Intel's Tiny NUC "Next Unit of Computing" PC

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Let's dispense with an emerging myth right now: The desktop isn't dead. Far from it. Rather, the desktop is evolving, and this is an exciting time to be a technophile. The advancements we've seen in just the past 12 months are nothing short of remarkable. Solid state drives (SSDs) are getting faster and cheaper, finally making for a viable alternative to the mechanical hard drive that has ruled the desktop for so long. Memory kits are bigger than ever, USB 3.0 is now commonplace, and architectures like Intel's Ivy Bridge have taken processor and integrated graphics performance to whole new levels.

These and other advancements are what make Intel's latest desktop evolution possible. The "Intel Next Unit of Computing" (NUC), as it's appropriately called, is an ultra compact desktop system that's small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, while packing a performance punch that belies its diminutive stature. Power users looking to game on their high-resolution 30-inch monitors need not apply, but there are plenty of markets for a system like this, not the least of which is the mainstream buyer. Intel says its NUC is also ideal for digital signage, kiosks, home theater setups, and anywhere else where space is at a premium.


When Intel first told us about the NUC, we were intrigued by its potential. It's rocking a 3rd Generation Core i3-3217U processor soldered onto the motherboard, two SO-DIMM slots with DDR3-1066/1333 memory support, onboard 8-channel audio, mSATA support, and several connectivity ports. All of this comes packed into a 4-inch x 4-inch frame.

"Imagine a computing device powerful enough to produce stunning visuals with responsive performance. Yet small enough to drive digital signage, kiosks, or other applications demanding performance in a tight space. We did. The result is the Intel Nex Unit of Computing,"  Intel pitches.

The NUC is essentially an Ultrabook in a mini destktop body. It's also a brand new form factor -- uCFF (Ultra Compact Form Factor) -- one that Intel will presumably push to make official. For now, is the world ready for such a device? And equally important, is it a capable machine for its intended purposes? To help answer these questions, Intel sent us a pre-production model to examine and put through its paces. Let's have a look.

Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) -- DC3217BY
Specifications & Features
Form Factor
UCFF
AA# (Altered Assembly)
G76541-200
BIOS ID String GKPPT10H.86A
Processor Intel Core i3 3217-U (soldered down) w/ active heatsink
Memory Two SO-DIMM slots for 1066/1333MHz memory support
Display HDMI port supporting HDMI 1.4a output; Thunderbolt port supporting DisplayPort 1.1a
Audio Intel High Definition Audio (Intel HD Audio) in the following configuration:
> 8-channel (7.1) digital audo via one HDMI 1.4a output and/or via one ThunderBolt connector (DisplayPort 1.1a)
Expansion Capabilities Full size mini PCI Express w/ mSATA support
Half size mini PCI Express
Included in the box
19V, 65W power brick
VESA mounting bracket
Wi-Fi antennae (integrated into the chassis)
Core i3 logo
Dimensions 4.59 inches by 4.41 inches by 1.55 inches
Warranty 3 years
Pricing: $300-$320

As a barebones kit, consumers will have to add certain components to flesh out Intel's NUC system. Intel provided us with its 520 Series 180GB mSATA solid state drive (SSD) and Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 wireless card, both of which we're told will not ship with the consumer edition. We then added 4GB (2x2GB) of Samsung DDR3-1333 notebook memory and installed Windows 8.



Finalizing the NUC build highlights one of Intel's first challenges in pushing this system into the marketplace, and that's cost. The target price for the NUC box is ~$300-$320. Add another $190 for the mSATA SSD, $20 for a 4GB memory kit similar to the one we used, about $25 for the Wireless-N adapter (optional, but we highly recommend it), and the OS of your choice. The grand total comes to over $500 for a system that's only partially upgradeable (the CPU is soldered to the motherboard).
Tags:  Reviews, Intel, systems, NUC

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Comments
Dorkstar 2 years ago

Couple this with those flexible displays and you have yourself a good desktop for those without a lot of space.  I like that they have an hdmi input, assuming the price gets a little lower with time, this would be nice to mount to a wall behind the TV and use as a media center.  

realneil 2 years ago

Great review Paul.

I like that it has a VESA mount so it can be attached to the back side of a monitor.

The performance results are damn good for a PC without a discreet GPU on board.

paul_lilly 2 years ago

Thanks, and I agree about the performance. If Intel can get the Wi-Fi issue ironed out -- and they're working on that right now, via a BIOS update -- this would be a great alternative to the typical tower desktop. Even more so if SSD prices continue to drop.

