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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  • ShieTar - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    Depends on what you mean with "the M.2 spec". I have a XP941 on a MSI Z97 Board, its measurably faster than the 840Pro I came from.

    I figure in this case the problem should be with the NUC board rather than the interface spec. The Plextor itself is not fast enough to profit from the interface, but it should be fast enough to work without noticable stuttering.
  • nutternatter34 - Tuesday, April 21, 2015 - link

    In my case we're talking about an X99 board, and an Intel 530 series M.2 drive (180gb). I compared that to each SSD I own. An Intel 320 series, a Samsung 830 series and the Crucial MX100 series. (120gb/256gb/512gb). M.2 was a disaster, what's worse there's barely anything to configure, it should just work.
  • meacupla - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    Oh, so this is limited to 45W?

    I wonder what the 3rd party makers could do with this chip if they expanded the power envelope and cooling capabilities.
  • Qwertilot - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    28w for the CPU/GPU, 17 for the rest even ;)

    I guess we'll find out what is possible when Broadwell K finally makes its much delayed appearance....
  • charea - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    So why use a 65W brick for a system limited at 45W? It doesn't make sense.
  • close - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    If you're going to power some more devices from the system then it helps to have a power source that's slightly oversized.
  • charea - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    Are you saying that the monitor is excluded from this limit? Was the test done without a screen included?
  • dave_the_nerd - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    USB devices pull up to 5w each. The test doesn't include a monitor. 30-40w draw for a 24" monitor is typical.
  • ganeshts - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    Right - 4x USB 3.0 ports need 20W. Add that to the 45W, and you are already at the 65W limit.

    Our stress test only loads up the CPU and GPU - it doesn't even do the internal storage stressing or WLAN stressing - these are bound to increase the power consumption a bit. That said, stressing those might actually result in the CPU not getting loaded as much as it does in our Prime 95 test.
  • ShieTar - Monday, April 20, 2015 - link

    And thats nicely keeping to the spec, there are ports and charger cables out there working with 2A => 10W.

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