The Skull Canyon NUC is Here!

EDIT: Read the full review here.

I’ve finally received the NUC6i7KYK which many know better as the Skull Canyon NUC. Many consider this as the most interesting NUC release in years.

Skull Canyon NUC Overview

Intel has said goodbye to the form factor of previous NUCs and packs this one in a rather flat case (1.1 inch / 28 mm) that’s almost twice as wide as the previous NUCs, but equally deep. However, the new design is not what makes this NUC that interesting but the contents of the box certainly are. The unit packs a 45-watt Core i7-6770HQ processor and Iris Pro 580 GPU.

Skull Canyon NUC Features

  • Intel Core i7-6770HQ processor (Quad-core, max. 3.5 GHz, TDP 45 W)
  • Intel Iris Pro 580 Graphics
  • Two DDR4 SO-DIMM sockets (up to 32 GB, 2133+ MHz)
  • Two M.2 slots with flexible support for a 42 or 80 mm SATA or PCIe SSD
  • Integrated Wireless-AC 8260 and Bluetooth 4.2 adapter
  • SDXC card reader (UHS-I)
  • Four USB 3.0 ports (including one charging port)
  • Consumer infrared sensor
  • Intel Gigabit LAN adapter
  • One Mini DisplayPort version 1.2
  • One Thunderbolt 3 port with USB 3.1 (USB Type-C connector)
  • One full-size HDMI 2.0 display port

 

Skull Canyon NUC Features (taken from the product brief)

Skull Canyon NUC Features (taken from the product brief)

Kicking the Tires

The Skull Canyon NUC Front

On the front we have a power switch, SD card reader, two USB 3.0 ports (yellow one is fast charging compatible), headphone jack and an infra red receiver.

The Skull Canyon NUC Rear

Behind the unit you will find a DC connector, optical sound out, gigabit Ethernet, two more USB 3.0 ports, Mini Displayport 1.2 connector, USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 connector and a full size HDMI connector.

The contents of the box

This NUC is shipped with a larger power brick than the previous models. You also have an alternative cover in case that mean-looking engraved skull is giving you nightmares. VESA mount, quick-start guide and some screws are included too. Finally there’s a small hex key to open the top cover.

Under the Hood

NUC6i7KYB mainboard

Unfastening 4 screws on the bottom cover will give you access to the mainboard. The larger heatsink-fan assembly is certainly the reason for the new form factor here.

RAM and SSD installed

As this is a barebones kit, you will need to bring your own memory chips and SSD drive. Note that the unit does not have a slot for a 2.5 inch drive – it’s M.2 SSD or nothing. Or two of them, as there are two slots. Supported M.2 drive lengths are 42 and 80 mm. I used a Samsung SM-951 NVME SSD (it’s not locked at 1600 Mb/s like on the previous i7 NUC) and HyperX HX424S14IBK2/8 DDR4-2400 RAM.

BIOS

The Skull Canyon NUC runs the familiar Intel Visual BIOS. As you can see in the following photos, it does offer more possibilities to tweak the performance than the i3 and i5 models did. Also, the DDR4-2400 RAM is detected in 2400 MHz mode even if the technical product specification says that unit supports 2133 MHz RAM.

More to Come

I’ll still need to run some benchmarks and write a full review of the unit. Expect to read it here early next week!

80 Responses

  1. Robin St.Clair says:

    Interesting that it recognises the DDR4 2400 RAM, I wonder if it is worth trying even higher spec RAM?

    I have been looking around for alternative cases, and the good ones are avoiding the power issue, 45W is too much for the passive cooling at present. I really would like a silent (fanless) device. As far as you can tell so far, is the fan very noisy, and are there any quieter after market options?

  2. Olli says:

    Thanks for the comment Robin,

    I think even higher spec RAM could be supported, but who knows. I’ve ordered a pair of 2666 MHz SODIMMs to try out. If that works, then I think I’ll try out 2800 MHz next…

    As you say, 45 watts is certainly too much for passive cooling in a small case. There’s no breaking the laws of the physics.

    Regarding the fan noise I’m a bit hesitant to say much as it’s so subjective. My first impression is that the fan isn’t quiet, but it isn’t noisy either, but these are subjective. Compared to Broadwell i7 it’s much better, but compared to Skylake i3 NUC it’s noisier. It definitely doesn’t jump from idle to full speed like the Broadwell i7 did…

    • Robin St.Clair says:

      Olli – Thanks for that information. Do I wait for somebody else to test, or just get the fastest memory I can find? Curses, impatience!

