The i3 Kaby Lake NUC Review (NUC7i3BNH) – Overview (1/3)

Alright, it’s finally here – The Intel Kaby Lake NUC. As usual, around New Year (this time around Chinese New Year it seems) Intel releases a new product in their mini PC lineup with the current Core architecture CPUs. At the time of writing only the Core i3 model is out but the Core i5 model should be hitting the shelves within a couple of weeks. A few more weeks from that you can also expect the Core i7 model finally to be available as well.

Most of my readers already know exactly what is an Intel NUC, but for those who don’t: It is a tiny barebone PC size of a few CD cases piled on top of each other. As it’s a barebone kit, you’ll need to bring your own memory and storage modules and install them to the chassis. If this sounds complicated I can assure you that it really is not (see my Build a NUC tool, if you are having a hard time choosing the components). Despite the small size it delivers pretty respectable performance and unless you’re a die hard gamer or a video editor you could even replace your desktop compute with one. Or make a HTPC out of it. Or build a digital signage solution with it. I’ve even seen some self-service ordering booths in McDonald’s powered by a NUC.

I’ll be taking a look at NUC7i3BNH which is the Core i3 model with a 2.5″ slot for a SATA drive. If you don’t need a 2.5″ drive you could opt for the NUC7i3BNK model which is otherwise exactly same, but it has even smaller case that does not have room for a 2.5″ drive.


  • Intel Core i3-7100U Processor, 2.4GHz, dual-core, 15W TDP
  • 2 slots for DDR4-2133 SO-DIMM memory, 1.2V, max. 32GB
  • Normal, full-size HDMI 2.0 port
  • USB Type-C Port with DisplayPort 1.2
  • Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU, 24 EUs (GT2)
  • Four USB 3.0 ports (2 on the front, 2 on the rear)
  • Intel Gigabit Ethernet LAN adapter
  • Intel Wireless-AC 8265 WiFi adapter (802.11ac, dual-band, max. 867 Mbps, Bluetooth 4.2)
  • Support for M.2 SSD card (sizes 22×42 and 22×80)
  • Slot for a single 2.5″ drive (SSD or HDD, max. 9.5mm thickness)
  • Micro SD card reader (support SDXC cards and UHS-I)
  • Dual-array microphones on the front panel
  • Infrared sensor and 3.5mm audio jack
  • Dimensions 115 mm x 111 mm x 51 mm (4.5″ x 4.4″ x 2.0″)

Full technical product specification from Intel are available here.


We’ve already seen pictures of this NUC earlier, but let’s have a look around the unit now. Instead of the light grey aluminum sides this years’ NUCs sport a much darker outfit. Instead of aluminum the sides are made of plastic. The top retains the glossy plastic finish that does get scratched very easily. Keep the protective cover on as long as you can, especially while installing the components into the NUC.

On the front panel there are 2 USB 3.0 ports, one of them fast charging capable. You’ve got a headphone/line out jack. The power button is now located on the front panel. Finally, there’s also something called a ring LED. This large size LED you can configure to work as a power LED, HDD LED or opt to control it by software. You can even choose the colour out of 7 different options! The two small holes on the left and right are for the stereo microphone.

On the left side of the unit there’s a micro SDXC card reader (UHS-1 capable) and a Kensington security slot.

The rear panel houses a power connector, a full size HDMI 2.0 connector, Gigabit Ethernet port, two more USB 3.0 ports and a single USB Type-C port that offers USB 3.1 gen2 and DisplayPort 1.2 functionality. It’s worth nothing that the i3 model does not support ThunderBolt over the Type-C connector, unlike the more expensive models in the lineup.

Under the Hood

The Kaby Lake NUC is delivered without memory and storage media included. For memory you should choose either 4, 8 or 16 gigabyte memory modules. There are two slots available and even if you can populate only one of them, you should definitely consider installing two similar memory modules for optimal performance. The memory module must be a 1.2 volt DDR4 SO-DIMM module, and if this one is anything like its predecessors it can be a bit picky regarding the compatible memory modules.

After removing the four screws that secure the bottom cover to the chassis you can access the main board. The same NUC7i3BNB main board is used for both NUC7i3BNH and NUC7i3BNK models. The difference is that NUC7i3BNH has a slot for a 2.5″ drive in the bottom cover and the SATA cables that connect to the mainboard. NUC7i3BNK has the SATA connectors on the main board, but does not come with any of the cabling supplied and the case just does not have room enough for a 2.5″ drive.

It’s really quite impressive how much Intel has managed to pack on this tiny motherboard. You’ve got two DDR4 memory slots dominating the left side of the above picture of the main board.

On the right hand side you can see the M.2 slot. It supports PCI Express 3.0 specification and up to x4 bandwidth to fully support NVMe SSD drives. I did manage to exceed 3 GB/sec sequential read rates. You can also use a cheaper, standard M.2 SATA SSD drive in which case the maximum bandwidth is about 540 MB/s. The M.2 card used should be either 22×42 or 22×80 in size. 22×60 cards are not supported. As you can see, a 22×80 card will be physically above the SD card reader and the WiFi adapter – there’s no space for a mounting screw for 22×60 cards. Possibly you could use a 22×60 card with a 3rd party adapter. The 802.11ac WiFi adapter is soldered to the mainboard and not replaceable.

