Sweet little thing called NUC
I have recently gotten my hands on a NUC6i3SYH and after a few weeks I am absolutely pleased. Of course this is not a post about performance and technical details. There are many other excellent websites and blogs that will feed your technical needs. But what about “experience and usability” for a standard user? What can you do with a NUC? How does the NUC “feel”?
What’s in the box?
Let’s start from the beginning; from when you receive the box. If you have never seen a NUC before, you will be amazed by how small it is. You’ll dig through the stuff contained in the boxYou will find: the VESA mount bracket and mounting hole support for sticking the NUC on the back of your screen; 19V, 65W wall-mount AC-DC power adapter with multi-country AC plugs; integration guide; processor badge; and some advisement from Intel. and then take out the NUC.
It’s so small!
First thing: you’ll wonder why standard desktop PCs have to be that big! OK yes, no graphic cards or PCI expansion slots, but nonetheless, the NUC6i3SYH (and all the other NUCs) is a super-small, fully capable PC; and by “fully capable” I really mean a PC with which can do almost everything you can throw at it. This NUC has an i3 6100U, which actually puts it ahead of my i5 4210U of my laptop.Comparison between the two. As you can imagine the essential tasks are a breeze. Writing blog posts, editing files in Office, browsing, watching YouTube, streaming movies, all the standard tasks that you usually do on your PC are fast and reactive. Not ideal for intensive Photoshop or video editing, but in a pinch it will pull it off by taking a little bit longer than you are used to. Interesting to point out is that the NUC pulls these performances by consuming little!Certainly less than 65W under pressure, looking at the power supply.
You get also quite some connectivity: there is an IR receiver window, standard 3.5mm audio jack, two USB 3.0 ports: one standard blue and one yellow, for fast charging. Turn the NUC around and you get a full-sized HDMI 1.4b portThis was the main reason I chose this NUC at the time, together with the SKYLAKE processor, the 19-volt DC input, RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet, two standard USB 3.0 ports and a Mini DisplayPort 1.2, together with a SDXC card on the side. Open the lid, and you will find connection for 2 DDR 4 SO-DIMM RAM, a SATA3 connector for your SSD/HDD that you attach to the lidBe careful, you can only attach a full SSD/HHD to the lid if you have the non-slim version of a NUC!, the M.2 slot. All of this in a 115 x 111 x 48 mm casing!
It’s small, it’s powerful, but is it powerful enough to game? It is clear, your NUC will never be a powerful gaming machine, just look at the statistics around the web, but can you game on it? Well, as always the answer is: “it depends”. Don’t be silly and expect to play DOOM in Full HD and ultra-settings. It’s not going to happen. But you can play older games. In my case, I use the NUC as a perfect retro-gaming machine. I can’t begin to describe how happy it makes me to play Sensible World of Soccer 96/97 on a 50 inches screen! Or Rollercoaster Tycoon. Or The Settlers II. And the list goes on!
But can it do more? Yes, it can do a bit more thanks to the integrated graphic card, the HD 520: Diablo 3 on medium to high setting on 1920 x 1080 and some older games; lower the settings and you will be able to play many pre-2015 games I would say pre 2014 but I cannot test them all. You can play The Elders Scrolls Online too, if you please. Low settings and a resolution of max 720px or 1366×768, and off you go to Tamriel at 35/40 fps! To me, all of this is simply amazing. How far have we gone… Coming from the old Amiga 500+ school, seeing a PC that is so small, yet so powerful, is amazing. It had been years that I hadn’t felt so excited by a piece of technology I had bought. Every time I sit on my couch and play ESO or some other game, it is still difficult to wrap my head around the fact that all of this is coming from such a small box. If you’ll get the Intel i5 version, you’ll be able to push thing even further!
The Dark Side of the NUC
Getting you NUC to perform so well with your games and with your everyday tasks takes a little bit of tweaking. Booting up the NUC was not as event-less as I would have liked it to be: after plugging in my SSD with Windows 10 and network cable, the NUC tried to boot over LAN as a standard. Weird, but it makes sense since the NUC comes without any drive inside and without an OS. I can imagine that a user that has no experience in these things might be confused and have no idea how to go further. A little trip to the BIOS and a fresh version of Windows 10 and the problem was solved.
This event gave me the chance to explore the available settings in the BIOS, and I must say I was impressed with what I could change. The options range from the speed of the fan to the behavior of the integrated GPU. BIOS possibilities (and actual overclocking) depend on the Intel processor version. I eventually bought the cheapest SSD M.2 I could find Kingston SSDNow 120gb M.2. This was more out of curiosity than for anything else; I wanted to see how small things can be! After some research to make sure I would buy the right 80mm format, I pressed the “order” button and the day after I got busy. Installing the SSD M.2 was simple and straightforward, but from a performance point of view, there wasn’t any noticeable improvements or decrease in performance as it was super-fast, but it was super-fast before. I am sure from on a synthetic benchmark there would be different numbers.
I grabbed my NUC6i3 at 284,89 Euros, plus RAM, . Was it worth it? I’m very inclined to say “yes”. Reading around internet you will see it being defined as a “HTPC” often, source but it is not only that: It is a full-blown PC that could easily replace an older workhorse for 1/10th of the size. It’s an excellent retro-gaming machine, plus you can play some more demanding games on it. 4K videos, Full-HD, are no problem at all. You can pair this with a USB DAC and you are all set to enjoy excellent audio too.
|↑1||You will find: the VESA mount bracket and mounting hole support for sticking the NUC on the back of your screen; 19V, 65W wall-mount AC-DC power adapter with multi-country AC plugs; integration guide; processor badge; and some advisement from Intel.|
|↑2||Comparison between the two.|
|↑3||Certainly less than 65W under pressure, looking at the power supply.|
|↑4||This was the main reason I chose this NUC at the time, together with the SKYLAKE processor|
|↑5||Be careful, you can only attach a full SSD/HHD to the lid if you have the non-slim version of a NUC!|
|↑6||I would say pre 2014 but I cannot test them all.|
|↑7||Kingston SSDNow 120gb M.2|