation were surprisingly big in our benchmarks. The performance in Windows was good throughout the testing, gaming excluded. It will run some of the less demanding games as long as you’re willing to keep the resolution and details low enough. It would be ideal desktop PC for normal web browsing, office applications, etc. This is of course not so surprising, as the same CPU is included in several popular laptops, such as HP Pavilion x360.

When looking back at the Broadwell model, the performance gains are a bit larger than we’re used to between the NUC generations. This might have something to do with the transition to the DDR4 memory instead of the DDR3 used in all previous NUC generations. All in all, Skylake NUC shows a solid improvement over its Broadwell cousin.

The HTPC use case will be covered in the next part of this article.

Recommended Setup for Windows Users

Product US UK DE FR
Intel NUC NUC6i3SYH $262.60 £276.99 EUR 315,18 EUR 320,03
Kingston HX421S13IBK2/8 2x4GB Memory Modules $63.85 £54.38 EUR 76,62 EUR 80,89
Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SSD drive $92.99 £86.99 EUR 94,99 EUR 99,00
Check the total price of the whole setup on Amazon.com!

Other Parts of the Review

Keep on reading:

14 Responses

  1. dejan says:

    great review! portal 2 and cs go benchmarks would be interesting in future reviews. Any idea when the i5 model will ship?

  2. Dango says:

    Great review!!!! I almost bought an i5 NUC during the holidays but held off because of the incoming Skylake models. Glad I did because these numbers are nice. Thanks again for the detailed comparison!

  3. Frederik says:

    Finally got my NUC6i5SYH. For comparison, I get the following benchmark results in Cinebench:
    OpenGL: 63.81 fps
    CPU(Multi): 296cb
    CPU(single): 119cb
    I’m using the SM951 Samsung M.2 NVMe SSD and 16 GB of HyperX Impact DDR4 RAM

  4. TheWombat says:

    For anyone interested in the Skylake i5 NUCs then I received my NUC6i5SYK yesterday and the SSD and Memory today. I’ve installed the components, the BIOS was already the latest version (0028) so I installed the latest build of Windows 10 64bit Professional (ver 1511 build 10586.63) via a USB key without any issues. Once Windows 10 was installed, the LAN/network required the Intel driver to be installed before the network was recognized. I then installed the latest drivers from the Intel download site (Drivers & Software).

    Specifications:
    NUC: NUC6i5SYK – $385.30 – NothingButSavings.com
    SSD: Samsung SSD 850 EVO M.2 120GB (Model: MZ-N5E120) – $56.99 – NewEgg.com
    RAM: Kingston Hyper X 8GB Memory Kit (2x4GB) (Model: HX421S13IBK2/8) – $69.94 – NextWarehouse.com

    I specifically chose the Kingston Hyper X RAM due to issues people have been posting in the Intel forums with the Corsair RAM.

    I then ran 3DMark and Cinebench R15 benchmarks. The scores are below. The scores in () are from the NUC6i3SYH by Olli in the main blog post above.

    I used a screen resolution of 1920×1080 as per the i3 review, however note that my graphics driver is 20.19.15.4331 rather than 20.19.15.4300

    3DMark
    Fire Strike 1.1: 1360 (878)
    Sky Diver 1.0: 5387 (3663)
    Cloud Gate 1.1: 7388 (5643)
    Ice Storm 1.2: 82982 (52209)

    Cinebench R15
    OpenGL: 63.94 fps (40.77 fps)
    CPU: 299 cb (255 cb)
    CPU (Single Core): 116 cb (94 cb)
    MP Ratio: 2.57 x (2.71 x)

    PCMark 8
    Home 3.0 Accelerated: 3617 (3070)

    I am awaiting the Work and Creative benchmarks to complete and will edit this post with the details if possible.

    This is my first NUC and so far I am impressed with it from a size, quietness and performance perspective. I don’t plan to play games on it.

    Hope this is of interest

    TheWombat

    • Olli says:

      Thank you TheWombat for running the tests. Your results seem to be in line with what Frederik posted. If you don’t mind, I’ll create a new post here and refer to your results as I have not received my i5 unit yet?

  5. TheWombat says:

    That is fine. I have screenshots of the results if you would like them for your post.

  6. Em says:

    Regarding the noise, could you tell me if it’is clearly audible under 25% load? And is it very quiet under 100% processor load ?

  7. Si Fa says:

    thank you. Here’s is Logiciel Intel Windows 7 USB 3.0 Image Creator Utility 2.0 :
    http://www.touslesdrivers.com/index.php?v_page=23&v_code=46943

  8. Michael Kaye says:

    I liked the review. Still thinking about getting the NUC6i3SYH for general computer work. I have some questions 1. I have W10 on CD and intend installing with an external drive. Should I expect it to go smoothly? Can you please be more specific on the WiFi/Ethernet drivers on the Intel Download Center. I am a little lost there. I don’t really understand benchmarks. As alternative I am thinking getting a conventional desktop with a conventional HD and i3-6100 processor running at 3.7 Ghz (the i3-6100U runs at 2.3 GHz). Will I notice the speed difference for general computing (Web use, spreadsheets, documents, the odd U tube).

    Many thanks and apols for the questions overload!!

    Michael

    • nucblognet says:

      1. Do I understand it correctly that you plan to install Windows 10 from an USB CD/DVD drive to an external hard drive that is connected to your NUC via USB? This should be possible, but requires extra work. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td_bH0vYniQ for example.

      The driver: you cannot access the Internet using WiFi or Ethernet after the Windows 10 installation. You’ll need to go to the web site using another computer: https://downloadcenter.intel.com/product/89189/Intel-NUC-Kit-NUC6i3SYH and download the drivers and place them on a USB stick. Then you just start the driver installation on the NUC using the USB stick. It’s just a yes-yes-next-next type of installation and after that your wireless and wired network connections should work.

      I would recommend that if you get NUC6i3SYH, do get an SSD drive where you install the Windows. Don’t use an external drive – there will be a performance hit otherwise. You can use a M.2 drive or an 2.5″ SSD drive – that doesn’t play a big role.

      2. I believe you would not notice any difference between the NUC and a full-size desktop PC for the usage you describe.

      Keep us posted on what did you choose in the end!

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