Review Index:
Feedback

Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) DC3217BY SFF System Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: Intel

Breaking Inside the Unit

While the Intel Next Unit of Computing looks like a complete and ready to go computer out of the box, you still need a few things to get it running.  For our model, we had to install a wireless card, an SSD and system memory. 

View Full Size

Opening it up is quite simple - something you can't say with many small form factor computers - and requires removing four Philips screws at the rubber feet. 

View Full Size

Removing the bottom of the case shows a solidly constructed design with all the necessary parts accessible right away.

View Full Size

Users that are familiar with laptops will surely recognize the SODIMM slots and the PCIe/mSATA connections on the right hand side.

View Full Size

Another pair of screws to remove and we can take out the entire mainboard and show the top of the NUC and the portion that also acts as the antenna for the WiFi. 

View Full Size

Getting our hands on the D33217CK motherboard itself proved to be pretty enticing; that is a lot of hardware in a very small amount of space!

View Full Size

Most of the magic happens under this heatsink and fan assembly courtesy of the Ivy Bridge-based Core i3-3217U processor.  The fan is incredibly quiet and I actually thought it was passively cooled until I took it apart after completing our testing.

View Full Size

Two screws released the fan and three more for the heatsink to reveal an impressively designed compact motherboard.  There wasn't even room for the BIOS battery as it is enclosed in a loose yellow wrap and plugged into the board via a 2-pin header.

View Full Size

A close up of the board shows us the Core i3-3217U low voltage dual-core processor and the Intel QS77 Express chipset that make the system tick. 

After exploring the insides of the Intel NUC it is time to get down to the business of actually building and constructing the computer.  And while it's not like building a typical desktop system you do still get some options for customization.

View Full Size

The first thing we need is connectivity and without a dedicated Ethernet port that means wireless data.  Along with the NUC Intel sent us a Centrino Advanced-N 6235 mPCIe adapter that can handle 802.11n speeds in the 5GHz range

View Full Size

Installation was easy enough: place it in the socket, screw it down with the single screw and then attach the leads for the WiFi antenna. 

View Full Size

Next up is a driver for your OS and storage and again we were provided with an Intel SSD 520 series mSATA unit with a 180GB capacity.  Seeing that much storage in such a small "card" still impresses me especially when you see how fast it can go.  I had a hard time finding this mSATA drive for sale online anywhere so you might have to go another route but as long as the form factor is right you shouldn't have a problem.

View Full Size

Again, installation was simple and required only a single screw.  You can see that the SSD is actually stacked on top of the WiFi card and while that didn't bother me at first it turned out to cause some stability problems that Intel is still looking into today.  More on that later.

View Full Size

Finally, we need some system memory.  I happen to have a pair of Crucial 4GB DDR3-1600 SODIMMs sitting around that would give this system a total of 8GB of memory - plenty for our purposes.

View Full Size

If you have put memory in a laptop before this has the exact same premise - place it in the slot and then push down to lock in place.  Presto, 8GB of memry in a 4-in x 4-in computer. 

View Full Size

That's it!  The Intel Next Unit of Computing is ready for powering on, operating system installation and then benchmarking.  On to the next page!

December 14, 2012 | 09:24 AM - Posted by atarione (not verified)

has anyone tried taking the wireless card out and plugging a external usb wi-fi adapter in?

i.e. would an little usb adapter cure the overheat w/ network transfers?

December 14, 2012 | 09:40 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yes, it did.  

December 14, 2012 | 10:36 AM - Posted by Henry velez (not verified)

This looks like a precursor to the steam box. This is a lapdesktop. I like it but can't game. This would be a good streaming box.

December 14, 2012 | 11:38 AM - Posted by bilmath76 (not verified)

Question that I could really look up but thought I would ask, Did Intel fix the 23.9 frame rate for movie play back in the 3rd gen processors, or do they suffer from the same problem the sandy bridge with 24 frame lock?

Just asking cause I would love to make this computer into my XBMC HTPC machines, that i have around the house...

December 14, 2012 | 05:16 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Based on my understanding that is fixed but I honestly haven't tested it.

June 4, 2013 | 06:42 AM - Posted by Joann (not verified)

It's impressive that you are getting thoughts from this paragraph as well as from our discussion made at this place.

