Kaby Lake i7 NUC Review 1/4: Overview (NUC7i7BNH)
It’s been a long wait since the Kaby Lake Core i3 model was released in January. A bit surprisingly my supplier told me that the i7 version was available, even if I was expecting to get the i5 model before that. The i5 should be here very soon as well but now I’ll try to focus on the i7 model. This is the third i7 NUC that I’ve had my hands on. The first one was the Broadwell i7 NUC and the second one was the Skull Canyon NUC about a year ago.
Let’s start by looking at the feature list.
- Intel Core i7-7567U Processor, 3.5GHz to 4GHz, dual-core, 28W 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, ThunderBolt and USB 3.1
- Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 GPU, 48 EUs (GT3e)
- 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″)
If you’re interested in all of the technical details the technical product specification is available here.
No big surprises here. The thing looks almost exactly the same as the NUC7i3BNH from January. Or the Skylake NUCs from last year. Let’s take a look around anyhow.
The famous glossy black top cover is once again here (it gets scratched easily – don’t remove the protective film before you’ve finished the assembly). On the front panel you’ll find 2 USB 3.0 ports and the yellow one is fast charging capable. To the right from the USB ports you can find a line out/headphone connector and a power button. The two small holes are for the dual microphone array. There’s also a ring LED around the USB ports and power button that by default works as a HDD LED, but can be configured for other purposes (you can write software to turn the ring LED into a disco light).
On the left side of the chassis you can find the micro SDXC card reader. Compared to the Core i3 model there are more holes on the left side to increase the air flow for the CPU.
The rear panel features DC connector, full-size HDMI 2.0 connector, Gigabit Ethernet connector, two USB 3.0 ports and the Thunderbolt port. As a small curiosity there’s a small sign indicating that air coming from the outlet is hot (this sign is absent from the Core i3 model).
Allright, let’s put it together! What do we have in the box?
Besides the NUC and some usual paperwork there’s a 65-watt power adapter that you can use pretty much anywhere in the world. You’ll also find VESA mounting hardware to attach the NUC behind your monitor should you wish to do so.
You’ll need a medium size phillips screw driver to open the four screws on the bottom cover. I decided to go with two HyperX 4GB RAM modules and a 275GB M.2 SSD from Crucial. Whatever you do, it’s a good idea to install two identical memory modules as this enables the dual-channel mode that makes a big difference with the integrated GPU. For the drive you can choose an M.2 SSD or a more traditional 2.5″ SATA drive. For those who seek ultimate performance Samsung’s 960 series NVMe SSDs (Amazon) are a good choice!
After opening the top cover the next thing you’ll see is the tray for the SATA drive. You can lift it aside and install the components without detaching the SATA wires but for the sake of photography I did take them off. The two DDR4 SODIMM memory slots on the bottom of the photo above support only 2133 MHz data rate. My RAM modules are actually spec’d up to DDR4-2400 but they only work with 2133 MHz rate in this NUC.
On the top of the picture 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. 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.
So this is how it looks after the RAM and the SSD is in place. At the very bottom of the picture you can see there’s a header for HDMI-CEC functionality. The NUC itself has basic HDMI-CEC functionality to control the power of a TV/amplifier but this header can be used to extend the capabilities further.
As usual the Intel Visual BIOS makes an appearance here. It has evolved quite nicely over the years and is rather convenient to use. BIOS version 0042 was used for this review.
Some changes compared to the Skylake 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
There is an existing flaw in the MegaChips MCDP2800 LSPCon firmware that is in the device. The same flaw was present in the Core i3 powered model. Version 1.66 is the first one that works as expected. Older HDMI firmware versions are not able to bitstream HD audio formats to an AV receiver correctly and they have issues with certain TV sets (especially some Samsung models).
A firmware upgrade tool can be downloaded from Intel. Note that it must be run in Windows and that it works even if the linked page states compatibility with NUC6CAYH and NUC7i3BNH only.