Broadwell NUC Review (NUC5i3RYK): Overview and Hardware

Intel has lately released the first Broadwell-based products in the popular Intel NUC product range. The Broadwell is Intel’s latest generation of the Core processors (such as Core i3, i5 and i7). Today we’re going to start our review of NUC5i3RYK model. Expect to see parts 2 and 3 over the next week.

The NUC lineup has more or less defined the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) even if viable competition exists from companies such as Gigabyte and Zotac. With components becoming constantly smaller and smaller, these miniature PCs manage to pack enough punch for most users although gaming remains still more or less outside the comfort zone for the NUCs. In particular, the NUC makes a great HTPC: it’s quiet, powerful enough, small and has the looks required to reside in a living room.

Broadwell NUCs - RYK on left, RYH on right

The Broadwell NUCs today come with 2 different CPUs, the Core i3-5010U and the Core i5-5250U. The 2 CPUs are rather similar when it comes to features, but the i5 is obviously faster (compare the CPUs on Intel’s web site). You can also get the NUC with two different cases: a more compact one and a bit higher one where you can fit a single 2.5″ drive in. We’re looking at the compact case i3 model NUC5i3RYK here. The only difference between the compact and higher case models is the case – both contain the exact same motherboard and have the same connectivity. If you want to install a 2.5″ drive, you’re interested in the NUC5i3RYH model.

Look Around the NUC

The Broadwell NUC looks very similar to the previous generation Haswell NUC. The design hasn’t changed much. My personal opinion is that they should replace the glossy plastic top cover with an aluminum one, as the current one collects every single fingerprint and gets scratched extremely easily.

The front of the NUC sports two USB 3.0 ports, an audio jack and an infrared sensor. One of the USB ports (the yellow one) supports fast USB charging in case you want to charge your phone, iPad or other mobile device from the PC. The power button and the HDD LED is on top of the case, so the glossy plastic around the power button is guaranteed to collect your finger prints.

The backside remains more or less the same, there’s a DC connector, Mini DisplayPort connector, Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 ports as well as a Mini HDMI connector. The NUC supports output via the DP and HDMI connectors simultaneously for use with multiple displays.

Under the Hood

Time to pop out the bottom cover by unfastening the four screws. The NUC5i3RYB motherboard has components on both sides. On the underside we have mainly components that do not need to be touched, such as the CPU, the heatsink and the fan. All the connectivity for user-added components resides on the top of the board.

NUC5i3RYK internalsThere are 2 DDR3L SO-DIMM slots that do take 1333/1600 MHz SO-DIMMs with operating voltage of 1.35V. This is important as the more common 1.5V memory modules will NOT work. The NUC in general seems to be a bit picky regarding the memory, so it’s best to install memory that is known to work with the NUC. I personally installed a Kingston KVR16LS11/4 (Amazon) of 4GB capacity. The technical product specification from Intel says that you should use 1333 or 1600 MHz memory, but the i5 version NUC5i5RYK/H does actually support 1866 MHz version. Legit Reviews has an article comparing the i5 model with 1600 MHz and 1866MHz memory modules for those who are interested. If you are unsure, have a look at which components our NUC Guru would recommend you and you won’t end up with incompatible memory.

Besides the memory, most of the users are going to be interested about the M.2 slot where you will likely install an SSD drive. The slot does support M.2 SATA SSD drives and provides a maximal throughput of 540 MB/s. The same slot also supports M.2 SSD PCIe drives (PCIe x1, x2, and x4) with max throughput of approximately 1600 MB/s. Currently the PCIe drives are rather expensive, but this will likely change in the future. The slot supports M.2 2242, 2260 and 2280 form factors.

The blue SATA connector is a bit redundant as this chassis simply does not have space for a SATA device, but if you decide to take the motherboard out of this chassis, it’s perfectly usable. In addition, there’s an extra USB 2.0 header, NFC header and an auxiliary power header with label W_CHG presumably pointing towards wireless charging that Intel intends to provide by providing a different lid for the NUC as an accessory.

nuc5i3ryk_wifi_chipUnlike the previous generation, the motherboard provides WiFI chip soldered down on the board. It’s a rather capable Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 802.11ac device that also includes BlueTooth 4.0 on the same chip.

Powering it on

The fan is very quiet on the device. I’d say on par with the Haswell NUCs. The BIOS on the Broadwell NUCs is the familiar Intel Visual BIOS that was used in the previous generation of NUCs as well. It’s rather intuitive and easy-to-use, but sometimes I wish it would depend less on the use of the mouse. Navigating it only with a keyboard tends to be cumbersome.

I updated the BIOS to the latest version (137), which was a breeze.
visualbios

Specifications

Model name NUC5i3RYK NUC5i3RYH
CPU Intel Broadwell Core i3-5010U, 2.1GHz, TDP 15W
Memory 2 DDR3L SODIMM slots, 1.35V, 1333/1600 MHz, 16GB maximum
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 5500 (Up to 900 MHz)
Display connectivity Mini HDMI 1.4a port, Mini DP 1.2 port
SATA ports One SATA port (6 Gb/s)
Space for 2.5″ SSD/HDD inside chassis No Yes, one drive
mSATA support No
M.2 support Yes, 2242, 2260, 2280 form factors
Gigabit Ethernet port Yes, Intel chipset
Wireless connectivity Yes, Intel 802.11ac adapter integrated, BlueTooth 4.0
Consumer IR receiver Yes
USB ports, front Two USB 3.0, one with fast USB charging
USB ports, rear Two USB 3.0
USB header on mainboard Two USB 2.0
NFC header Yes
Audio Intel HD Audio supporting 7.1 via both HDMI and DP ports
Audio connectors Stereo/microphone jack
Dimensions 115 x 111 x 32.7mm 115 x 111 x 48.7mm

To be continued…

In the next part of this Broadwell NUC review we’re going to install Windows on the NUC as well as take a look at how does it manage various tasks and how does it compare to the previous generation NUC in the benchmarks. Finally, in the third part we’re going to look at the capabilities as a HTPC.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in one, build yourself one with the help of NUC Guru and have look at the current pricing.

2 Responses

  1. TTP says:

    Is it possible to put both an SSD *and* a conventional hard drive in the NUC5i3RYH ?

    • Olli says:

      Obviously an old comment that has went unnoticed (sorry!), but just in case someone else is wondering about this: yes, you can add an M.2 SSD and a conventional 2.5″ hard drive in the NUC5i3RYH, NUC5i5RYH and NUC5i7RYH models.

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