Performance Benchmarks & Conclusion
To evaluate the new Haswell-equipped Intel NUC kit, we’ll be comparing it against the previous Ivy Bridge-equipped Core i3 kit, as well as Zotac's Core i7-3537U-powered ZBOX nano ID65, and Sapphire's AMD A8-4555M APU-powered Edge VS8 Mini-PC. We've also chosen to throw in Apple's latest Haswell-equipped MacBook Air (2013), which utilizes the same Core i5-4250U processor and Intel HD Graphics 5000 to see how the Intel NUC compares with a similar spec notebook.
Once again, here are the specifications for our Intel D54250WYK NUC kit:
- Intel Desktop Board D54250WYB
- Intel 4th Generation Core i5-4250U processor
- Crucial 8GB DDR3-1600 SO-DIMM
- 180GB Intel SSD 530 Series mSATA
- Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
- Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
The list of benchmarks used:
- PCMark 8
- 3DMark 11
- Far Cry 2
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Due to the fact we're comparing different systems tested over different time periods and we are not able to get these systems back to re-test them across the board; as such, we will not be able to compare all systems across all tests. Furthermore, drivers differences do exist that might contribute to the outcome. However as a whole, the results compared should be able to give you a decent idea of how the Intel Haswell NUC kit fares.
PCMark 8 is the latest benchmarking utility from Futuremark and was designed to measure a system's performance on a number of different workload scenarios. As expected, the D54250WYK scored almost identically to the similar spec MacBook Air, although, it's interesting to note that it was consistently lower in all four categories. This is despite the fact that the MacBook Air is running a Windows OS via Boot Camp.
3DMark 11 is a synthetic benchmark designed to test a GPU's performance at various aspects of DirectX 11 such as tessellation and DirectCompute. Unfortunately, the MacBook Air and the older Intel NUC (DC3127BY) were not available for this test.
The D54250WYK's Intel HD Graphics 5000 showed a huge 40 percent improvement over the Intel HD Graphics 4000-equipped Zotac Zbox, and was actually able to match the performance of Sapphire's Radeon HD 7600G-equipped Edge VS8, even outscoring it on the Extreme setting.
Far Cry 2 & Battlefield: Bad Company 2
For a look at how the D54250WYK performs at real world gaming we'll be looking at Far Cry 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. While both games are now fairly old, they still boast enough graphical complexity to put most integrated GPUs to the test.
While we normally test our small form factor PCs on the High setting for Far Cry 2, for a more complete analysis we'll also be including the Medium and Very High scores from our MacBook Air (2013) review as well.
As we saw in PCMark 8, the D54250WYK scored similarly, if notably slightly less than the MacBook Air. We also saw no real improvement on the High setting when compared to the rest of our Intel processor-equipped small form factor PCs, suggesting that the internal Intel HD Graphics 5000 didn't provide much of a boost on DX10 games.
However, if we look at DX11 supported Battlefield: Bad Company 2, we can see a significant performance boost with Intel HD Graphics 5000 for both the D54250WYK and the MacBook Air, with the D54250WYK outscoring Intel's HD Graphics 4000-equipped DC3127BY by about 30 percent.
The Intel NUC D54250WYK certainly raises the standard for small form factor PCs, packing extra punch into an even smaller package than the previous NUC kit. However, it's still not a powerhouse, with performance just about equal or in fact, slightly less, than an ultra portable Haswell-equipped notebook.
Like its predecessor, it's also not cheap, with the Core-i5-equipped D54250WYK retailing for US$363 (~S$450). Don't forget, you'll also need to supply your own memory, storage and wireless connectivity card. To build a similar spec to our review machine, based on current local prices, you're looking at roughly S$850-900 and another S$120 for Windows 7 Home Premium, or S$130 for Windows 8. Thanks to its mini-DisplayPort and mini-HDMI ports, you'll probably also need to pick up an adapter for your monitor too.
All things considered, if you're looking for a tiny HTPC or mini space saving desktop, the D54250WYK is certainly a decent consideration, but at its price and performance level, and with the parts required for setup, it probably remains an enthusiast-only niche product.