Skylake NUC Review (NUC6i3SYH): Hardware Overview (1/3)

True to their release cycle, once again Intel has delivered a new Core i3 NUC few days before the end of the year. The 2016 Core i3 and Core i5 NUCs are powered by the new Skylake processors. In our Skylake NUC review we have a look at the current Core i3 NUC that also carries a code name NUC6i3SYH (NUC with 6th generation Core i3 process in a High case that has space for a 2.5″ drive). NUC6i3SYK is the sister model of this NUC: the only difference is that the model we review is slightly higher and has a slot for a 2.5″ drive, whereas the NUC6i3SYK is 15 mm (5/8″) thinner and does not have that slot.

Features

  • Intel Core i3-6100U Processor, 2.3GHz, dual-core, 15W TDP
  • 2 slots for DDR4-2133 SO-DIMM memory, 1.2V, max. 32GB
  • Normal, full-size HDMI 1.4b port
  • Mini DisplayPort 1.2 port
  • Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU, 24 EUs
  • Four USB 3.0 ports (2 on the front, 2 on the rear)
  • Intel I219V Gigabit Ethernet LAN adapter
  • Intel Wireless-AC 8260 WiFi adapter (802.11ac, dual-band, max. 867 Mbps, Bluetooth 4.1)
  • Support for M.2 SSD card (sizes 22×42 and 22×80)
  • Slot for a single 2.5″ drive (SSD or HDD, max. 9.5mm thickness)
  • SD card reader (support SDXC cards and UHS-I)
  • Infrared sensor and 3.5mm audio jack

Technical product specification (PDF) is available here.

Walk around the NUC

In the looks department nothing much has changed when looking at the previous generation. Each unit has the already-familiar glossy black plastic top cover (that inevitably gets scratched – keep the plastic film on it until you’ve finished installing the components) and an aluminium chassis. Dimensions are also pretty much the same: 115 x 111 x 48 mm or 4.5″ x 4.4″ x 1.9″.

On the front of the NUC we have only a small change when looking at the previous generation: there’s a blue front panel power LED between the IR receiver window and the 3.5mm audio jack. You still have the two USB 3.0 ports, out of which the yellow one is fast charging capable.

Behind the NUC we find the usual connectors with again one small change: the HDMI 1.4b port is now a full-sized port instead of the mini HDMI port found in the previous generations. The rest of the ports are the same: 19-volt DC input, RJ-45 for Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports and a Mini DisplayPort 1.2. We would have liked to see a HDMI 2.0 port here for full support of current 4K televisions. HDMI 1.4b allows 4K only at 30 frames per second or less – which of course is ok for most of the things right now, but things will change in the future.

On the left side there’s the integrated SDXC card reader that made its debut in the Braswell NUC earlier in mid-2015. It supports UHS-I cards, but UHS-II cards will only work on the UHS-I level (theoretical maximum 104 megabytes per second).

Under the Hood

The Skylake NUC is delivered without memory and storage media included. For memory you should choose either 4, 8 or 16 gigabyte memory modules, although at the time of writing this article 16GB modules were next to impossible to find. There are two slots available and even if you can populate only one of them, you should definitely consider installing two similar memory modules for optimal performance. The memory module must be a 1.2 volt DDR4 SO-DIMM module, and if this one is anything like its predecessors it can be a bit picky regarding the compatible memory modules. For this review I used the Kingston HyperX HX421S13IB/4. If you want to be sure that you get the right kind of memory module go see the NUC Guru – our resident guru who can suggest you hardware that definitely works together.

Skylake Mainboard

After removing the four screws that secure the bottom cover to the chassis, you can immediately access the mainboard. The slot for the 2.5″ drive is in the bottom cover and there are SATA cables connecting the bottom cover to the mainboard. It’s really quite impressive how much Intel has managed to pack on this tiny motherboard. You’ve got two DDR4 memory slots dominating the bottom of the above picture. Skylake is the first NUC to use DDR4 memory, so you cannot simply upgrade from previous generations and move your memory to this NUC.

At the top you can see the M.2 slot. It supports PCI Express 3.0 specification and up to x4 bandwidth. This means that when using a fast PCIe-based SSD drive the maximum bandwidth is about 1600 megabytes per second. You can also use a cheaper, standard M.2 SATA SSD drive in which case the maximum bandwidth is about 540 MB/s. The M.2 card used should be either 22×42 or 22×80 in size. 22×60 cards are not supported. As you can see, a 22×80 card will be physically above the SD card reader and the WiFi adapter – there’s no space for a mounting screw for 22×60 cards. Possibly you could use a 22×60 card with a 3rd party adapter. The 802.11ac WiFi adapter is soldered to the mainboard and not replaceable.