For this review I installed the Kingston HyperX HX421S13IBK2/8 RAM which is a 2-module kit with total capacity of 8 GB. If you want to be sure that you get the right kind of memory module go see the NUC Guru – our NUC configuration tool that can suggest you hardware that definitely works together and give you an easy shopping list of parts needed. As I had a 250GB Samsung 960 EVO SSD lying around, I decided to install that into the M.2 slot. The 2.5″ slot I left empty this time.


As usual, Intel uses its Visual BIOS in the NUC7i3BNH as well. It has evolved quite nicely over the years and is rather convenient to use. BIOS version 0036 was used for this review.

Some changes compared to the previous models are:

  • HDMI CEC settings, you can make your TV switch on or off automatically when you power the NUC
  • The fan control options now feature an option to completely turn off the fan below certain CPU temperature levels
  • You can configure the behaviour of the power button LED and the ring LED in a rather flexible way

Read further!

17 Responses

  1. Fulvio says:

    Hi everybody,

    after placing the order for my (first) NUC7i3BNK I just realized that it does not support the single 8GB DDR4 2400 I already bought… :-(
    Do I have to buy a new 2133 or there is also the option to let the DDR4 2400 work at 2133MHz?

    Thanks for your support!

  2. Thomas says:

    Are there any cables/adapters included in the nuc package?

  3. David says:

    I bought one of these to replace my previous NUC (NUC5i5RYK). I chose the larger case due to cooling problems with the smaller case of the NUC5i5RYK.

    I’d like to mention that the infrared transceiver of the new unit has a much narrower field of operation. At first I thought, “big deal, I’ll just be more careful when I point my remote”, but it was frustrating. I finally disabled the internal transceiver and installed a generic external unit. Works fine, just like the old NUC.

  4. TechSlave says:

    What is the purpose of these units? What is attractive about them? What do you use them for?

    • David Martin says:


      I think if you are asking that question then it’s unlikely you have a use for this. Most users see this unit and immediately think of a way they can put it to use.

      • TechSlave says:

        David Martin

        Or maybe, just maybe, I know the product quite well, possibly working somewhere in the tiny industry, and am seeking feedback from consumers such as yourself. I guess you are above having a rational conversation if it doesn’t suit your ego. Take care!

        • PlankWithANailIn says:

          If it’s important to you perhaps you should try to be less condescending to the people trying to help you.

          • TechSlave says:

            I hope your comment was to David Martin since he decided to be condescending to me! Cheers!

    • Olli says:

      Personally I’ve got one as my HTPC in the living room and another one always on as a miniserver that consumes very little electricity.

      I bought my parents an i5 unit to replace their old Pentium 4 desktop and they’ve been superhappy with it. I know people in my company have used to build minisized, portable labs. They’re also easy to take with you if you need to demonstrate something at events, fairs, etc. occasions.

  5. jo smith says:

    if you dont know what a nuc is good for, get busy and do research on them. its a rich mans world, other wise go back to the sticks

  6. Mark Lazarus says:

    I bought a NUC7i3BNK last year and love it! To date it’s been plugged into the family TV, but I’ve found that while this set up has been good for streaming movies and catch up TV, it’s been less than ideal for office work. So I’m buying a 27″ monitor and setting up in my bedroom/ office.

    Regarding a suitable 27″ monitor, would someone kindly help me with answers to the following questions, please? (As well as Netflix and TV, the I need the set up to run MS Office, Outlook and Gmail, as well as do online research. I don’t do any gaming or professional photo editing/ graphics.)

    1. Is my NUC’s built in graphics powerful enough to run a 2k QHD 2560×1440 monitor? I’m keen to buy a Dell U1715H based on many good reviews I’ve read.

    2. If not, what 27″ HD 1080p monitor would others recommend for my needs? (I decided on a 27″ because I want to be able to have two programs open side by side by side – a single 24″ is too cramped for this and my desk can’t accommodate a 2x 24″ set up. 32″ is too big. I bought a Phillips 31.5″ HD monitor yesterday, but I’ll be sending it back because it obscures the view out my window and I have to lean back in my chair and type with my arms outstretched to get far enough away from it to make viewing comfortable. I’m hoping that 27″ will be the sweet spot for my situation.)

    3. Is a 2K QHD, such as the Dell U2715H, overkill for my needs of MS Office, Gmail/Outlook, net research/ surfing, and TV/ Movie streaming? Would a cheaper 27″ HD monitor suffice? What are others using and enjoying? The Dell U2715H is $600 here in Australia, so anything cheaper would be a saving. By the way, the text on the Phillips 31.5″ HD currently plugged in is surprisingly clear and sharp.

    4. If my NUC’s graphics is powerful enough to run the Dell 2K QHD monitor, which kind of cable would be best to connect them – HDMI 2.0 or USB – Type C to DP? I would appreciate an explanation of the pros and cons of each; a link to an explanation would be equally appreciated.


    Thanks in advance.

  7. Tomm says:

    HyperX Impact, best RAM for NUCs (just choose right one!)

  8. Palma says:

    Hi, is it possible to add another WiFi card in M.2 slot and use it (and somehow disable soldered Intel’s adapter)? In this case, is it necessary to do something with antenas?
    I would like to add BCM94352Z card into the NUC7i3 and try to make a Hackintosh.
    Did anyone tried something like that? Does it work? Thx

  9. Colin says:

    Hi Palma, I was also thinking about doing this.. did you try it yet? Is it not possible to get the built in card to work? Anyway, I would want to use the M2 slot for storage.. and i am not too bothered about wireless. Maybe it would be better for you to use the DN range.. e.g. NUC7i3DNBE which has another slot for a wifi card (you don’t get usb-c though)

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