      I suspect I am hyper sensitive as far as noise is concerned. My top of the line laptop fan irritates me me when it runs fast. All my home office switches and gateway device are fanless, and I’d prefer to keep it that way.

      I’ve looked at the photographs of the Akasa case and can’t see what they are doing that Aleutia isn’t doing. I have a client who is a leading yacht designer, he needs sealed computing units for a lot of his projects, were this fanless, it would be ideal.

      I wonder if the 950 and 951 SSDs have different thermal profiles?

      • Obermeyer says:

        This is great since I just purchased this RAM to go into it… 🙂

      • Olli says:

        Excellent find! I’ll try to get hold of those RAM modules.

        • telecastle says:

          The performance difference between DDR4 2133 MHz and 2800 MHz is less than 5%. In fact, it’s 1-2% on most benchmarks. The price difference is about $75 for 32 GB. I don’t think it really makes any sense to go for anything other than DDR 2133 MHz unless you just want to.

          • Eric says:

            @telecastle,
            You mean that if/when you buy a Skull Canyon NUC, you’ll also order something like these Corsair RAM sticks?
            http://amzn.to/27eOVxB
            They cost only $69.99 for 2x 8GB (16GB) DDR4 2133MHz.

            BTW, I believe Intel stated that the Skull Canyon NUC supports up to 3200MHz RAM.
            I haven’t seen a SODIMM RAM set with a 3200MHz clock (yet), but there is a 32GB 2800MHz set from G.skill (2x 16GB): http://amzn.to/1ZGD3Pl, which currently costs $202.54.

            As the clock gets faster, the timinigs get worse, but overall it’s considered a step up, even if the difference is just a few precent. I imagine that potential buyers of the Skull Canyon NUC would probably wanna invest in fast RAM to eke out as much performance as possible from this little wonder. The Iris Pro 580 relies on the RAM as it doesn’t have its on VRAM, so faster RAM also means faster GPU memory.

          • jdogi says:

            Considering that many will be using the integrated Iris Pro 580 in these NUCs (which will share memory bandwidth with the CPU), I think we’re going to see bigger increases with the faster modules, at least with graphically intense loads. I wouldn’t be surprised to see closer to 8-10% going from 2133 to 2800 in some some specific scenarios..

            I’m basing this on some Haswell-R experiences… another intel CPU with a fairly beefy integrated GPU. Though that CPU only had 48 GPU execution units vs 72 for the Iris Pro 580. I expect this Iris Pro 580 to be even more starved for memory bandwidth…

            I guess we’ll see once these get out into the wild.

          • telecastle says:

            Wouldn’t it be a better investment to get DDR4 RAM with a lower CAS Latency value at the same speed? For instance, the Crucial 2133 GHz DDR4 32 GB kit (16GB x 2) CT2K16G4SFD8213 has CAS Latency of 15, whereas Kingston 2133 GHz DDR4 32GB kit (16GB x 2) HX421S13IBK2/32 has CAS Latency of 13.

            As for the DDR4 RAM speed increase benefit, this review concludes that benefits of higher-speed DDR4 RAM is marginal: http://www.anandtech.com/show/8959/ddr4-haswell-e-scaling-review-2133-to-3200-with-gskill-corsair-adata-and-crucial/4

          • psc says:

            DDR4 Scales well on Skylake – the reference you have below is for Haswell-E, which is two generations old.

            This http://www.legitreviews.com/ddr4-memory-scaling-intel-z170-finding-the-best-ddr4-memory-kit-speed_170340/3 may be more pertinent, admittedly it is with an overclocked CPU, however the base DDR4-2133 memory speed is similar to Intel’s claims.

          • telecastle says:

            @psc: I’ve just read the review you linked to, and the conclusion that the reviewers made is that it makes little sense to invest into the DDR4 RAM with the speed higher than 2666 MHz.

            If you look at the performance with real-life applications, there’s very little gain from DDR4 2133 MHz to 2666 MHz even with the Skylake chipset.

            My opinion is that the sweet spot is probably DDR4 2400 MHz with CAS Latency of 14 or lower.

