During our meeting with Intel at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, Intel showed off a secret prototype codenamed "Skull Canyon". Skull Canyon was designed to redefine what we consider a "Next Unit of Computing" (NUC); it was designed to change the game. Changing the game is no simple task, and Intel's vision was to cram their latest offerings from multiple fronts into a product that was not only powerful but also versatile and portable. About a week ago, Skull Canyon finally arrived at my doorstep, and since then I have been benchmarking the device to its extremes and even providing friends and family a chance to try out the device to confirm my suspicions about its overall performance and usability.
The NUC6i7KYK is Skull Canyon. It's loaded with the Intel i7-6770HQ quad-core / 8-thread Core i7 CPU and Intel's latest Iris Pro 580 graphics. I believe that Intel held off releasing this processor and iGPU combination model specifically for Skull Canyon. The 6770HQ makes up the core CPU and graphics powerhouse of the device, and is pretty much the latest and greatest Intel has to offer at the target 45W TDP. Intel has divided Skylake processors into four distinct lines, and the H-Series processor line is specifically designed for very fast mobile devices and even mobile workstations.
Intel also made some improvements to its Iris Pro lineup by improving or maintaining performance at lower TDPs, enabling faster integrated graphics to operate inside smaller devices. While the 6770HQ is a very interesting chip, Intel didn't forget to include two M.2 slots operating at 32Gb/s each (and yes, you can RAID two NVMe drives), or their latest Thunderbolt 3 "Alpine Ridge" controller for the latest in connectivity. On paper the Skull Canyon NUC6i7KYK looks to be a formidable desktop replacement, follow me as I test it in real life.
Many NUCs are anywhere from 0.5 to 0.7 liters in volume, and the NUC6i7KYK is just under 0.7 liters. It's longer than other NUCs, but it's also shorter than many of the thicker NUCs. The i7-6770HQ provides up to eight logical processor cores and Iris Pro 580 graphics. The chipset is an H170 chipset, and it provides a lot of PCI-E 3.0 gen 3. Each of the two 32Gb/s M.2 slots gets four PCI-E 3.0 lanes, and can accept SATA, AHCI, or NVMe based drives. The two M.2 slots can RAID not only SATA based M.2 drives but also NVMe based drives (of course you are limited to the 3.5GB/s DMI limit).
All the USB ports on the device are USB 3.0, but there is a header under the front panel that has some type of USB 2.0 output. The single yellow port is a USB 3.0 fast charging port. The device carries a type-C port which can be used for USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 3 and is USB power delivery 2.0 compliant. While the device does have 2x2 Wireless AC, it also carries a 1Gbit Intel NIC. The device also has two DDR4 SO-DIMMs and supports up to 32GB of RAM.
The lowest price we could find for the NUC6i7KYK is $649.99 at Newegg, which isn't too bad considering you will need DDR4 SO-DIMM memory, M.2 drive for storage, and an operating system. To be honest, NUCs are not cheap, and this price isn't too extreme considering the features, but it is pricey. Intel's goal was to have system configurations stay below $1000, which is very possible.
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