There’s only one low-end NUC this time instead of two like last time in 2015. We ran several popular benchmarks in order to find out how this NUC compares to the last year’s Celeron and Pentium NUCs.
If you came here via a search engine be sure to read the other parts of this review as well:
- Part 1: Hardware Overview
- Part 2: Performance and Benchmark Results
- Part 3: NUC6CAYH as a HTPC and Conclusions
Windows 10 Installation
The installation of Windows 10 from a USB stick was a breeze. Do note that the WiFi adapter is not supported out-of-the-box by Windows 10 so you will need to download the drivers from Intel. However, the wired Ethernet adapter is fully supported without any need to download the drivers. Thus you can install Windows and plug it into a wired Ethernet network and it will automatically download the GPU and WiFi drivers among others. If you don’t have a wired connection you’ll need to download the WiFi adapter drivers on another computer and move them to the NUC using a USB stick for example.
In general the system feels very responsive while doing basic tasks like web surfing, reading emails and watching YouTube videos. Unlike the 2015-model (NUC5CPYH) I could actually see this Celeron-powered mini PC being used as a desktop PC replacement when the needs are not too hardware intensive. It’s worth noting that if you plan to buy a Windows 10 license, it might be worth to buy the prebuilt kit version NUC6CAYS that includes Windows 10 license (and 2 gigs of RAM and 32 gigs internal flash storage).
Windows 7 is no longer supported by Intel, so Windows 10 is your only option here if you’re not into Linux or other alternative operating systems.
The benchmarks were run with Intel video driver version 4534 that was automatically downloaded by the Windows. On Intel’s page I only had the option to download the version 4528, so this time Windows update gave me something newer… The NUC was equipped with two 2GB DDR3L 1600 MHz RAM modules. Unfortunately I did not have two 1866 MHz modules at hand.
3DMark is a popular benchmarking suite that benchmarks video and gaming performance of the computer. See below for the results and a comparison to the previous Celeron/Pentium NUCs and the Skylake i3 NUC (even though the i3 NUC costs twice as much so some might argue this is not a fair comparison):
In Firestrike test the new NUC shows significant improvement over the previous generation. The result is 82% better than NUC5PPYH and more than 100% better than NUC5CPYH. To keep things in perspective, the NUC6CAYH result is still only about half of the Skylake i3-powered NUC6i3SYH.
The Sky Diver benchmark shows less improvement. Still a solid 18% improvement compared to NUC5PPYH and 45% compared to NUC5CPYH.
Finally in Cloud Gate the new Apollo Lake NUC scores 48% better than last years NUC5PPYH and 111% better than NUC5CPYH.
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.
Both the multi-core and single-core performance is nicely improved when compared to the Pentium-powered NUC5PPYH. Approximately 30% better results in both tests indicates that the CPU in NUC6CAYH is clearly faster. Of course the Braswell-powered NUC5PPYH had a 6-watt CPU and this is a 10-watt CPU. Both CPUs are manufactured with 14 nm technology.
In the OpenGL test the new Apollo Lake NUC beats NUC5PPYH clearly by 38%.
Below you can find the 64-bit Geekbench 3 score for NUC6CAYH. 5116 for multi-core and 1537 for single-core tests. If you’re interested, you can read the full detailed results here.
Passmark CPU Benchmark
In the Passmark CPU test I got result of 2285. I’ve never run Passmark test before, so I don’t have any other results to compare this to.
1600 MHz or 1866 MHz RAM?
The NUC6CAYH supports 1600 MHz and 1866 MHz RAM and you can populate either one or two RAM slots. You might wonder whether it makes a difference if you use a 1866 MHz RAM instead of 1600 MHz RAM and whether there’s point to populate both of the RAM slots in order to enable the slightly faster dual channel mode. As the NUC has an integrated GPU that uses the system RAM as video RAM as well, the impact is highest in GPU intensive tasks. I ran the Cinebench R15 OpenGL test with 3 different memory setups:
- Single 1600 MHz CL11 module
- Single 1866 MHz CL11 module
- Dual 1600 MHz CL11 modules
Unfortunately I did not have two 1866 MHz modules at hand, so I have estimated the Dual 1866 MHz result here.
There’s approximately 14% improvement between the slowest and fastest setup. As the price difference between 1600 MHz and 1866 MHz RAM is very small, I’d suggest installing two 4GB 1866 MHz RAM modules. I had good results with the Kingston HX318LS11/4 module. Of course if you’re not planning to do any GPU intensive tasks the choice of RAM probably does not matter that much. ASRock has previously touted dual-channel on their Braswell-based BeeBox as an enabler for smooth 4k video playback, but my experience is that even single-channel setups should achieve smooth playback.
The default BIOS settings kept the fan running at very low levels even during the CPU intensive benchmarks. There’s also an option to completely turn off the fan when the temperatures are below a certain limit. This is enabled by default as well. I’d say that the box was almost totally silent.