Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction

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When Intel revealed their miniature PC platform in 2012, the new “Next Unit of Computing” (NUC) was a tiny motherboard with a custom case, and admittedly very little compute power. Well, maybe not so much with the admittedly: “The Intel NUC is an ultra-compact form factor PC measuring 4-inch by 4-inch. Anything your tower PC can do, the Intel NUC can do and in 4 inches of real estate.” That was taken from Intel’s NUC introduction, and though their assertion was perhaps a bit premature, technology does continue its rapid advance in the small form-factor space. We aren’t there yet by any means, but the fact that a mini-ITX computer can be built with the power of an ATX rig (limited to single-GPU, of course) suggests that it could happen for a mini-PC in the not so distant future.

With NUC the focus was clearly on efficiency over performance, and with very low power and noise there were practical applications for such a device to offset the marginal "desktop" performance. The viability of a NUC would definitely depend on the user and their particular needs, of course. If you could find a place for such a device (such as a living room) it may have been worth the cost, as the first of the NUC kits were fairly expensive (around $300 and up) and did not include storage or memory. These days a mini PC can be found starting as low as $100 or so, but most still do not include any memory or storage. They are tiny barebones PC kits after all, so adding components is to be expected...right?

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It’s been a couple of years now, and the platform continues to evolve - and shrink to some startlingly small sizes. Of the Intel-powered micro PC kits on today’s market the LIVA from ECS manages to push the boundaries of this category in both directions. In addition to boasting a ridiculously small size - actually the smallest in the world according to ECS - the LIVA is also very affordable. It carries a list price of just $179 (though it can be found for less), and that includes onboard memory and storage. And this is truly a Windows PC platform, with full Windows 8.1 driver support from ECS (previous versions are not supported).

Continue reading our look at the ECS LIVA Mini PC!!

Europeans: Atlast! Has Haswell-based Fanless NUCs

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 29, 2014 - 06:41 PM |
Tagged: fanless, nuc, haswell

The Akasa Newton X is a fanless case for the NUC form factor that was announced in May and released a couple of months ago. Now, we are beginning to see system builders (albeit in Europe) integrate it in some higher-end devices. This one, from Atlast! Solutions, is built around the Intel Core i5-4250U, up to 1.5TB of SSD storage (512GB Crucial M550 mSATA + 1TB 840 EVO SATA), and up to 16GB of RAM. It can also be configured with up to two-antenna Wireless AC.

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The Core i5-4250U is a dual-core (four threads) processor that is rated for 15W TDP. Its on-chip GPU is the Intel HD Graphics 5000 with a peak, theoretical compute throughput of 704 GFLOPS. This makes it a little under three-times the graphics performance of an Xbox 360. In terms of PC games, you are looking at Battlefield 4 or Titanfall on low at 1024x768 (or basically whatever your home server can do if used as a stream-to target).

Prices currently start at £449.00 for 4GB of RAM and 60GB of mSATA SSD, including VAT.

Thanks to FanlessTech for covering this story.

Intel Loves Exponential Trends: Shrinking Mini-PCs

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2014 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: idf, idf 2014, nuc, Intel, SFF, small form factor

A few years ago, Intel introduced the NUC line of small form factor PCs. At this year's IDF, they have announced plans to make even smaller, and cheaper, specifications that are intended for OEMs to install Windows, Linux, Android, and Chrome OS on. This initiative is not yet named, but will consist of mostly soldered components, leaving basically just the wireless adapters user-replaceable, rather than the more user-serviceable NUC.

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Image Credit: Liliputing

Being the owner of Moore's Law, they just couldn't help but fit it to some type of exponential curve. While it is with respect to generation, not time, Intel expects the new, currently unnamed form factor to halve both the volume (size) and bill of material (BOM) cost of the NUC. They then said that another generation after ("Future SFF") will halve the BOM cost again, to a quarter of the NUC.

What do our readers think? Would you be willing to give up socketed components for smaller and cheaper devices in this category or does this just become indistinguishable from mobile devices (which we already know can be cheap and packed into small spaces)?

