Final Words

The MSI Cubi2-005B provided us with the first opportunity to evaluate Kaby Lake-U in a desktop PC. MSI has decided to keep the normal TDP of 15W for the unit - that means we only see performance similar to what is obtained in the high-end ultrabooks. Some vendors like GIGABYTE like to utilize the configurable higher TDP for the CPU along with a noisier thermal solution. Other vendors like MSI prefer a better acoustic profile while maintaining decent performance. We are still not convinced by the absence of a M.2 2280 slot in the PC when others with the same form factor like the Intel NUC are able to accommodate it. The Cubi 2 also decides to forego the full-HTPC solution route by not supporting 4Kp60 over its HDMI port. HDCP 2.2 also seems to be absent. However, the other media capabilities like full hardware decode for 4Kp60 HEVC Main and Main10 profile videos are present in the PC.

Kaby Lake-U deliver on its promise of better power consumption and energy consumption numbers for the same workload when compared to Skylake. It delivers a solid UCFF PC platform for consumers wishing to upgrade anything based on Haswell or older generation PCs.


The Cubi2-005B with 2.5" Drive Bay (left) and the Cubi2-005B without a 2.5" Drive Bay (right), compared with the NUC6i5SYK (top)

MSI deserves praise for creating a design that enables users to accommodate 2.5" drives with minimal to no impact on the form factor of the machine. However, there is definitely scope for improvement - MSI should definitely put in a M.2 2280 slot instead of the current M.2 2242 for SSDs. In addition, their RAM slots also need to be better design. Fitting in SODIMMs with just thick labels over the DRAM chips was a no-go. We had to remove the labels so that the SODIMMs could fit in better. Otherwise, one of the two tabs on either side wouldn't fit over the SODIMM, and Windows would end up with BSODs. Strangely, we didn't have any such trouble in the Cubi 2 Plus reviewed earlier this year (though, that was in the mini-STX form factor)

MSI has three different SKUs for the Cubi 2. In addition to the Core i7-7500U-based Cubi2-005BUS reviewed here, we also have the Cubi2-007BUS with Core i3-7100U and the Cubi2-006BUS with the Core i5-7200U. Other than the core CPU, the other features of the units are all the same. In terms of pricing, the barebones configuration range from $295 to $500, though we did see Amazon's prices fluctuate a bit while processing the review.

On the whole, the Cubi2-005B shows users the base performance and featres that one might expect from a Kaby Lake-U UCFF PC. Over the next few months, we will be reviewing a few more Kaby Lake-U PCs that bring in features like HDMI 2.0b and full Netflix 4K support with HDCP 2.2.

Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
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  • MrSpadge - Friday, December 30, 2016 - link

    First paragraph:
    "The Kaby Lake-U (KBL-U)series with 15W TDP CPUs was introduced along with the 4.5W Kaby Lake-Y ones in Q3 2014."
    You mean Broadwell here instead of Kaby Lake, don't you?
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, December 30, 2016 - link

    bad typo, with the link in it correctly linking to the Q3 2016 article. It has been fixed. Reply
  • Voldenuit - Friday, December 30, 2016 - link

    No tear down? Cooling system? System layout? Noise measurements? Reply
  • Great_Scott - Friday, December 30, 2016 - link

    It doesn't really matter anyways.

    This kind of system is a waste of time: laptops have greater functionality for less price, and the same components. The U-series doesn't distinguish between the i5 and i7 beyond clock speeds.

    You can go to any site online and get a U-series laptop for ~$400 US that also includes RAM and Storage.
    Reply
  • barleyguy - Saturday, December 31, 2016 - link

    For an HTPC, a NUC or UCFF is a lot more convenient than a laptop. They generally have less fan noise, fit in less space, and boot up with the TV (or projector) as the primary monitor.

    (I'm typing this on a Zotac Z-Box in my living room.)

    That said, I'm really skeptical of the U-series processors in general. My Z-Box has an i5-4200u, and I've had some issues with throttling under load. Hopefully they've improved from the 4200u to the 7500u.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Monday, January 2, 2017 - link

    and the laptop will have an OS as well... Reply
  • milkod2001 - Tuesday, January 3, 2017 - link

    and it also has screen, keyboard and tracking device to start with and usually cost much less.

    I can only see good use of NUCs if the cheapest & crappiest NUCs are considered to buy to replace Intel P4 10 years old machines with existing monitors, keyboards and mice. For anything else: laptop is much better solution unless you need to Vesa mount your computer on telly.
    Reply
  • niva - Tuesday, January 3, 2017 - link

    I don't know about all that, please show me the laptop with a Kaby Lake "i7" chip and comparable specs that really stacks up to this NUC and obsoletes it.

    I think these boxes are ideal for installing linux on it, paying for a windows license when buying a laptop really irks me anyways so that's money down the drain too. I just bought an Acer Aspire E 15 from Amazon for $350 but that thing had a terrible drive in it, an i3-7100U, and only a single stick of 4GB RAM. Of course I had an old SSD from my previously dead laptop I could put in and I dumped linux on it which is fine with 4GB of RAM at this point, but you guys are seriously ignoring some of the components thrown into this NUC.
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, January 3, 2017 - link

    *shoulder taps* Psst, from one Linux user to another, Windows licenses are not a waste because close to or over 99% of laptops that ship with Windows end up as ....*drum roll*... Windows latops.

    As far as your Acer's sad configuration is concerned, welcome to the wonderful world of budget computers. You got what you paid for. If you want better new hardware, you'll have to dig a little deeper into the wallet.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, December 30, 2016 - link

    You guys are hard to please. In any case, this is a bog standard NUC, nothing special about it.

    Cooling system - all that matters is effectiveness, and I hope readers agree when I say that we have the most comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of the cooling solution of mini-PCs in the review circuit. Look at the graphs in the 'Power Consumption and Thermal Performance' section.

    Noise measurement - we only do subjective eval in these reviews. Providing noise numbers for these types of PCs (i.e, non gaming mini-PCs) is pretty much useless because the noise floor is too high and these types of PCs are too quiet in our evaluation setup. Creating a noise measurement lab is not worth the investment for the number of PC reviews that I do per year. You can find dedicated guys like SPCR ( Silent PC Review - http://www.silentpcreview.com/ ) who fill that market niche with excellent reviews and articles. (I would imagine even they would not find the Cubi 2 and other similar PCs interesting enough to do noise measurements)
    Reply

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