  3. Eric says:

    Olli,
    You’ve had this unit since March 24th / 25th??
    The event log in the BIOS indicates that memory size was decreased on that night…

    • Olli says:

      No, not really. 🙂 According to a sticker on the box the unit was manufactured March 27th, so maybe that’s some factory testing that has caused that line in the log.

  4. Paweł says:

    Olli, thanks for bios print screens.
    But can you give us print screen from Windows OS: Ctrl+Shift+Esc@Memory section, please.
    It should be clear whether bios only sees these modules @2400MHz or OS too.

    Ps. Do you plan to do some benchmarks against NUC5i7RYH? From your screens it is clear for me Skull needs Akasa so bad! It is 57C! at idle (my 5i7s are 49C inside stock case) and fyi: 5i5MYHE @idle is only 29C inside Akasa PlatoX.

    AKASA WE NEED YOU GUYS 🙂

    Thanks in advance!

    Where did you buy yours?
    When Intel will give us its 950Pro competiotor?

    • Olli says:

      Thanks for the comment Pawel,

      I’ll definitely compare the NUC5i7RYH results that I have on file against the NUC6i7KYK. As mentioned in another comment the 2400 MHz RAM indeed is in 2400 MHz mode according to the task manager as well.

  5. Eric says:

    Important Note for those planning to buy the NUC6i7KYK with PCIe M.2 sticks (like the Samsung 950 Pro):
    Intel RST RAID is only supported if M.2 SATA SSD modules are used.
    RAID is NOT available when using M.2 PCIe SSD modules.

    • Robin St.Clair says:

      Fortunately, there is a Thunderbolt 3 interface to which all kinds of Raid configurations may be attached.

    • mrhunter9 says:

      That is incorrect. RST RAID is supported on NVMe drives but only in UEFI, not in Legacy.

  6. kix says:

    Still interested in the information on the cooling solution in there.
    From your rather nice shot it looks like heatpipes + heatsink somewhat larger than in previous nucs.
    Fan looks the same – pityfully small.

    Maybe you could make a photo of the back side of the motherboard?

  7. MikhailCompo says:

    Hi

    Firstly, great blog, really useful info and very detailed which i appreciate.

    I am looking towards NUC’s for a 4k HTPC but i think this is pretty overspec’d for that role.

    Even so, do you have a 4K TV you can test some different sample media with and check the DisplayPort 1.2/HDMI 2.0 compatibility? Also, testing 10-bit x265 files and HDR would be very interesting as they form the new UltraHD blu-ray formats, so how well it deals with the new formats and whether the GPU can decode them will be very interesting.

    These sites host some useful test footage:

    http://jell.yfish.us/
    http://demo-uhd3d.com/

  8. foto425 says:

    Hello!

    Can you please try Killer Instinc on the nuc with the Iris Pro? It will be nice if you can make the test and tell us the final score.

  9. pat says:

    What is the point on saying it supports max 2133 DDR4 , if it even supports 2400 or more?

    • Paweł says:

      The fact that bios sees correct speed/xmp profile does not automagically means Windows OS sees that speed too. In my 5th gen. NUCs I have fastest DDR3 G. Skill modules. Bios correctly displays afair 2133 MHz but when you click Ctrl+Shift+Esc and switch to memory section Windows 8.1/10 shows “only” 1866 Mhz.
      Hope that helps.

      • Olli says:

        With the HyperX DDR4-2400 RAM that I have in the Skull Canyon, RAM speed in task manager is shown as 2400 MHz.

        • Paweł says:

          It is my suggestion/experience NOT to update bios later if not neccessery because they can lock it. Or it may as well be be that in Skull they will allow for full speed/XMP profile.
          What bios does your machine run on?

          Thanks!

          • jdogi says:

            They’re not going to lock it! Come on… there’s a skull on it!

            Really though, I think the fact that Inte’s independent memory compatibility testing outfit is certifying these modules at greater speed than 2133, I really doubt that they’re going to block it later.

  10. Flatfoot says:

    Inside Skull Canyon.

  11. johnmflores says:

    Looking forward to benchmarks. I hope to run Adobe’s Creative Cloud on this if it is fast enough.

  12. psc says:

    New BIOS available – KYSKLi70.86A.0034.2016.0503.1334 – Quite a lot of updates.

