Kaby Lake i7 NUC Review 3/4: Gaming (NUC7i7BNH)

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As this NUC is the fastest Kaby Lake NUC and it features an upper midrange GPU (when looking at the Intel GPU selection) I thought it would be fun to see how the thing can handle some games.

Dirt 3

Dirt 3 is an older rally game, but I like to use that for benchmarking as I’ve done it also in the past and the game has a very convenient benchmarking feature. The game was nice and smooth when using Full HD resolution (1920×1080) with almost any settings. I was a bit surprised that the difference to the Skylake i5 NUC was not bigger though (see my Skylake i5 NUC review).

Resolution 1920×1080 1920×1080 3440×1440
Preset High Medium Low
Multisampling Off 2xVSAA 2xVSAA
VSync Off On On
FPS Average 54.18 52.78 35.99
FPS Low 44.63 44.63 27.09

Need for Speed (2016)

Ok, time to try something more modern. The 2016-version of Need for Speed was fully playable on the Skull Canyon NUC with full HD resolution. Unfortunately I could not say the same about the game on the NUC7i7BNH. Regardless of the other settings I could not get the average FPS to go above 20 when measuring with FRAPS. Only reducing the resolution down to 1280×720 and almost all details to low helped and I managed to get a passable average FPS of 28.75. However, the game looked already pretty ugly on big display and still wasn’t as fluid as I’d like to see.

Civilization VI

I tried a demo version of Sid Meyer’s Civilization VI. The NUC had no issues with the game (as might be expected), even if I increased the detail levels a little bit up from the minimum. I was a huge Civilization fan in the early 90s and I’ve got to say that the short session with the new version reminded me why was that. Maybe I’ll need to buy this one later…

Battlefield 4

Using full HD resolution with a low preset the FPS reported by FRAPS was average: 32.467 – min: 28 – max: 45. This might not be satisfactory for a first person shooter, so reduction of the resolution would be necessary in order to get higher figures.

Gaming Performance

When looking at the results above, it’s quite clear that if you’re planning to do any more serious gaming and want for some reason to do it on a NUC, you should get yourself the Skull Canyon NUC (read my review of the gaming performance of the Skull Canyon NUC). The NUC7i7BNH will handle occasional casual gaming, older games or modern games that are not graphics-intensive. However, it just does not have enough grunt for modern games that you’d typically run on a full-size desktop PC and a discrete GPU.

External GPU

Despite what I said in the chapter above, there could be one option… The NUC has a Thunderbolt 3 connector which enables the possibility of using an external GPU – this can dramatically increase the gaming performance. There are not many on the market yet and the prices are steep, but in theory you could put a modern fast GPU inside a Razer Core enclosure and build a kick ass gaming NUC out of this. Why you would do something like that instead of a bit larger desktop PC, I do not know though… The Razer Core is more than 3 times the size of this NUC! The Razer folks refused my request of borrowing one for this review and I do not see myself investing into one, so I’d be happy to hear in the comments below if you have paired your NUC with an external GPU.

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4 Responses

  1. Eliasz Perun says:

    I would also like to hear about some test when paired nuc with egpu. Yes I am a type who wants to do this. I have some purpose for this and no one will convince me to buy desktop:) I just don’t know which box should I buy. Nuc 7i7bnh or zotac mi572. Mi has four cores and support 2400 MHz ram. So this can fit better game mode with egpu. Just need to know how egpu works with mini PC. And now. I am not game freak. Its gonna be casual gaming.

  2. Tommi says:

    Tweaking there and there with Windows 10 will increase performance.

  3. I’ve got a Skull Canyon hooked up to a Razer Core. Let me know what you need and I can get some numbers.

  4. Lew Zealand says:

    FYI, I have a NUC7i7BNH (and 4 others but not the Skull Canyon) with the Akitio Node & MSI Geforce GTX 1060 6GB. While gaming was OK on the NUC7i7BNH for older and lower end titles at 3440×1440, it really shines with the Node & 1060. The nice benefit is that with the GPU and CPU not competing for the cooling efforts of one relatively small fan, the CPU is free to run at it’s top 3.9 GHz in the few games I’ve thrown at it, while the 1060 takes on the heavy video lifting & cooling. If anyone is curious, it gets a Superposition score of 2255 (16.87 fps) on the 1080P Extreme preset and a Heaven score of 1344 (53.3 fps) at 1080p Ultra 8xAA Extreme tessellation. And it looks good, too!

    My monitor only does 60Hz with no G-Sync so most games I had been playing on the integrated video are now are pegged at 60fps at Ultra/Highest quality settings, like Tomb Raider (2013), Rocket League, Crysis (but can it pl— never mind…), Witcher 2 (haven’t tried 3 yet). I just started SW: Battlefront and it seems to drop frames at highest quality but I haven’t found the FPS counter yet to quantify, I’ll try again today.

    BTW, IMO the NUC7i5BNH should be able to take the vast majority of the advantage of this setup as well since it clocks to 3.4GHz and, assuming it runs in the NUC with the same 23W TDP that my NUC6i5 does, that should enable it also to run at it’s max speed indefinitely and thus take very good advantage of an eGPU. Of course that’s assuming you don’t just want to go build your own PC but clearly I have a thing for lilliputing. Frankly, I found this NUC exercise to be more fun.

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