Normally you don’t need to take out the mainboard from the chassis, but for the purposes of this review, I did so.

Skylake Mainboard Bottom

The heat sink assembly looks very similar to the one used in Broadwell. What is noteworthy here is that Intel has included a 4-pin connector for HDMI-CEC. This should make it easier for companies such as Pulse-Eight to create a complete HDMI-CEC adapter for the NUC. Intel has not been too consistent when it comes to the CEC connectivity in the NUCs in the past. We can only hope that this connector is here to stay.

I also removed the heat sink assembly to see the CPU. It seems they’ve used grey thermal paste this time instead of a thermal pad used in some previous generation NUCs.

Skylake Heatsink removed

BIOS

The device runs Intel’s usual Visual BIOS. It’s not the nicest or most flashy, but does its job. As usual, I reduced the minimum fan speed a bit to 25% in order to make the NUC a bit more quiet. While it’s not noisy by default, making this change turns it almost silent. BIOS version 28 was used for this review.

Skylake NUC BIOS skylake_bios_usb

Next Parts of the Review

Keep on reading:

32 Responses

  1. Pawel says:

    Can you check in bios USB ports section, please?
    Because it seems like they double the internal usb port (two slots next to m.2 slot).
    Thanks.

    • Olli says:

      Hi Pawel, I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to check, but I added a screenshot from the USB page to the post. Basically you’ll find 6 ports listed there and ports 5-6 are described as internal ports. Note that this time the USB connectors next to the M.2 slot are 1 USB port per connector (4 pins only) whereas they used to be 2 USB ports in same connector before.

  2. Dellaster says:

    Thanks for the review, it was well done. Now I’m anticipating the i5 version even more.

    • Olli says:

      Indeed, the i5 model is interesting. 48 EUs in the i5 GPU vs 24 in the i3 model should make a difference. The CPU itself is probably only moderately faster (say 20% or so), but the GPU should be more. The i3 model doesn’t seem to heat too much (fan stays at rather low speeds even during stress), so even if the 24 extra EUs push out some more heat, maybe the fan doesn’t go crazy yet… We’ll see.

      • NicoLeOca says:

        Hi,
        Thank you for the very interesting test.
        what can we expect of this GPU boost for someone who doesn’t play?
        (I am only interested in video reading, and some video transcoding via Plex)
        When do you think it will be available?

  3. daudino says:

    the blue led on front is for wifi activity or HDD load?

    • Olli says:

      The blue LED is constantly on when the system is powered. When sleeping, the LED flashes in orange colour. HDD LED is still on the top.

  4. Martin says:

    can i use the cheaper Crucial CT8G4SFD8213 8 GB RAM Modules instead of the Kingston Modules?

    • Olli says:

      I don’t know for sure. Based on the specs I think it should work.

      I’ve contacted a few of the big memory manufacturers and so far only Kingston has replied. According to the info I got from them the Skylake NUC compatible memory modules they have are the HyperX module I used (which are CL13) and ValueRAM modules KVR21S15D8/8 (which are CL15 like the Crucial you linked). I thought the price difference between the HyperX and ValueRAM was so small that I chose the faster HyperX, even if difference in performance is probably minimal.

    • TheWombat says:

      There are people on the Intel NUC forum having some issues which may be related to RAM. The current list from Intel of tested RAM for the Skylake NUCs is: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/support/boards-and-kits/intel-nuc-kits/000016245.html

      hth

      • Olli says:

        The strange thing is that they are using the Corsair RAM that is on Intel’s list. My HyperX is not, but the system is really stable. We’ll keep an eye on that post.

    • roop says:

      I will never use Crucial RAM in a Intel NUC again. Had some real trouble with a Nuc5i3 and Crucial DDR3. I use the cheaper Kingston Value RAM KVR21S15S8/4 (18€ for 4GB). They work just fine.

    • NucsRule says:

      I have the 2 x 8GB Crucial 2400MHz (CT8G4SFS824A) in a Skylake i7 Skull Canyon NUC and the Skylake i5 NUC without issues in either.

  5. Erick says:

    Regarding HDMI CEC, I actually just spoke with Pulse Eight and their new re-worked internal adapter for this Skylake model should be available in February.

