In the second part of our Kaby Lake NUC review we install Windows 10 on the Kaby Lake Core i3 NUC (NUC7i3BNH) and run some popular benchmarks on it to get an idea how does it perform compared to the previous generation NUCs. Especially, we’ll be comparing the performance to last year’s Skylake i3 NUC (See our NUC6i3SYH review from last year for the full benchmark results of that model). If you came here via a search engine, I’d suggest you take a look at the first part of the review first.
Windows 10 Installation
So, I booted up the Windows 10 installer from a USB stick that I had created earlier. I used Windows 10 Anniversary Update (v. 1616) and the installation itself was uneventful and as expected. The Ethernet adapter was fully supported out of the box and when the installation finished, but I had to download the WiFi driver from Intel’s download center. Windows update automatically downloaded drivers for the rest of the components, but the versions were a little bit behind the latest ones from download center.
Do note that Intel does not provide drivers for Windows 7 any more. It’s Windows 10 or no Windows now…
Intel HD Graphics driver for Kaby Lake version 4541 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). BIOS version 0036 was installed in the NUC.
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 generation NUCs and the Apollo Lake NUC:
In Cloud Gate test the result is 6.7% better than what Skylake i3 NUC achieved last year.
Improvement of 5.3% in the Sky Diver test is not that much…
Finally we see a 9.0% increase when running the Fire Strike test.
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.
The OpenGL test gives us a reading of 46.02 frames per second. That’s 12.9% better than NUC6i3SYH but still clearly less than the result of Skylake i5 NUC.
Difference between Skylake and Kaby Lake is neglible in multi-core test and we see an increase of 8.5% in the single core test.
Below you can find the 64-bit Geekbench 3 score for NUC7i3BNH. 5833 for multi-core and 2826 for single-core tests. More detailed results are available on Geekbench site here.
Passmark CPU Test
In the Passmark CPU test I got a result of 4119. The only other NUC I’ve tested with Passmark was the Apollo Lake NUC6CAYH that got a result of 2285, so this Kaby Lake i3 is significantly faster than the Pentium J3455-powered budget NUC.
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. I did not modify the default settings in the BIOS.
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 very quiet for most of the time. For me this NUC is almost as good as silent. However, keep in mind that these are very subjective things and you might tolerate more or less noise than I do. As a new feature, the Kaby Lake NUC has a feature to stop the fan completely whenever the CPU temperature is under a threshold that you can configure in the BIOS.
The performance in Windows 10 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 as well, such as Acer Aspire E or Lenovo IdeaPad 110.
However, performance gains over the previous generation were rather low, almost disappointingly low. If you are currently using a Skylake NUC the small increase in performance certainly would not be a reason to upgrade. Basically most of the performance gain seen here is due to the 4.3% increase in CPU clock from 2.3GHz to 2.4GHz.
The HTPC use case will be covered in the next part of this article.