Introduction and Setup Impressions

Over the last couple of years, mini-PCs in the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) have emerged as one of the bright spots in the troubled PC market. Intel's NUC systems are one of the most popular in this category. The lack of graphic prowess in the NUCs allowed for machines such as BRIX Pro (based on the Haswell Iris Pro CPU) to enter the market. With Broadwell, Intel is bringing out an Iris NUC on its own.

The 14nm Broadwell CPUs were introduced into the market with the Core M branding for fanless ultraportables. Essentially a rebranding of Y-series CPUs, its power efficiency got everyone excited about what a higher TDP version (U-series) could bring for the PC market. Even as ultrabooks based on Broadwell-U are getting ready for the market, Intel and its partners have started getting the UCFF units into the hands of consumers. Intel's Broadwell NUCs were introduced at CES 2015. We have already reviewed GIGABYTE's Core i7-5550U-based BRIX s and Intel's own Core i5-5250U-based NUC5i5RYK units, giving us some insight into how a 15 W TDP Broadwell-U might perform for common workloads. With Intel's partners launching UCFF PCs based on the U-series CPUs, it was always going to be interesting to see how they could differentiate their Broadwell NUCs. This review of the NUC5i7RYH - Intel's Core i7 Broadwell-U-based NUC with Iris Graphics 6100 - provides some insights.

Traditionally, the NUCs are barebones machines - the end-user could choose an appropriate mSATA SSD (or, for selected models, 2.5" drives), a mini-PCIe WLAN adapter, DDR3L SO-DIMMs and an operating system. Intel has two main changes in the barebones approach for the Broadwell-U NUCs: The WLAN adapter (Intel AC7265) now comes soldered to the motherboard. mSATA SSDs are no longer supported. In its place, we have support for either SATA or PCIe-based M.2 SSDs. Similar to the previous generation NUCs, a free SATA port is available on the board. The Iris NUC is sized to accommodate a 2.5' drive also. The SATA data and power cables are already routed and the appropriate chassis slots are in place to make adding a 2.5" drive very easy (as can be seen in the photograph below).

Intel also supplied us with a sample of Samsung's SM951 M.2 NVMe drive for use as the primary storage medium. The specifications of our Intel NUC5i7RYH review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Intel NUC5i7RYH Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-5557U
(2C/4T x 3.1 GHz, 14nm, 4MB L2, 28W TDP)
Memory 2x 8GB DDR3L-1866 C13
Graphics Intel Iris Graphics 6100
Disk Drive(s) Samsung SM951 Series MZVPV256 256 GB M.2 NVMe SSD
Networking 1x Intel I218-V GbE, 2x2 Intel AC7265 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 8.1 Pro x64
Pricing (As configured) $878
Full Specifications Intel NUC5i7RYH Specifications

The Intel NUC5i7RYH kit doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but our pre-production engineering sample review unit came with a USB key containing the drivers. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 65 W (19V @ 3.43A) wall-wart (with detachable multi-country power plugs), a VESA mount (along with the necessary screws), setup guides and a QVL (qualified vendors list) for the memory and storage subsystems. The gallery below takes us around the chassis. The Wi-Fi module is underneath the M.2 SSD and not visible in the gallery photo.

The Iris NUC officially supports DDR3L SO-DIMMs at 1600 MHz. However, the BIOS automatically configures the memory for the highest possible speed. Our Crucial DIMM kits support running at up to 1866 MHz and they were automatically configured to run at that frequency with timings of 13-13-13-32 - this is much worse than the usual 1866 MHz kits that we have access to. However, given that memory overclocking is automatically configured, we evaluated the system with those timings.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Intel NUC5i7RYH against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the Intel NUC5i7RYH when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel NUC5i7RYH
CPU Intel Core i7-5557U Intel Core i7-5557U
GPU Intel Iris Graphics 6100 (Broadwell-H GT3) Intel Iris Graphics 6100 (Broadwell-H GT3)
RAM Crucial CT102464BF186D.M16
13-13-13-32 @ 1866 MHz
2x8 GB
Crucial CT102464BF186D.M16
13-13-13-32 @ 1866 MHz
2x8 GB
Storage Samsung SM951 Series MZVPV256
(256 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; 19nm; MLC)
Samsung SM951 Series MZVPV256
(256 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; 19nm; MLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265
(2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265
(2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $878 $878
Performance Metrics - I
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  • nathanddrews - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    Ticks generally also bring a thorough lineup of SKUs and better performance. No matter, Skylake will be here soon enough. Reply
  • chizow - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    Overall I've been happy with my Haswell-NUC, but all the recent deals for the Alienware Alpha at $399 completely obliterate the NUC, imo. Unfortunately the Alpha was not an option when I built my NUC this time last year, but it is a far better option mainly due to the far superior onboard dGPU (GTX 860m+) option. Reply
  • kmmatney - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    Wow - I've never heard of the Alienware Alpha, but it does look like a better deal, which a much better GPU, and comes with an OS. I couldn't find the $399 deal, though. The coupon code had expired for the one I did come across. Reply
  • ezridah - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    Microcenter has them for $299 right now if you're lucky enough to be near one that has them in stock still. Mine didn't :( Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - link

    Oh that's a much more sensible sized device too. These things don't have to be micro tiny. The size of a hard-backed book is fine. Reply
  • deruberhanyok - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    What's the quality of noise on that "slightly audible" under heavy load? Is it just a whoosh of air, which is fairly easy to ignore, or is it a sort of whining sound from the fan spinning at high speed, which is much harder to dismiss? Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    It is not a whining sound - that is more a characteristic of small diameter fans at high speed.

    This is a sustained 'whoosh of air' - it is not easy to ignore IMO, but that is subjective. All I can compare it to is against the Broadwell-U NUC - in that case, the whoosh could be ignored (again, subjective)
    Reply
  • deruberhanyok - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    thanks Ganesh! Reply
  • Uplink10 - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    My thoughts:
    1. There should be a second GbE port which would make this PC a lot more versatile. Plus this PC supports Virtualization and even VT-d (although VT-d in Mini-PCs is underused than it would be in PCs with free PCIExpress slots) and often it comes handy if you have at least two GbE ports.
    2. You should use external SSD for more consistent and bottleneck proof speeds.
    3. External Antenna would improve signal strength.
    4. If we are talking about full sized HDMI I would also expect full sized DP and since DP is the future, if I had to choose one, I would choose full sized DP.
    Reply
  • dmdeemer - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    "Over the last couple of years, mini-PCs in the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) have emerged as one of the bright spots in the troubled PC market."

    Please stop using this line at the top of every UCFF article. copy-paste is unprofessional, and reflects badly on the rest of the article's content before I even read it.
    Reply

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