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Intel NUC Kit (Haswell edition) review

Intel updates tiny PC barebones kit with processor, faster graphics and more ports
Fri Jan 31 2014, 12:32

Product Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK
Website www.intel.co.uk
Specifications 1.3GHz Intel Core i5-4250U processor with Intel HD Graphics 5000 GPU, Intel D54250WYK mainboard, Intel QS77 Express chipset, 2x SO-DIMMs, 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM, 1x full-length mini PCI Express connector, 1x half-length mini PCI Express connector, Gigabit Ethernet port, 4x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 2.0 headers, miniHDMI port, mini Displayport, Infrared receiver, board 102x106x22mm, kit chassis 117x112x35mm
Price Kit £296


THE FIRST Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) machines made a good impression last year thanks to tiny motherboards, embedded processors and a thriving enthusiast community, but the systems were hampered by poor performance and a confusing selection of boards and kits.

This year's Intel NUC Kit addresses both of these issues. Under the bonnet is an Intel Haswell processor with an updated integrated graphics core, and Intel has configured this mainboard with better ports and sockets than the inconsistent selections on the older PCBs.

intel-nuc-kit

Components and configuration
The chip of choice in Intel's revised NUC Kit is a Core i5-4250U. Its key feature is the updated HD Graphics 5000 core in the system on chip (SoC) package, which is a big leap forward from the HD Graphics 4000 core included in older NUC processors.

The integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000 core has 40 updated stream processors, which is a big improvement over the 16 in the HD Graphics 4000 core. These stream processors can dynamically clock anywhere between 200MHz and 1GHz, a little slower than the 350MHz to 1.15GHz range in the HD Graphics 4000 core, but an improvement nonetheless.

The processor portion of the Core i5-4250U chip uses the 22nm Haswell processor architecture. It's clocked at 1.3GHz, and with Turbo Boost it hits 2.6GHz. The two cores are Hyper-Threaded, and there's 3MB of universal L3 cache. It's a step up from last year's processor chip thanks to its improved architecture, even if the Ivy Bridge based Core i5 in the older board ran at stock and Turbo Boost speeds of 1.6GHz and 2.8GHz, respectively.

Performance
The updated processor is paired with a 180GB Intel 530 Series mSATA SSD and 8GB of DDR3L in our NUC kit, and the machine delivered a reasonable Windows Performance Index score of 5.3 – also the result of the desktop graphics test. That’s where this machine fell down, with better scores in every other category: the processor scored a faster 6.9, and the brand-new SSD scored a superb 7.4 in the primary hard disk test. The memory was even faster, with a score of 7.5.

intel-nuc-scores

The new graphics core is capable of light gaming. It managed a playable average of 36fps in Skyrim after we'd dialed the resolution down to 1280x720 and the quality settings to Medium, and it managed 62fps in Crysis when run at Low detail level. It handled less demanding racing title Trackmania Nations with no hassle, too.

intel-nuc-kit-bottom

The NUC Kit improved on last year's model while consuming less power. Its idle and peak draws of 9W and 24W are lower than the 13W and 26W demands of the Ivy Bridge-based Core i5 model. The board's tiny fan will be noticeable in a quiet room, though.

Next: Design and build, connectivity.

 

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