Almost two years ago, I wrote about my Media Player Quest. The end result hardware wise was an Intel NUC, which has been dutifully serving me media content and left on 24/7 for over two years.
It’s time to upgrade that now, and check out Intel’s newer lineup of NUCs that have the 6th generation Intel CPU inside.
The unit I received was the NUC6I5SYK – there’s also the NUC6I3SYK which is identical apart from having an i3 CPU rather than the i5 I received (a big step up from the Celeron in my old unit!).
There’s a bunch of different NUCs both old and new, but in the latest batch there are 5 to choose from. The cheaper ‘Pentium’ powered NUC NUC5PGYH, the NUC6i3SYH and NUC6I5SYH which are i3 and i5 powered NUCs with 2.5″ drive support, and the two I mentioned above, which are identical but don’t have 2.5″ drive support. All other specs are the same.
At this point you may be wondering which is best or which one to choose. Luckily this is pretty clear cut – if you don’t need much grunt, go for the NUC5PGYH. This still takes a 2.5″ drive, so you may be able to find a cheap small SSD to use. Otherwise, i3 and i5 are both pretty good, you’ll only need an i5 if you want to use it like a proper PC and play games or edit photos and videos, or other CPU intensive tasks. Finally, the SSD – go 2.5″ if you already have one to save money, or don’t care about the extra height. The M.2 version is a lot sleeker, but there should only be a small difference in SSD performance, which you probably won’t notice based on the common use cases for a NUC. If you’re hiding it behind a monitor, it’ll be easier to fit the M.2 version next to a wall.
My unit isn’t as tall as the 2.5″ models, because instead it takes a M.2 SSD instead. They look similar to RAM, but have the slot on the short side, rather than on the long side (see below). Don’t get these confused with mSATA – M.2 is the next generation of those and they have different connections. There’s a lot more technical information about this, if you’re interested check this guide out.
It’s worth pointing out that an Intel NUC isn’t a fully working PC out of the box. You’ll need to provide your own RAM and drive (HDD/SSD), but they are incredibly easy to install. 4 screws need unscrewing to take the bottom plate off:
and you’ll need to add two types of components:
1 & 2 are DDR4 SODIMM RAM sticks. 2 x 2GB in this one but they’ll take a maximum of 2 x 16GB = 32GB – more than enough! 3 is the M.2 SSD, mine of which (as you can see from the label) has a capacity of 120GB. I’m not storing too much locally – apart from Windows 10 and a few software installs, the media I’ll be playing is streamed either from the internet (care of services like Netflix) or via local network (care of Kodi).
Once those are added (and they’re incredibly easy to obtain from any PC parts supplier) the NUC is ready to go – at least, ready to have your OS of choice installed on it.
Port wise, the Intel NUC has more than enough for it’s small 115mm x 111mm x 32mm size.
Front: USB 3.0, USB 3.0 + charging, Audio In/Out 3.5mm jack, Power light, Infrared sensor
Right: Kensington lock, SDXC Card Slot
Back: Power, Air vents, HDMI, 1000mbit NIC, 2x USB 3.0 , DisplayPort
Also on top is power and HDD/SDD light:
This new NUC is a lot short than my previous unit, so I thought I’d introduce them to each other before sending the old one away:
Once I had the new NUC up and running, I did notice a smoother experience. The old one wasn’t actually slow for general Windows 10 usage, but things felt snappier and more responsive with the much updated hardware.
Overall I can’t fault this unit. I loved the last one, and this just gives a refresh with newer hardware and more connection types. What isn’t there to like about this? VESA mounts are included too, which will turn a screen into an all in one PC with ease. Other Mini PCs exist, but Intel support their own hardware well and let you decide on your own RAM and storage requirements, rather than bundling the lot.
Intel know this makes a great Media Box and have created some Intel only apps, such as the “Intel® Remote Keyboard” which lets you use your phone as a keyboard and mouse which I’ll cover seperately soon.
Any questions about the NUCs? Comment below!
The Intel NUC covered in this post was provided by Intel Australia.