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Intel Skull Canyon review

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FlyingTexan

Registered
Joined
Aug 8, 2016
I wanted to write this review for anyone that might be considering the Intel Skull Canyon NUC.

Long story short: STRONG BUY; check ebay

Long story. Well sort of.



So we've really grown into a day where hardware means less and less meanwhile software means more and more. For the past few years I've been using a Mac mini that was a dual core [email protected] that boost to 2.7ghz. It had 4GB of ram and came with OS X. The system had been great as it was the only real contender at the time for a small form factor that was completely silent. However with time it began to lose it's luster. At the end here it simply couldn't run Google Chrome very well. The entirety of it's 4GB of memory was eaten up by it.

I started looking around, including here, for info on building my own system that would do everything I wanted. Then I actually stumbled upon the Intel NUC Skull Canyon. I went all in and bought a pre configured one on ebay. It came with 512GB SSD M.2 and 32GB of memory. I wasn't ever planning on going with 32GB as basically that's just a silly amount but the guy was selling it at the cost of building my own 8GB system roughly.

The NUC comes with the i7 quad core 6770 cpu and while it's not the latest gen this is the first time it doesn't matter. Form vs function usually meant you needed the latest and greatest as things were miniaturized and made more efficient. In the case of the NUC they simply engineered a unit the only way someone that designed the processor could. If you've been holding off waiting for a newer CPU there's no point. I'm surfing the web, several tabs open, downloading a massive 120GB file using it's built in wireless AC, and was just watching a show on VLC that uses decoding. Still haven't heard anything from it. The system will make a sound like a small blow drier when it's first started but once within windows it goes silent and has stayed there.

The speed... OMG the speed. Part of the reason I say there's no point in waiting on the newest kaby lake version, whenever that may be if ever, is simply because I don't possibly know what could be faster. I'm not a power user editing 4k video with large exports. I get on and do some work via spreadsheets, lots of streaming, lot of web surfing in chrome with several extensions, and general PC use. I honestly use my system much more than most people. This thing completely flies. There's no waiting for anything. Another great part of the i7-6770 is the Intel Iris Pro HD graphics. At first I was skeptical as I had a 13" retina macbook before I bought my razer blade. It almost turned me off until I did more research and saw that the GPU was basically designed for this unit. Compared to the mac alone it's over 3 times faster. That's significant headroom considering I didn't have any issues with last one. With GTA 5 installed it runs medium settings at 30fps.

Connectivity is great it has usb 3.0 as well as Thunderbolt 3 and, HDMI 2.0, and displayport 1.2. Currently I'm still using the system with my HDMI 1.4a setup as I'm not going to rip the old cabling out of the walls just yet. It also has a media card reader slotted in the front. Another VERY important few notes is there are no annoying case lights constantly glaring anywhere and my favorite, BLUETOOTH WORKS AMAZINGLY WELL. I was using the logitech k400 keyboard but went to the K830 as the k400 would continually lose signal if I sat with it on the couch with it on my lap. The bluetooth has such great connectivity I've even put the k830 under the table and it still picks it up. No lag input.


So overall I have to give this setup two thumbs up. The K830 makes me kick myself for not having tried it before and the NUC simply smashes the mac mini in every single way. It's so incredibly capable as a HTPC. I know it's not the cheapest option but if you want any sort of decent system that you're breaking out the wallet for you'll find you're spending the same amount anyway. It's the size of a VHS tape, very powerful, very future proof, and silent. It's a great machine that I couldn't be more happy to have purchased. The machine is my only home PC and it cost me $850 with free shipping. No tax were on it which saves quite a bit there as well. Considering I haven't paid for cable in 3yrs and now surely don't plan to moving forward I consider it a steal. I will say that there's a significant amount of software updating (doesn't come with windows so you have to buy it but I found it on ebay for $12.50 and they sent the code instantly) but couldn't be happier with the decision. I was very iffy stepping into this and was completely ready to send it back if it wasn't right but wow I couldn't be happier.

I'm not a professional reviewer by a long shot but I just wanted you guys to get an honest opinion from someone that's using the thing. If you're considering it, go for it.
 

DaveB

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2000
The reason why it performs so well is that it uses a full 4C/8T i7-6770HQ CPU, and not one of those 2C/4T mobile "U" processors. The two NUCs I tried both had dual core "U" processors, even though one was labeled as an i5. Both were quite slow, and non-upgradable CPU-wise. You have to watch that with laptops also as most i7 laptops have "U" processors that are actually only 2C/4T while there are "HK" and "HQ" versions that are 4C/8T.
 
OP
F

FlyingTexan

Registered
Joined
Aug 8, 2016
I understand that. My point was for HTPC use with its noise levels, performance, I/O, and size that it's incredible. I am having a horrible issue with sound popping over hdmi which I believe is due to a driver issue that I'm working on.
 

Bluefalcon13

Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2008
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
The reason why it performs so well is that it uses a full 4C/8T i7-6770HQ CPU, and not one of those 2C/4T mobile "U" processors. The two NUCs I tried both had dual core "U" processors, even though one was labeled as an i5. Both were quite slow, and non-upgradable CPU-wise. You have to watch that with laptops also as most i7 laptops have "U" processors that are actually only 2C/4T while there are "HK" and "HQ" versions that are 4C/8T.
Dave, the 7500u isn't a bad CPU in laptops, it does quite alright in my Yoga. It's not a gaming machine for sure, but it works pretty snappy for school stuff, web browsing, and some coding and EE applications (ltspice, MATLAB, Design Spark, etc).

That being said, it isn't a quad core, but I'd say the 7xxxu series is definitely sufficient for 'normal' (IE not crazy demanding) usage. It sure isn't a quad though. It would chug a tiny bit if I had a ton of tabs open in chrome, while writing a paper, with MATLAB plugging away at some calculations.

In comparison, my wife's i5-3xxxu is a turd. Fully concur there [emoji14]
 

DaveB

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2000
Dave, the 7500u isn't a bad CPU in laptops, it does quite alright in my Yoga. It's not a gaming machine for sure, but it works pretty snappy for school stuff, web browsing, and some coding and EE applications (ltspice, MATLAB, Design Spark, etc).

At least your i7-7500U turbos up to 3.5 GHz so it can match a desktop i3. It just always annoyed me that Intel sells laptop "i7s" that have the same 2C/4T configuration as desktop i3s. I was aware of it when I bought my Acer laptop a few years ago and made sure to get one with a true 4C/8T i7-2670QM.