External Design & Layout
Enough of that, moving on...
The beauty of Intel's NUC is in its size. It's not quite small enough to shove inside a normal sized pocket like a smartphone or media player, but it does fit snugly in your palm, allowing your fingers to grip the sides. People with larger hands will be able to curve their fingertips up and over the top. If you prefer hard numbers, the NUC measures 4.59 (L) inches by 4.41 (W) inches by 1.55 inches (H) and weighs approximately 1.1 pounds. It's not big, nor is it heavy by any stretch of the imagination. According to Intel, these dimensions comprise "The shape that fits the future," as the tagline on the consumer retail box reads.
It's an interesting piece of hardware that's smaller than most nettops out there, and about half the size of Zotac's ZBOX mini PC line (the Intel Atom-based ZBOX ID80 Plus we reviewed earlier this year is almost twice as big at 7.40 inches by 7.40 inches by 1.73 inches). And about the same size as a ZBOZ nano.
Intel outfitted the NUC with a dash of color. The top of the system sports a maroon cover, including the power button, and the rest of the unit is black. A blue LED HDD activity light lets you know when the mSATA drive is working, and the power button also glows blue when turned on.
The lone USB port on the front gives the NUC an understated design aesthetic. Don't mistake that to mean that Intel didn't put much thought into it. For a system this size, cooling is of paramount importance, and to help dissipate heat, Intel wrapped an aluminum belt around the waist of the NUC. The top, as previously mentioned, and the bottom are both made with plastic.
It's a pretty barebones configuration for a desktop system. A few ports are noticeably absent (and some not so noticeable) on this model, including GbE LAN (which is why we highly recommend installing an optional wireless adapter), DVI or VGA outupts, eSATA, FireWire, and audio inputs. Rest assured, however, this tiny PC is rocks out to 8-channel (7.1) audio, it just has to be piped through the HDMI or ThunderBolt port. It should be noted that the DC3217IYE model does come with a GbE LAN port, as well as dual HDMI (but no ThunderBolt port).
Above the ports are two grated exhaust vents. Though the system is nearly silent, it's actively cooled with a CPU cooler that pushes hot air out of these vents.