Source: Liliputing

Podcast #315 - AMD Radeon R7 SSD, Haswell-E Rumors, Radeon R9 285, and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 28, 2014 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, radeon r7 ssd, Haswell-E, r9 285, haf stacker, coolermaster, Broadwell, nuc, zotac, zbox pico

PC Perspective Podcast #315 - 08/28/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD Radeon R7 SSD, Haswell-E Rumors, Radeon R9 285, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:22:59
 

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Broadwell Intel NUCs Being Developed. Rumored Q1 2015?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | August 27, 2014 - 08:27 PM |
Tagged: Intel, nuc, Broadwell

The Intel NUC is their small computing form factor, packing what is equivalent to an Ultrabook into a chassis that is smaller than a CD spool. The first release came with Ivy Bridge and it was refreshed with Haswell about a year later. FanlessTech has got a hold a... semi-redacted (?)... slideshow presentation that outlines various models and features. Six models are expected, spread out between Q4 2014 (Haswell), Q1 2015 (Broadwell Core iX), and Q2 2015 (Broadwell Celeron).

Note that a typical Intel NUC contains fans, although the company has released a fanless Bay Trail-based model (and third parties have made their own, custom cooled models based on the form factor). I expect that FanlessTech covers it for those two reasons; it does not mean that these models will be passively cooled. In fact, the product matrix claims that none of these new products will be.

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The six models are broken into three code names.

Both Maple Canyon and Rock Canyon cover the Core i3 and i5 processor segments. Both include NFC, an optional 2.5" drive, four external USB 3.0 ports, LAN, a SATA 3 port, and so forth. They begin to diverge in terms of display outputs, however. Rock Canyon, which is targeted at home theater, home office, and gaming, includes one mini HDMI (1.4a) and one mini DisplayPort (1.2) output. Maple Canyon, on the other hand, includes two mini DisplayPort (version unknown, probably also 1.2) connections. While I do not have a slide for Maple Canyon, replacing the mini HDMI for a mini DisplayPort suggests that it will be targeted more at kiosks and other situations where monitors, rather than TVs, will be used.

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One Haswell Core i5-based Maple Canyon NUC is expected for Q4 2014. Maple Canyon with Broadwell Core i3, Maple Canyon with Broadwell Core i5, Rock Canyon with Broadwell Core i3, and Rock Canyon with Broadwell Core i5 are all expected in Q1 2015. All models will accept up to two DIMMs of memory (16 GB max).

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Only one Pinnacle Canyon model is listed. It will be based on Broadwell Celeron, allow up to 8 GB of memory (1 DIMM), and include four USB 3.0 ports (external). Its display configuration is significantly different from Rock Canyon and Maple Canyon, however. It will have one, full-sized HDMI (1.4a) and one VGA output. It will launch in Q2 2015.

For more information, check out the slides at FanlessTech.

Source: FanlessTech

Thinking of swapping Linux for Windows on your new Bay Trail NUC?

Subject: Processors | June 5, 2014 - 06:32 PM |
Tagged: baytrail, linux, N2820, ubuntu 14.04, Linux 3.13, Linux 3.15, mesa, nuc

It would seem that installing Linux on your brand new Bay Trail powered NUC will cost you a bit of performance.  The testing Phoronix has performed on Intel NUC DN2820FYKH proves that it can handle running Linux without a hitch, however you will find that your overall graphical performance will dip a bit.  Using MESA 10.3 and both the current 3.13 kernel and the 3.15 development kernel Phoronix saw a small delta in performance between Ubuntu 14.04 and Win 8.1 ... until they hit the OpenGL performance.  As there is still no full OpenGL 4.0+ support there were tests that could not be run and even with the tests that could be there was a very large performance gap.  Do not let this worry you, as they point out in the article there is a dedicated team working on full compliance and you can expect updated results in the near future.

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"A few days ago my benchmarking revealed Windows 8.1 is outperforming Ubuntu Linux with the latest Intel open-source graphics drivers on Haswell hardware. I have since conducted tests on the Celeron N2820 NUC, and sadly, the better OpenGL performance is found with Microsoft's operating system."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: Phoronix

Intel Haswell-based NUCs on Sale for $329 and $265

Subject: Systems | April 17, 2014 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: nuc, i5-4250u, amazon, 4250U

Back in September we posted a review of the latest Intel NUC device (next unit of computing), a tiny 4-in x 4-in barebones computer developed and sold by Intel directly. As a couple of readers pointed out to me today, these units are being discounted by as much as $70 today over at Amazon.com

These units share a lot of the same feature set but they differ in the processor actually embedded in them. The Core i5-4250U comes with the more expensive model and that includes the faster Intel HD 5000 graphics configuration as well. This is the same processor found in the MacBook Air and many shipping Ultrabooks. For the lower priced model you get the Core i3-4010U that runs at a static 1.7 GHz clock speed. The 4250U scales up to 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost technology.

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Both are based on the Haswell architecture and pack a lot of processing punch in a tiny little form factor.

