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

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

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Intel made it super simple to get inside the NUC to service or upgrade parts. There are four Phillips screws sunk into the rubber feet that need to be loosened, and once you've done that, the bottom panel pops right off (you may need to wedge it a little bit). The screws in the feet are non-removable so you don't need to worry about losing them.



There's not a ton you can do inside the NUC, but the parts that are available to tinker with are easily accessibly, starting with the RAM. Two SO-DIMM memory slots sit at the top, supporting up to 16GB of DDR3-1066/1333 RAM. We installed a pair of 2GB sticks for a total of 4GB, which is probably the sweet for a system like this.

On the opposite side is where you'll plug in your mSATA SSD. For the purposes of this evaluation, Intel supplied us with an unreleased 180GB mSATA drive from its 520 Series. It features a SATA 6Gbps interface and is powered by LSI's SandForce SF-2281 controller.

Underneath the SSD is where you'd plug in a wireless card, like the Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 that Intel bundled with this test system. This, along with above mentioned SSD, will not come with the consumer package.


Here's the NUC without any components installed. Notice there are two wires dangling in the lower left corner. These are antennas for the wireless card, which snap into place if you choose use one. As we said before, this particularly model doesn't have a LAN port, so if you need Internet access, you either have to install a wireless card or use up one of the three USB ports on wireless dongle.



Getting at the underbelly of the NUC is only slightly more tricky. You need to remove two black Phillips screws in the bottom corners of the motherboard (next to the rear I/O ports). With a little bit of finagling, the mobo lifts up and away, just if you were removing it from a desktop tower.

Flipping it over reveals the CPU cooler, fan, and exhaust apparatus. The fan is separate from the heatsink, so if it fails for any reason, it's a quick and easy fix.

Underneath the fan and heastink is an Intel Core i3-\ 3217U (Ivy Bridge) processor soldered onto the motherboard. It's a dual-core CPU clocked at 1.8GHz with 3MB of cache, HyperThreading support, integrated Intel HD Graphics, and a 17W TDP. The GPU has a base frequency of 350MHz and a max dynamic frequency of 1.05GHz. Overall it's a pretty potent chip for a such a small sized system.



Here's a closer look at the wireless card and mSATA SSD arrangement. This also happens to be the source of system lockups, though we're not entirely sure why. The most obvious culprit seems to be heat. The wireless card tends to get very hot during use, and on several occasions, the system would freeze up, forcing us to physically detach the power cable (if we held the power button to turn the system off, the SSD wouldn't be recognized when powering back on). This would happen during large file downloads, file transfers, system updates, and even when loading a benchmark.

The reason we suspect it's an issue with the wireless card is because once we removed it, the NUC performed just fine, albeit without Internet access. There were no more lockups. We typically don't like to glance at other reviews when working on our own (to avoid setting ourselves up for a predisposed bias), but we did peek around to see if others had run into similar issues, and sure enough, we weren't the only ones.

Apparently Intel is aware of the issue is working on a BIOS update to resolve it. This is something we suspect will be fixed before launching to retail (this is a pre-production model, after all).

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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

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Early days?

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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?

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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

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