CDeeter 2 years ago

Did Intel work with Zotac on this? Seems really similar, but with an i3 instead of Atom or Brazos onboard.

provo44 2 years ago

Early days?

http://www.benjaminsohn.de/project/intel-nuc-concept-design/

OSunday 2 years ago

Nice find! It's interesting to see how the concept and design have changed

provo44 2 years ago

Intel NUC Concept Design

A third model (DCCP487DYE) will hit the market during the first quarter of 2013.

http://technology-corner.com/intel-next-unit-of-computing-the-mini-pc-on-sale.html

wjred66 one year ago

Not sure what the "wireless issue" is referred to but we have two units and two separate wireless cards and they both would end up dragging to below .9 Mbs on internet test speeds and sometimes failing completely. Other times fair performance but still no answer from Intel on it.

Clixxer one year ago

[quote user="wjred66"]

Not sure what the "wireless issue" is referred to but we have two units and two separate wireless cards and they both would end up dragging to below .9 Mbs on internet test speeds and sometimes failing completely. Other times fair performance but still no answer from Intel on it.

[/quote]

Yeah that could be an issue. I assume it has wireless built in since it came with a wireless antenne. Do you see differences between using them?

OSunday 2 years ago

The mounting options through VESA and potential for Media Center applications are pretty sweet too!

I'd love to see one of these things put into a car or something similar, it's almost too perfect for that

kylevasher 2 years ago

Definitely has it's place in the market. Neat little device.

Dorkstar 2 years ago

[quote user="kylevasher"]

Definitely has it's place in the market. Neat little device.

[/quote]

While I agree, but at $500 it can rest peacefully on a store shelf.  This thing needs to get down below $200 before I even consider buying one.

digitaldd one year ago

[quote user="Dorkstar"]

[quote user="kylevasher"]

Definitely has it's place in the market. Neat little device.

[/quote]

While I agree, but at $500 it can rest peacefully on a store shelf.  This thing needs to get down below $200 before I even consider buying one.

[/quote]

I agree 100%, I think $100 Android HDMI stick media center systems will be coming soon enough.

OSunday 2 years ago

Aha woahh didn't see that $500 price tag, that definitely drops down the appeal since for the same price you can get some hardware with a little more kick too it, just minus the portability.

I don't know why super small form factors are being pushed so much, it's not like there's widespread complaints from people about not having space for desktops or not liking the size of small-mid towers?

Dorkstar 2 years ago

[quote user="OSunday"]

Aha woahh didn't see that $500 price tag, that definitely drops down the appeal since for the same price you can get some hardware with a little more kick too it, just minus the portability.

I don't know why super small form factors are being pushed so much, it's not like there's widespread complaints from people about not having space for desktops or not liking the size of small-mid towers?

[/quote]

That's because we enjoy living in excess in America.  Trying fitting a full size case in a 300 square foot apartment with 3 people living in it.

 

Mattos 2 years ago

I believe the Sapphire Edge Mini PC is slightly cheaper than this. I think this is a bit smaller and you have to like how this performs.

OSunday 2 years ago

I don't mean to revive an old thread but I found a giveaway for one of these baby's!

It's coming from motherboards.org along side a little video review and they're giving one away by selecting a commenter from the YouTube video.
For anyone who wants to check it out, here it is!

Link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDWCUwQb1eE&list=UUcx2OUQ9OGdL4FTexi0h35Q&index=2

 

TruSignage 2 years ago

Sorry no sale.. The future is Android. $300 + HDD + Windows tax? low power.. just get a real desktop if really needed. PC, content creation, high end gaming for now. but these will move more to the cloud or to a centralised home server.

Dorkstar 2 years ago

[quote user="TruSignage"]

Sorry no sale.. The future is Android. $300 + HDD + Windows tax? low power.. just get a real desktop if really needed. PC, content creation, high end gaming for now. but these will move more to the cloud or to a centralised home server.

[/quote]

Yeah, but even though we don't necessarily want it, we all know the world is moving to cloud based applications.  Before you know it, you'll be playing Farcry 3 on ultra-high settings off a $25 rasberry pi.  No more hardware advantages!

OSunday 2 years ago

I think by don't want it he just meant what you're getting for the price, I don't think anyone would argue that smaller form factors is a good thing technologically speaking... and ultra-high settings off a $25 Raspberry Pi isn't happening any time in the near future either unfortunately :/

AndyBennett one year ago

Sounds amazing, I'd be curious to know how it handles heat distribution when it's taxed. I'd love a pocket desktop!

BartHendersonNewell one year ago

As a gamer this wouldn't suit me, but it'd be nice to buy just to run as a prebuilt slave haha

yosefa one year ago

I guess it's nice that Intel is expanding into this area, but isn't the Mac Mini essentially the same thing?

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