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.
|AA# (Altered Assembly)
|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
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).