Keeping in mind these are barebones units, you'll still have to add memory, storage in the form of an mSATA SSD, wireless modules (unless you want to use the Gigabit Ethernet) and a power cord. If you are looking for some suggestions from us on those components, check out the lists and pricing below.

  Core i5-4250U System Core i3-4010U System
Barebones System NUC D54250WYK - $329 NUC D34010WYK - $265
Memory Crucial 4GB Single DDR3L SO-DIMM - $40 Crucial 4GB Single DDR3L SO-DIMM - $40
Storage Samsung 840 EVO 120GB mSATA - $109 Samsung 840 EVO 120GB mSATA - $109
Wireless Intel Dual Band 7260 802.11ac - $32 Intel Dual Band 7260 802.11ac - $32
Power Cord 6 ft 3-slot - $4 6 ft 3-slot - $4
Total (Amazon) $514 on Amazon.com $450 on Amazon.com

If you are really on a budget and want to save some more cash, you could go with a smaller and less expensive mSATA SSD like the ADATA Premier Pro 32GB option for as low as $39.99 but you are going to be REALLY limited on local storage space. 

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Still, for $514 you are getting most of the component technology of a high end Ultrabook but in a desktop form factor, ready to be used as your primary PC or connected to your TV for a home theater setup. I built one for my dad for Christmas to play a flight simulator on and its still going strong and he's loving it!

Going to take Intel and Amazon up on these prices? Already have a unit of your own? If so, let me know in the comments what you currently, or plan to, use it for. Happy SFF building!

Source: Amazon.com

Video Perspective: Intel Haswell NUC D54250WYKH with 2.5-in HDD Support

Subject: Systems | March 12, 2014 - 10:36 AM |
Tagged: video, nuc, next unit of computing, Intel, d54250wykh

In September of 2013 we reviewed the updated Intel NUC device that implemented the latest Haswell architecture in the form of the Core i5-4250U processor.  In the conclusion I wrote:

The Next Unit of Computing is meant to be a showcase for different form factors and implementations that Intel's architectures can reach and I think it accomplishes this goal quite well and should be a blueprint for other system integrators and embedded clients going forward.  Enthusiasts and standard PC users will be to adopt it too without feeling like they are leaving performance on the table which is impressive for this form factor.

At CES we first learned about the new D54250WYKH model and what it added - support for a 2.5-in HDD/SSD.  While that isn't a drastic change, it does allow for more variance in configuration options including both mSATA and 2.5-in storage with only a minimal increase in size of the system.

You can find the Intel NUC D54250WYKH on Amazon.com for $411.

Check out the video below for a quick overview of the H-variant of the Intel NUC!

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Linux powered NUC

Subject: Systems | February 14, 2014 - 06:20 PM |
Tagged: linux, nuc, Bay Trail

If you are thinking of saving some money when picking up a NUC by skipping Windows and using Linux instead then Phoronix has two articles you should be reading before you order.  The initial testing on the Bay Trail processor did not go as well as hoped even if the architecture is based on Haswell but now that they have been on the market for a bit it is time to revisit them.  If you are just concerned about the performance then quickly pop over and read this article.  On the other hand if you want the full story then not only should you read that article but make sure to catch their full review here.

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"With the early Atom "Bay Trail" hardware being disastrous for Linux, when Intel recently announced their Bay Trail based NUC Kit we were anxious and decided to give this unit a go. The Intel NUC Kit DN2820FYK packs an Intel Celeron N2820 Bay Trail CPU and motherboard supporting up to 8GB of DDR3L system memory and 2.5-inch HDD/SSD in a 116 x 112 x 51 mm form-factor. In this article is a rundown of the Phoronix experience so far for this Atom NUC Kit and how well it's running with Ubuntu Linux."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Source: Phoronix

Intel NUC BIOS Update Fixes Debian Booting

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2014 - 08:25 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, SteamOS, nuc, Intel, debian

Two days ago, Intel added a new BIOS for the NUC to their download center. Its main update addresses a problem with booting some operating systems, such as SteamOS. Ars Technica published an editorial a couple of weeks ago about using the Haswell-based NUC with four Linux distributions. It basically comes down to the NUC not seeing a bootloader file that Debian-based OSes leave in their own branded folder. The BIOS was available less than two weeks later.

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The update also addresses (PDF) fan speed control, a bug with disk encryption passwords, a couple of BIOS settings, and a system hang with certain USB thumb drives.

If you have a NUC and want to make it a SteamOS (or Ubuntu, etc.) device, this should fix your woes. I mean, there was already a workaround involving four terminal commands but it is that much easier nonetheless. It is available now at Intel's store.

Source: Intel