  13. Bulent Yusuf says:

    The Skull Canyon team just did an AMA session on Reddit. They’re copping a lot of flak over the price point and target audience for this unit:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/4j15bs/were_the_intel_team_behind_the_new_skull_canyon/

    • telecastle says:

      During the AMA session, a question was asked about the performance of the higher-speed DDR4 modules. The Intel folks said that they tested DDR4 up to 3000 MHz, but saw no significant improvement with the tests that they ran.

      • nucblognet says:

        Can confirm this. Have been playing around with HyperX 2133 (CL13), HyperX 2400 (CL14) and G.Skill 2800 (CL18). No real differences between these. Some benchmarks the 2800 is the fastest, some benchmarks the 2133. Differences are too small though.

        I’d say, get the HyperX DDR4-2400.

  14. Gudi says:

    I’m really thorn between the NUC6I5SYH and the new NUC6IKYK.
    I’m looking to build a new HTPC running Kodi, Plex server and Sab.
    The I5 has low power consumption, but lacks HDMI 2.0 – though the DisplayPort can be used for 4K/60Hz.
    The i7 is a power beast, but I’m curious about fan noise and heat. What will idle power consumption be?
    I also looked at the Brix models, but they all lack efficient CPU except their “old” i7 version.
    I’ll be installing a Samsung NVMe PM951 512GB and 16GB memory.
    Any advice is welcome – thanks!

    • jeffatwood715691947 says:

      I measured 13w idle with display sleeping, 15w idle at fully updated Windows 10 desktop. Pretty happy with those numbers but lower-end broadwell can get to 7w idle, and my skylake 6100T can get to 10w. It’s in the ballpark!

    • Jam says:

      If you looking computer using it only HTPC better choice is NUC with i3 Skylake procesor because NUC have a IR receiver in front panel(Brix dosnt) and i3 is very quiet in quiet profile. I have both Skylake version i3 and i5. i5 is main desktop computer(i tested with GTA V – more 30fps 1650×1050 find my video on youtube) and i buy next NUC and using a HTPC in bethroom.

      NUC i5 with Samsung 951NVME starting windows 7 in 20-25 seconds, i3 with Transcend AHCI/SATA less 10s.

  15. I’m very interested by this to replace my i3570K computer ! i’m ready to sell everything i have in my Tower for this, because of the size. (2x 850 EVO SSD to get replacement with a M.2 Sata.). i already have a full retail licence of Windows 10. and i’m not a gamer, and don’t play any games, so i’m not at all in the area of all these guys complaining about the machine on Reddit.

    this Nuc i7 is more powerful than my i5 3570K+640 GT. i use my computer only for doing Videos editing (does it support Open CL?), 3D rendering (with open GL use) and Music in a professional way.
    the only thing i’m afraid of, is the noise. as said before, it’s completly subjective. i’m suffering from over sensitive hearing, and this Nuc will be anyway outside of my computer room, but i’m still worried about how much noise it can do because i’m living in a small flat, and my oversensitive hearing is very very high even at some distance. i’m afraid only a physical try will determine if it’s ok or not. any availability date for France / Europe?

    • Mark Dirac says:

      UK availability: A large and respectable UK retailer is claiming UK availability next Tues 17 May.

      https://www.scan.co.uk/products/intel-nuc-skull-canyon-i7-6770hq-quad-core-26ghz-ddr4-2-x-m2-iris-pro-graphics-580-barebone

    • Mark Dirac says:

      I am hoping that someone could post a video of a NUC at full noise alongside some “standard noise” that we all have a feeling for the loudness of.

      But I’m really struggling to dream up a “standard noise”. How about a small hand bell (in sight in the video). Or a frying egg (I’m waiting for supper) – that’s a very universal loudness. Or, rather more practically … ?

      • i’m an ex pro musician, and as Olli said, sound is too much subjective except when it’s very noticeable. impossible to be sure as it can be acceptable for someone and not acceptable for others. except trying by ourselves, a noise information will never be unfortunatly very accurate except done under very specific circonstances.

        • Robin St.Clair says:

          I dislike noise in places which are not meant to be noisy. To check for noise, I have a test.
          I borrow Tester Dog from a neighbour. Tester Dog is blind, but his hearing is acute. He will sit and listen to objects that make a noise (very popular for his ability to identify soon to fail fridges).
          My fully managed 8/10 port PoE switch handles 150W. It is fanless and completely silent. Tester Dog takes no notice of it. He cocks his head when the fan in my Vaio laptop spins up aggressively.
          So something is noisy if it attracts tester dog’s attention.

