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