And now the fun begins. Intel’s ultra compact NUC mini computers have received their update and are now beginning to pack the all new mobile-based Skylake CPUs. These small, yet incredibly powerful machines have been growing a strong niche over the years, gaining more attention each generation.
The latest batch follow a similar setup to the last generation, featuring two major form factors and different grades of CPUs. The two form factors effectively denote whether there is enough space for a 2.5-inch SATA port and mount that’s accessible, resulting in a taller unit. The new CPUs, for the time being, are the Core i3-6100U, and the Core i5-6260U. The i5 processor will come with Iris 540 graphics, while the i3 will come with HD 520 – there’s quite a big difference in performance just in the GPU alone.
The NUC613SYK and NUC615SYK are the low-profile NUCs without the space for a 2.5-inch SATA-based storage drive. The NUC613SYH and NUC615SYH are the taller siblings with enough space for a SATA drive.
Both CPUs are rated to 15 Watts TDP, but the i3 is clocked slightly faster at 2.3GHz – without a turbo though. The i5 clocks in at 1.9Ghz to 2.8GHz turbo. However, we can tell from experience that power becomes the limiting factor – as our NUC overclock guide shows. If Intel lets people fiddle with the power regulator like the last NUCs, we’re likely to see some impressive overclocks (or overpowers, to be more accurate). Both CPUs are also dual cores.
The next change is the switch from DDR3L to DDR4. While higher clock speeds are possible, the new NUCs are only rated to 2133MHz – the onboard GPUs will likely need a bit more than that to really push themselves, so we’ll see what kind of values are actually compatible when launched.
A subtle, but not so insignificant difference is the inclusion of a full-sized HDMI port. The last generation NUC used mini-HDMI ports, and this caused a great deal of aggravation. The ports are still not very common, and there’s still plenty of space for the full-sized port. It resulted in people being caught short as no adapter was provided, resulting in another $10 purchase just for an adapter. While mini-DP is still present, at least full HDMI is available again.
The wireless has been upgraded as well to the latest Intel Wireless-AC 8260 M.2 chipset (the same as the new M model Compute Sticks), which include 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1 and Intel’s Wireless Display 6.0. The original wireless wasn’t exactly a slouch, but improved 5GHz speeds will prove beneficial.
Much of the other connectivity remains the same, with 4x USB 3.0 ports (one of which is a dedicated charging port), an Intel Gigabit Ethernet adapter, an SDXC card slot, basic audio connectors, and an IR receiver. The internal M.2 slot for storage is compatible with both SATA and PCIe based SSDs using 2240 and 2280 sizes.
We’re expected to see the new NUCs out some time this spring. A full comparison of the latest NUCs are available from Intel. In a nutshell, if you intend to perform light gaming, go with the i5, otherwise, save the cash and go with the i3.