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

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Intel plans on launching different versions of its NUC, including one that supports simultaneous monitor and display applications (DC3217IYE). The one we have for evaluation is the DC3217BY. It's equipped with dual PCI-E mini card slots, HDMI output, and a ThunderBolt port that allows you to daisy chain multiple devices.



Interestingly enough, it wasn't the NUC's size that we first noticed during our unboxing. No, it was something far more subtle, yet oddly appealing. We typically don't cover packaging in our reviews (unless it sucks so bad that it warrants coverage) because, quite frankly, it's boring. So why the quick exception in this case? Intel forced our hand by hiding a light-controlled sound module in the retail packaging. When you slide the container out of the box, Intel's familiar jingle plays loud and clear. It seems silly, but it catches you completely by surprise, putting you into an Intel frame of mind. Well played, chipzilla.

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.


Other than for convenience, orientation hardly matters with the NUC since it's practically the same length and depth. Technically there is a front, that being the one closest to the power button, and also the side that houses one of the three USB 2.0 ports. Why no SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports? That's an excellent question, and unfortunately we don't have a satisfactory answer. The Intel QS77 Express Chipset the NUC is built around supports up to four USB 3.0 ports and up to 10 USB 2.0 ports, and for whatever reason, Intel chose to go with the slower spec. It's a non-issue for some of the intended applications, like digital signage, but for the home consumer -- and particularly home theater buffs who may want to transfer large files over USB -- it's a bit of a bummer.

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.



Just a handful of ports are jammed into the NUC's rear I/O panel. From left to right, you can see the DC power plug, two USB 2.0 ports (three total, including the one in front), HDMI 1.4a output, ThunderBolt (with support for DisplayPort), and a Kensington lock.

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.



Cool air is pulled in from a passive vent in the bottom and nowhere else. It's a plastic bottom with four rubber feet to prevent the NUC for slipping and sliding around your desktop or home theater rack, or wherever you decide to stick it. This model NUC also ships with a VESA mounting bracking, so you can stick it to the back of your monitor or HDTV, too.
Tags:  Reviews, Intel, systems, NUC

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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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