BIOS updates for motherboards and mini-PCs aren't usually important enough to warrant explicit coverage. However, Intel's latest release for the Skylake NUCs (the Core i3 and Core i5 versions - NUC6i3SYK, NUC6i3SYH, NUC6i5SYK and NUC6i5SYH) deserves special mention for a number of fixes that have been made.

Intel's launch of the Skylake NUCs was quite muted, with review units making it to the press a few months after market availability. In the meanwhile, consumers were beset with problems ranging from memory incompatibility issues and Wi-Fi flakiness to unexplained BSODs. We encountered a bunch of these in our own review, and went to the extent of recommending the unit only if the reader wanted to be a beta-tester for Intel.

Fortunately, Intel has been hard at work to get to the bottom of all the reported problems. The last two BIOS releases (0042 and 004) have solved a number of serious issues, including, but not restricted to:

  • Improved electrical overstress protection in the voltage regulator circuitry - this was the reason for BSODs with WHEA_UNCORRECTABLE_ERROR reports.
  • Changed default value for Round Trip Latency to Enabled - this was the reason for incompatibility with some memory modules fabricated by SKHynix.
  • Improved BIOS update function to disable keyboard and power button during flash/recovery process - this could have helped me in avoiding the bricking of our first review sample of the NUC6i5SYK.
  • Fixed issue where Wi-Fi access point occasionally drops out during warm boot - this solves the strange case of the missing 5GHz SSID upon restarting the NUC
  • Changed FITC setting, OPI Link Speed to GT4 - this is the performance fix for PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSDs

If you are facing issues with a Skylake NUC, updating to BIOS v0044 should resolve almost all of the problems. Readers curious about the OPI link speed and its effect on the performance and power consumption characteristics of a Skylake-U system can peruse our detailed coverage posted last week.

Note that the OPI link rate changes can only be realized using the Recovery BIOS update method (using the jumpers). Intel indicated that the new BIOS installs and functions without doing the Recovery BIOS update, but it will not make the changes needed for the OPI link rate fix. The required changes are not in the portions of the BIOS that are replaced during a normal BIOS update. After the update, it is also necessary to set BIOS system defaults by pressing the F9 function key


Source: Intel

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  • raf77 - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Hmm I need to look into it. It would be nice if they documented it.
  • raf77 - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Indeed, The BIOS needs to be updated in recovery mode for the OPI to get updated. It works now.
  • scan80269 - Thursday, May 19, 2016 - link

    There's a way to get the new OPI link rate without the need to open the box and move the BIOS configuration jumper: invoke "Power Button Menu Update" (below is from Intel's BIOS update readme):

    1. Download and save the Recovery BIOS (.BIO) file to a portable USB device.
    2. Plug the USB device into a USB port of the Intel NUC when it is turned off (not in Hibernate or Sleep mode).
    3. Press and hold down the power button. The system emits three short beeps from the PC speaker. You can plug headphones into the front panel audio jack, if available on your Intel NUC, to hear the beeps.
    4. After the beeps, release the power button before the 4-second shutdown override.
    5. The Power Button Menu displays. Options on the menu can vary, depending on the Intel NUC model.
    6. You can do a normal BIOS update by pressing F7 or a BIOS Recovery by pressing F4.
    7. Wait 2-5 minutes for the update to complete.
    8. The computer either turns off when the recovery process is completed, or it prompts you to turn it off.
    9. Remove the USB device.
    10. Restart the computer.

    I went through this and confirmed the OPI link rate having increased, as my SM951 SSD sequential 64.0 read speed (from "WinSAT disk") went from ~1650MB/s to ~2500MB/s.
  • hubick - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    I just bought one of these and then immediately returned it when bios 0042 wouldn't give me the option to encrypt the 950 Pro (someone else on the Intel forum also reported having this problem, do you guys?), the Club 3D miniDP to HDMI 2.0 adapter wouldn't let me run at 4K@60hz (only 30), and I had all kinds of graphics lockups/resets on my fresh Fedora 23 install :-(
  • mackanory - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    It's good to see these issues being resolved - glad I've delayed getting one of these but might consider the i5 model now. However, will you be reviewing the Skull Canyon i7 variant that's just been launched?
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Yes, we have the unit in for review. All things going well, the review should go out early next week.
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Would be amazing to see how it performs with an external GPU unit!
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Unfortunately, we don't have an external GPU chassis in hand to use in the review. The gaming benchmarks are going to concentrate on how it compares against PCs in this form factor from previous generations (including dGPU systems like the ZOTAC Magnus EN970).

    On the Thunderbolt front, we are planning to focus on Thunderbolt networking.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Will you be testing linux performance in games as well, or just windows?

    Intel GPUs and linux games seem to play pretty well together.
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Windows only.

    I would love to test out Linux gaming perf, but time constraints and my pending review queue dictate otherwise :|

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