          It appears that people who work in workshops appear to have much greater tolerance of noise than office working folk.

          • You’re Right ! maybe i can compete with your neighbour’s dog tester ;), as i have my hearing killed with an ultra sound device even (Echographia 😀 ), and LCD/LED screen or some Switched-mode power supply, where everybody around me hear NOTHING :D.

  16. Horrible. Twice the size they are crazy and thats not NUC. A NUC is a 10x10cm not this monstruosity. Too bad Intel again. Since the last decade wuth no news, only the same with a different paper or enclosure

    • nucblognet says:

      Well, NUC6i5SYH is 0.6 liters in volume whereas this is 0.68 liters, so there’s not so big difference. 🙂 There was already earlier a wide NUC: DE3815TYKHE.

  17. phyfficus says:

    Hi there, if possible please have a look at the linux compatibility, since it’s mentioned at some spots on the web that the linux drivers for the Iris Pro GPU are not ready yet. Maybe you can install some popular distribution like Ubuntu LTS and do a are hardware check? This would be very nice and I’d be really thankful! Cheers

  18. Gudi says:

    Still waiting for the 1tb Samsung 950 Pro before buying NUC i5 or i7.
    Looking forward to the review

  19. Kelvin says:

    is the power supply are international voltage? 100-240v? thanks

  20. Adrian says:

    before any comment – thank you, because of your blog i bought a NUC6i3SYH. Now i am hooked, i want this baby right here.

    looking forward to the review.

  21. David says:

    I’m looking to make this a mini emulation box. Any suggestions on RAM speed vs CAS latency?

    • Olli says:

      I ran several benchmarks with 3 different RAM (2133 CL13, 2400 CL14 and 2800 CL18). There were no real differences between these three. I’ll write later some more with the results…

  22. Andrii says:

    @olli Could you please provide some reallife performance and games results ?

  23. Damon says:

    I was on the phone with Intel support trying to get two Samsung pm951 nvme drives working in raid as the raid wasn’t coming up even after making sure it was configured correctly. After an hour I was told that the engineers made a mistake and the support docs will be updated to show that raid is only available with sata sad, not with pcie ssd. I am hoping this person was wrong and just tired of speaking with me. Has anyone gotten it to work using two pcie nvme ssd drives in read on this beast?

    • Eric says:

      Damon,

      I have already mentioned that RAID is only supported with SATA M.2 SSDs, not PCIe M.2 SSDs.
      Maybe this will be added in a future BIOS update.

    • Olli says:

      I’ve been told that they will work, but not in the legacy mode (you’ll need to disable that). Not sure that’s the case, but have a go.

  24. Isauro Bargas says:

    Anyone have any suggestions as to what the bios settings should be set at to get the best performance possible out of the unit? I see a performance selection with three options to manipulate its performance. Are there any tweaks you all recommend aside from this one entry?

    • Isauro Bargas says:

      My NUC is equipped with 32GB of DDR4 2133 Crucial Memory w/ a 512 Samsung Pro M.2 🙂 Just thought I’d brag.. 🙂 Now I’m waiting for the 1TB M.2 version and the Razor Core.. 😉

  25. len zaifman says:

    I am looking at acquiring a skull canyon with 32 GB of RAM using either
    I prefer HX424S14IBK2/32 if the cost differential is small, otherwise go with HX421S13IBK2/32

    Do these 16 GB ram sticks work in the Skull canyon or is there a size or thermal constraint?

    I also would like to use SAMSUNG 950 PRO M.2 512GB PCI-Express 3.0 x4 Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) MZ-V5P512BW for disk.

    As these are maxed out configs: would I be blowing past the power/heat/size constraints?

    Thanks.

  26. dlessner says:

    anyone know how to enable the 2nd m2 port?

  27. I have 2 2560*1440 displays connected thru a displayport daisy chain on my PC, I wonder if this device will work with that configuration.

  28. Gudi says:

    I bought a ClickTronic 4K mini DP to HDMI, but can only get HD resolution. I get 4K through HDMI.
    I was looking for a 60fps 4K solution, am I doing something wrong?

  29. nima says:

    Hey guys can I use this RAM Geil CL16 DDR4 2400MHz ?

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