When I first started hearing about Intel's Next Unit of Computing (NUC), I was excited, but a little hesitant. I knew technology had gotten to a point of awesome power in a small package, but what could Intel do to change things up?
Intel's NUC is the result of the chipmaker asking its engineers to make the smallest fully-featured compute unit possible, and boy is it small. The unit measures in at just 4x4x2 inches, which is nothing. It's small enough to fit in your hands - an entire system, which is quite powerful, in your hands. In the world of quad-core smartphones, this is an actual Core i3 processor, with up to 16GB of RAM and a proper, fast mSATA SSD drive.
I don't know where Intel want to sell these, is its market the general user? Office users? HTPC users? I see them being very popular among modders and the HTPC market - as it has a Core i3 processor and supports two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, with super-low power consumption. Oh, and we should also mention, again, it's extremely small total size and weight.
Intel launching a whole new form factor should have the market abuzz - it shows that they're willing to step out of the usual expectations that analysts, tech sites, and most important of all, customers have of them, and change things up. They're spraying on a new cologne, getting a new haircut and walking out in style with NUC.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
The first-generation NUC has quite modest specifications, sporting a dual-core ultra-low voltage Ivy Bridge CPU, more specifically the Core i3 3217U (17W TDP, clocked at 1.8GHz, no turbo), backed up with HD 4000 graphics with clocks between 350MHz and 1.05GHz.
The NUC unit Intel has supplied us with is the Thunderbolt-equipped model, the DC3217BY.
The NUC with its insides showing.
The Intel NUC comes in two different options, the DC3217BY and DC3217IYE. Both devices sport the same Core i3-3217U processor, the same Intel QS77 Express motherboard, two DDR3 SO-DIMM slot, but then things start to change.
The DC3217BY comes with one HDMI output, three USB 2.0 ports, Thunderbolt, and comes in a black with a dark red top color. The DC3217IYE is a little different in the way that it offers up two HDMI ports, Gigabit Ethernet (in place of Thunderbolt) and a stock black color.
Both NUCs come with one mini PCIe (half-height) slot, and another mini PCIe (full-height) slot that supports mSATA. So the main differences are really just the presence, or lack thereof of Gigabit Ethernet, or you get Thunderbolt. But then Thunderbolt-less model comes with dual HDMI ports, which isn't too bad.
The Thunderbolt-capable NUC is capable of driving a 2560x1440 panel from the Thunderbolt port, which might be the better model if you're looking to drive a large 30-inch screen, or higher-res 27-inch screen.
Both NUC models come with two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots supporting up to two 8GB sticks of RAM for a total of 16GB. 16GB of RAM in a system measuring 4x4x2 inches is just crazy, isn't it? The mini PCIe half-height card is the perfect companion for Wi-Fi, with the top full-height slot for an mSATA drive.
We had some help from Corsair for the RAM, where they've provided us with a 16GB Vengeance DDR3 kit, the CMSX16GX3M2A1600C10.
The mSATA drive was provided to us by Intel, which is the Intel SSD 520 Series - the 180GB, 2.5-inch, SATA 6Gbps model. They also provided us with the half-height mini PCIe Wi-Fi card, the Centrino Advanced-N 6235. Normally you do not get the SSD or Wi-Fi card, and of course you need to BYO RAM as well (and the AC power cord to be precise).
Intel will begin selling the NUC systems through Amazon and Newegg early December for $300 - $320.
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