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.
Intel HD Graphics driver for Skylake version 126.96.36.19900 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 is a popular benchmarking suite that benchmarks video and gaming performance of the computer.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Other Parts of the Review
Keep on reading: