Intel NUC 6I5SYH Hardware Review, BIOS Update, and Fedora 25 Installation Guide

Before Thanksgiving 2016, I purchased an Intel NUC 6I5SYH ($319.99 on sale at Microcenter, late-November 2016) to serve as my new home desktop computer. This review/guide is based on my initial setup of the 6I5SYH.

The Intel NUC 6I5SYH is a small form factor (SFF) bare-bones personal computer from Intel’s “Next Unit of Computing” line.

The 6I5SYH includes an enclosure (approximately 4 1/2″ wide x 4 3/8″ deep x 2″ tall), motherboard with a soldered i5-6260U CPU (Skylake, or 6th-gen architecture–1.9GHz up to 2.8GHz Turbo, Dual Core, 4MB cache, 15W TDP), wall-mount power adapter with multi-country AC plugs, and VESA mount bracket.

The 6I5SYH’s motherboard supports the i5’s integrated Iris 540 graphics over a built-in HDMI 1.4b or Mini DisplayPort 1.2, and it includes 2x USB 3.o ports (back), 2x USB 3.0 ports (front and one supports charging), 2x USB 2.0 headers (on motherboard), IR sensor, Intel 10/100/1000Mbps ethernet, Intel Wireless-AC 8260 M.2 (802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, and Intel Wireless Display 6.0), headphone/microphone jack (front, or 7.1 surround sound via HDMI and Mini DisplayPort/back), and SDXC slot with UHS-I support (left side).

The 6I5SYH requires the user to supply a hard drive or SSD, and RAM. For permanent storage, it has internal support for an M.2 SSD card (22×42 or 22×80) and SATA3 2.5″ HDD/SSD (up to 9.5mm thick). For memory, it supports dual-channel DDR4 SODIMMs (1.2V, 2133MHz, 32GB maximum) across two internal slots.

For my 6I5SYH’s RAM, I installed one Crucial 8GB DDR4 2400 BL SODIMM ($44.99 on sale at Micro Center, late-November 2016), and for its SSD, I installed a Silicon Power S60 240GB SATA3 SSD ($67.99 on sale on Amazon, December 2015). Excluding the costs of a monitor, keyboard, and trackball, this system cost $432.97.

After first assembling the 6I5SYH with its RAM and SSD, I booted it and went into the BIOS (press F2 at the boot/Intel screen) to check its BIOS version. Based on everything that I had read about this and past Intel NUCs, it is always advisable to have the most up-to-date BIOS installed. Sure enough, it reported having BIOS 0045, and a newer BIOS had been released (0054) according to the Intel Download Center page for the 6I5SYH.

I downloaded the new BIOS binary file to a FAT-formatted USB flash drive on my Mac, inserted the USB flash drive into a front USB port on the NUC, pressed F7 to update BIOS, and followed the prompts. After confirming the BIOS had updated, I turned the 6I5SYH off by holding down the power button on its top plate.

Next, I used the Fedora Media Writer for Mac OS X to create a bootable USB flash drive of Fedora 25 Workstation using the same flash drive that I had used to flash the 6I5SYH’s BIOS.

After the media creation was completed, I inserted my Fedora 25 bootable USB flash drive into a front USB port of the 6I5SYH, powered it on, pressed F10 for the boot menu, and followed the prompts. If you need an installation guide for Fedora 25 check out the Fedora Documentation here, or if you need a screenshot walkthrough of installing Fedora 25, check out this guide.

After installing Fedora 25 with full disk encryption, I installed updates and began installing additional software. The guides here and here offer great advice (there are others for “what to do after installing fedora 24” that have useful info, too) on what to install and configure after a fresh installation of Fedora. Some that I recommend include Gnome Tweak Tool (available within Software app), Yum Extender (DNF) (available within Software app), VeraCrypt, and VLC. Remember to install RPM Fusion free and nonfree repositories–directions here, too.

So far, Fedora 25 has performed wonderfully on the 6I5SYH! Out of the box, the graphics, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB ports, and SD card reader have worked without error. I am using a Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter to connect the 6I5SYH to a less expensive VGA-input LCD monitor. I am watching 1080p Rogue One trailers without a hiccup, and I listen to Beastie Boy MP3s while doing work in GIMP or LibreOffice. I have not yet fully tested virtualization or emulation (consoles or vintage computing)–these are my next steps.

The 6I5SYH is snappy about doing work, and it is quiet nearly always except when it first boots up (and the fans spin up high momentarily). For the features, size, and price, I highly recommend the 6I5SYH as a desktop replacement that runs Fedora 25 and common Linux programs quite well!

