Hands-On With Intel's Skylake Powered NUC Mini PCs, Sightings Of 'Skull Canyon' Performance NUC

Intel Booth
If you’re a fan of Intel’s NUC series of mini PCs, the chip giant is back at it again with a refresh built on its Skylake processor platform. The big news of course comes under the hood in the form of two ultrabook-class processors: the dual-core U-Series Core i3-6100U and Core i5-6260U.

The Core i3-6100U comes with Intel’s HD 520 graphics, while the Core i5-6260U brings a bit more to the table with Iris Graphics 540 (complete with 4K support). The NUC refresh includes support for DDR4 memory (up from DDR3) via two SO-DIMM slots. The Skylake architecture also means that you’ll receive additional enhancements including Speed Shift (which allows the processor to change P states in just 1ms rather than OS controlled), Software Guard Extensions (SGX) and Memory Protection Extensions (MPX) along with native support for NVMe PCI Express Solid State Drives (data rates can top out at 2.2GB/sec for an on-board M.2 stick).

Intel Skylake NUC
Intel's newest Skylake-based NUC

You'll also now find a full-size HDMI port instead of a mini HDMI, which is an added bonus and for those that juggle SD cards from your point-and-shoot or D-SLR cameras, all of Intel’s new Skylake-based NUCs now feature a built-in SDXC reader.

While we’ve mainly touched on things that have changed with Intel’s NUCs, there are some things that have stayed the same. You’ll still have access to four USB 3.0 ports (two on the front, two on the back), built-in wireless connectivity (Intel 8620; 2x2, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2), GbE, a mini DisplayPort 1.2 port and an IR receiver. Likewise, Intel offers its NUCs in two different heights: the shorter “K” SKUs can accommodate an M.2 SSD or taller “H” SKUs which can accommodate both an M.2 SSD and a 2.5-inch SATA SSD or HDD.

Intel NUCs And Compute Sticks
Intel's NUCs alongside new Compute Sticks

It should be noted that all of Intel’s NUCs comes in a barebones configuration, which means that you’ll need to add an SSD/HDD and your own RAM to get things up and running on the hardware side of things. Likewise, you’ll need to bring your operating system to the table. Windows 10, anyone?

But before we call it a night, we’d also like to make mention of another Intel NUC that is in the pipeline, a burlier one that’s codenamed “Skull Canyon.” The particular NUC will features a quad-core 45W Skylake-based processor along with Iris Pro graphics with 128MB of eDRAM. One of the biggest additions, at least for power users, gamers and content creation professionals, is the inclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port. This will allow Skull Canyon to accept external graphics solutions (among other devices), like the Razer Core enclosure. The Razer Core is capable of accepting just about any graphics card from AMD or NVIDIA and includes its own built-in power supply.

skull canyon

Although Intel NUC SKUs with Core i3-6100U and Core i5-6260U processors should be hitting the usual retail channels very shortly, things are a bit more unclear for Skull Canyon. The only confirmation that we have from Intel is that it will arrive sometime in Q1 2016.