Final Words

The Intel NUC6i5SYK has been in the market since late last year, and we were really excited to finally receive a review sample last month. The NUCs have become one of the most promising desktop PC segments for Intel, and Skylake definitely has the necessary features to drive up the performance per watt metric. With full PCIe 3.0 x4 capability for the M.2 SSD and cutting-edge DDR4 support, the Skylake NUC has piqued the interest of the enthusiasts too. Getting more of the good things out of the way - the Skylake-U platform (Sunrise Point-LP chipset) also brings support for SDXC 3.0, enabling a dedicated UHS-I SDXC card reader slot in the Skylake NUC. The full-sized HDMI port addresses one of the major complaints we have had about the NUCs up to now. We are quite happy with the evolutionary updates made in the Skylake NUC.

The thermal design continues to be good, and the default BIOS configuration ensures that the Core i5-6260U can sustain higher operational power levels than what is suggested by its TDP of 15W. This is particularly interesting, since the processor doesn't officially have a configurable higher TDP. The Skylake GPU has also shown tremendous improvement compared to Broadwell and previous generations, and this is evident in the 3D benchmarks. The NUC6i5SYK also sports an Iris GPU with 64MB of eDRAM that helps improve performance for various workloads.

The pricing ($386 on Amazon for the barebones version) is also very reasonable for the performance numbers. With DDR4 SODIMM prices on the way down, and a Samsung 950 Pro 256 GB costing around $180, it is possible to complete the build for less than $650.

Unfortunately, at the business end of the review, we have to say that the Skylake NUC6i5SYK is not ready for prime time yet. In our evaluation process, we encountered two showstopper issues, one of which ended up in our first review sample getting bricked. In Intel's defense, they were already aware of the issues prior to our report.

  • Compatibility issues with SODIMMs using Hynix memory modules that might make installing Windows impossible and even BIOS flashing fraught with risk
  • OS lockup under certain GPU loading scenarios

BIOS version 0036 has a fix for the first problem problem, but the default settings in that BIOS are still incompatible with SODIMMs using Hynix memory modules. The latest GPU driver downloaded from Intel's site resolves the second issue. However, the nagging problem with the AC8260 WLAN adapter (occassionally missing 5 GHz SSIDs) still remains.

Other minor drawbacks (applicable to Skylake as a whole) include the absence of full hardware acceleration for HEVC Main10 decode as well as the absence of HDMI 2.0a / HDCP 2.2 support. Even though the hardware is quite powerful, these two aspects prevent us from recommending it as a primary HTPC. Broadwell NUCs are more mature and can provide very similar HTPC functionality at a lower price point.

Overall, our experience with the NUC6i5SYK was not what we have come to expect from a typical Intel product. Unless one wants to be an adventurous beta tester, we would suggest waiting for Intel to resolve all pending issues with the Skylake NUC before contemplating a purchase. Hopefully, the Iris Pro-equipped Skull Canyon NUC (with Thunderbolt 3 integrated) will fare better when it comes to the market.

Update (May 17, 2016): Intel has been releasing BIOS updates regularly since this review was posted. From the review changelog and follow-up testing, it appears that BIOS v0044 has resolved almost all of the issues that we have complained about in this review.

 

Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
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  • ganeshts - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    Hmm.. I haven't seen anyone use 'til now'.

    But, 'till date' is definitely common where I grew up / learned English: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/146767/... ; It might not be the best thing to use in other parts of the world, but it is not wrong.
    Reply
  • kmo12345 - Saturday, March 12, 2016 - link

    I noticed this as well.

    I also disagree with your statement that it is not wrong. I don't doubt that it has entered common usage in Indian English but I have never heard or seen this phrase in the UK, North America, or even Latin America. So while it may be correct in Indian English it is incorrect in any other forms of English.
    Reply
  • nivedita - Sunday, March 13, 2016 - link

    The dictionary disagrees with you.

    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/en...
    Reply
  • gietrzy - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    Can you please point me to Intel white papers pdf where they say m.2 in Skylake can do more than 1600 MB/s?
    Tia.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    Sunrise Point-LP has PCIe 3.0 lanes, and the M.2 slot uses four of them. All I can say is that, with the appropriate M.2 SSD, you can utilize four PCIe 3.0 lanes' bandwidth. Reply
  • jdogi74 - Saturday, March 12, 2016 - link

    Sorry, but you sound like a politician. Isn't there some contact at Intel that can provide some reasoning and confirmation for this limit or has Anandtech lost all of it's industry clout? Reply
  • jdogi74 - Saturday, March 12, 2016 - link

    I completely agree. It's a shame that this review did not address this issue. Really, it's the only thing I came to this review hoping to learn. I have seen reports from users indicating that the M.2 on these is, for some reason, capped at 1600MB/s.

    This review states... "full support for PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 SSDs"... yet there's obviously some other factor that prevents these units from getting the most out of it. Given that, I would expect a review on this site to cover it and at least investigate and explain this limitation so that the readers get a better understanding of when PCIe 3.0 x4 really is PCIe 3.0 x4 and when it's not.

    Can anyone explain why this alleged PCIe 3.0 x4 essentially perfoms as if it were PCIE 2.0 x4 or PCIe 3.0 x2.

    Really.
    Reply
  • jdogi74 - Saturday, March 12, 2016 - link

    Sorry, I should also mention that Intel's own specs on these also confirm this 1600MB/s limit. So we know it's there. I just want to understand how it's PCIe 3.0 x4 but then it isn't. Reply
  • ganeshts - Sunday, March 13, 2016 - link

    I benchmarked both the SM951 and 950 PRO NVMe SSDs, and the best-case bandwidth (large sequential reads) is around 1710 MBps for both.

    I have asked my Intel contact for the reason behind this, and I will either update things in this comments thread, or have a separate pipeline piece (depending on the depth of Intel's reply).
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    Does this NUC have the ability to up te TDP, like haswell iris NUCs could (going from 15 to 28 watt, allowing both higher boost clocks and longer periods of sustained clock speeds.)?

    And has intel said anything about the skull canyon NUC, with the GT4e GPU?
    Reply

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