Steps for Installing Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail in Dualboot Configuration on MacBook Pro Retina 10,1

Ubuntu's Circle of Friends Logo.

Ubuntu Circle of Friends Logo.

There are a number of useful guides to installing Mac OS X and Ubuntu in a dual boot configuration on Macintosh hardware such as James Jesudason’s guide here or Alex Victor Chan’s guide here. However, I ran into a problem with Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion not waking from sleep due to using the rEFInd bootloader (more information about this problem documented on this thread).

The following is the process that I used for successfully having Mac OS X and Ubuntu play well together on my MacBook Pro Retina (MacBookPro10,1) (15.4″/2.6 Quad-core i7/8GB/512 GB SSD)

  1. Using a Mac OS X 10.8 bootable USB flash drive (create your own by following the DIY instructions here), partition your drive into two equal partitions with Disk Utility. Format the first partition as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and the second as free space.
  2. Install Mac OS X on the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) partition.
  3. Boot into Mac OS X, download the rEFIt bootloader, and install it in Mac OS X. Reboot your Mac twice and you should see the rEFIt bootloader screen appear after the second reboot. It will have your Mac OS X installation highlighted. Press Enter to boot.
  4. Create a bootable USB Ubuntu disk with this guide for Mac OS X. It will involve downloading the Ubuntu 13.04 ISO image, converting it for Mac OS X, and using terminal commands to write the converted image to your USB drive. When it is all done, Mac OS X will not recognize the disk and ask you to initialize it. Choose “Ignore.”
  5. Reboot your MacBook Pro with the Ubuntu USB drive inserted. rEFIt will give you the option to boot Mac OS X (Apple icon) or Ubuntu (this might appear as two separate icons depicting four squares in a diamond configuration). Choose the first Ubuntu icon with the arrow keys on the keyboard, press Enter.
  6. Next, GRUB, another bootloader, will appear as white text over a black background (like DOS) and give you options to Try Ubuntu or Install Ubuntu. Unlike the other guides, I suggest selecting Install Ubuntu from this menu.
  7. The Ubuntu installer will guide you through the setup process. The only setting that you have to select is “Install alongside Mac OS X.” The Ubuntu installer will automatically find the free space partition that you created earlier, partition it in a way that Ubuntu anticipates, and install Ubuntu and its included software.
  8. At the end of the installation, it will return to a text-based screen and prompt you to remove the installation USB drive and press a key to reboot.
  9. After rebooting, rEFIt should show your Mac OS X installation (Apple logo) and Ubuntu represented by three stacked, colorful boxes (subtitled: EFI\ubuntu\grubx64.efi from EFI). Select the Ubuntu installation with the arrow keys and press Enter. GRUB will appear, select Ubuntu and hit Enter.
  10. The Ubuntu desktop should load very quickly, but it will appear very tiny at the native resolution of the MacBook Pro Retina’s 2880 x 1800 resolution. To adjust the resolution, click on the Gear/Wrench icon in the launch bar on the left to enter system settings. Click on Displays, choose a new resolution (I use 1680 x 1050), click Apply, and Confirm.
  11. The status bar at the top of the screen will show familiar icons for Bluetooth, WiFi, sound, and system/shut down (If Ubuntu does not automatically detect your WiFi card, you can download this package and its three dependencies from within Mac OS X, put them on a USB drive, reboot into Ubuntu, install each from terminal using the “sudo dpkg -i filename.deb” command for each–though, leave the Broadcom deb package for last. I downloaded the nightly build of 13.04, which I believe has this package on the installation disk.).
  12. To switch between installations, simply reboot the one that you are in and select the system that you want to run from rEFIt.
Apple's friendly byte.

Apple’s friendly byte.

Now, you can run Ubuntu or Mac OS X on your MacBook Pro. Here are some important things that you should do in Ubuntu after installation.

Also, it is possible to take GRUB out of the equation by installing Ubuntu with the “ubiquity -b” command from within the Live CD version of Ubuntu and configuring rEFInd or rEFIt, but I had trouble getting Ubuntu to boot following Jesudason’s guide for rEFInd (the fault is likely with what I did and not his thorough instructions). I can live with GRUB if it means that I can get my work done in these two computing environments on my MacBook Pro.

If there is interest among Brittain Fellows, I can incorporate this into the series of DevLab Workshops that I am planning for the upcoming year.