  6. cschaubr says:

    I had some issues with stuttering video in KODI so I went into UEFI mode and rebooted to change “IGD Minimum Memory” to 1GB and “IGD Aperture Size” to 1024MB. I saved and exited the BIOS and now my NUC is booting but I see nothing on the screen. I hear the fan but no blue LED on the front. After a while it reboots … How do I revert to a working system please? Any ideas? Can I simply reset the BIOS by removing the battry or should I use Windows install disk on USB etc … I don’t want to lose everything (my disks are encrypted with BitLocker)

  7. roop says:

    Hi. I got my nuc6i3syh a few days ago.

    There is some strange audio bug going on (also tested nuc5i3ryh; no problem there). If I use Kodi (config is set to DirectSound and dynamic refresh rate enabled) for some time the Audio (HDMI) stops working. It also happens when I use some Games in Fullscreen. No Problem when using Windows or play Games with OpenGL.

    I tried HD 520 Drivers version 4300, 4331, 4356, 4360 always the same. Updated bios to 0028, installed realtek audio drivers and messed around in bios. Nothing helps.
    I never had any Problems with other devices. Any Ideas?

  8. Karl says:

    I also bought an nuc6i3syh, but cant get DTS to work in Windows. According to the TechProdSpec it has to work with NUC6i3SYB. Is there a difference?

    • roop says:

      Hey Karl. Try the New beta drivers 4380. They solved all my problems. Maybe this helps. Look for Intel Graphics 520 on Support page.

  9. COx2 says:

    Hi. I got the same trouble you issued. So, I tried BIOS Recovery Mode announced by Intel Support.
    http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/support/boards-and-kits/000005532.html
    It scheme is not want to reinstall Operating System Windows any other

  10. Bill says:

    Any hope of Intel now providing Windows (7) Seven drivers for this built-in card reader since Microsoft will, as recently announced policy, be supporting Windows 7 until 2020 on Skylake?

  11. Peter says:

    Should I get the SYK instead and use an ext usb3 hdd? Any negatives for not using an internal Sata drive? I will put a m2.sata on it though for OS

    • Charley says:

      Depends if you want everything in the same enclosure or not. Performance wise it’s doesn’t make a difference since you don’t need high read write speeds for that disk. Can be nice to take your movies with you anywhere

    • roop says:

      I don’t know what you will use your NUC for but I will wait until the Kaby Lake NIC is out. I need one NUC a virtual machine host and a second one as media center / emulator station. If you want a NUC as media center I highly recommend to wait for kaby lake. They will have full x265 (8bit + 10bit) hardware acceleration support. My Skylake i3 NUC can only play x265 / 10bit / 1080P24 smoothly (in software). Because 4k material is in x265 / 10bit it’s important to consider this.

      • nucblognet says:

        You mean because 4k BluRay material is in HEVC 10-bit, it’s important to consider this. Of course you can have 4k material encoded in H.264 format, and you can have 4k material encoded with 8-bit HEVC as well.

        My view is that it’s not important yet in the next two-three years, but it will be. Planning to replace the Haswell i3 NUC HTPC with Kaby Lake as well.

        • roop says:

          Yeah exactly. My point was: better wait a bit and get a device that lasts longer.

          At the moment I can only find a handful movies (BD or rips or Anime) and some test channels on astra Sat in 10bit hevc 4k. So it’s not important right now but hevc is great (I backed up all my BDs as x265).

          I think hevc will last at least 5 years after 4k BluRays became mainstream. Maybe even longer.

          I forgot the main point:
          USB 3 HDD is fine. I got around 300 MB/s seq. read / write on an external SSD. Well internally the same SSD get around 450 MB/s (it’s a cheaper drive).

      • Peter says:

        Thanks for heads up. I can wait till next year I guess.

      • peter says:

        My dealer told me Nuc series 7 will arrive in November. One thing is it comes with a micro-SDXC reader instead of the current SDXC. I guess I can always get an ext reader

    • Peter says:

      I’m just gonna use it for light surfing. Some excel work. Noting heavy duty or gaming. It’s gonna be a secondary computer. It will be online 24×7 though so I thought if I can unplug my data drive from it, it will be safer.

      Anyway the price difference is not much.

  12. James says:

    Will this NUC work with a 2560×1600 @60Hz monitor with DVI-D dual link input?
    I already have a HDMI-DVI-D cable will that work or is using the display port the only way?

  1. June 24, 2016

    […] pleased. Of course this is not a post about performance and technical details. There are many other excellent websites and blogs that will feed your technical needs. But what about “experience and […]

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