Also visit my page - Nick Yates

December 14, 2012 | 05:54 PM - Posted by Tralalak (not verified)

"Intel Board Team Creates New Form Factor" ???
How new?

• ZOTAC ZBOX nano XS AD11 Plus powered by the AMD E-450 1.65GHz APU (dual-core processor)
• • Dimensions • •
• Length: 4.173in - 106mm
• Width: 4.173in - 106mm
• Depth: 1.46in - 37mm

• ZOTAC ZBOX nano VD01 powered by the VIA Nano™ X2 U4025 dual-core 1.2GHz processor.
• ZOTAC ZBOX nano AD12 powered by the AMD E2-1800 1.7GHz APU (dual-core processor)
• ZOTAC ZBOX nano ID61 powered by the by the an Intel® Celeron® Processor 867 dual-core 1.3GHz processor
• • Dimensions • •
• Length: 5in - 127mm
• Width: 5in - 127mm
• Depth: 1.77in – 45mm

December 14, 2012 | 07:44 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

It's new to Intel, at least at the board level, and also new in that it is a creation of Intel's team for the barebones chassis as well.

December 16, 2012 | 10:24 AM - Posted by Tralalak (not verified)

Oh of course, it's new to Intel, at least at the Intel board level beacause under NUC 4"x4" Form Factor (or ZOTAC ZBOX nano XS 4.173"x4.173") is logial Pico-ITX Form Factor 3,9"x2,8" (10 cm x 7,2 cm) etc. also with QuadCore Processor for the barebones chassis or barebone Pico-ITX Mini-PC as well.

December 14, 2012 | 06:04 PM - Posted by ToiT (not verified)

What's the most practical reason for needing two HDMI ports anyway?

December 14, 2012 | 08:13 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Multiple displays without the need for DisplayPort.

December 14, 2012 | 07:11 PM - Posted by Provo44 (not verified)

I cannot find a downloadable version of Windows 8 that can be used for a clean install. All I can find is the upgradeable version. Every review of the NUC glosses over this issue.

December 14, 2012 | 08:18 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Hmm, I guess that's true.  I used my TechNet account to get an ISO for installation.  

You can get the OEM version of the OS and that will all full installs, right?

December 14, 2012 | 07:48 PM - Posted by Devil 2 U

Could be an excellent client for digital signage systems.

December 14, 2012 | 10:30 PM - Posted by orvtrebor

At $329 it's overpriced.

If it drops to $299 I'd say not bad. The final product is pretty slick.

December 14, 2012 | 10:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You're in the market for something like this, but much cheaper?
Then this is for you:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856173044

Same form factor, $229, but with an AMD CPU/GPU. So slower CPU but faster GPU.

This has been available for years. Now it just has an Intel sticker on it. Not really news.

December 15, 2012 | 10:13 AM - Posted by orvtrebor

Yes I know of the Zotac boxes, and the surfboard style versions from other manufactures as well.

They are all good products for what they are doing. I'm just happy to see Intel getting into this segment as well.

I personally have more faith in Intel's R&D when it comes to MOBO design and execution when compared to the other manufacturers. And I'm more than happy to pay a little more for it.

This isn't a perfect product but if they continue to push the form factor they will refine it to perfection. It's not that Intel is amazing, it's just that they have the money to throw into their projects.

And no I'm not an Intel fan boy. All of my systems at this time are AMD based, I'm even typing this from an ITX A8-3870k.

December 16, 2012 | 07:27 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Keep in mind that system you linked to is a MUCH lower performance configuration than this Intel NUC.

May 18, 2013 | 07:18 PM - Posted by Milan (not verified)

Fastidious answers in return of this issue with solid arguments and telling all about
that.

Also visit my website; ps3 jailbreak 4.41

March 8, 2013 | 02:27 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Agreed... the form factor is nice, especially with the VESA mount kit--but its really overpriced considering you still need to add RAM, HDD, and you dont get USB3 or FW. I could live with the lower-spec CPU if I could build a fully functional OS X compatible system for about half the price of a Mac Mini.

December 17, 2012 | 07:11 AM - Posted by br01 (not verified)

My guess is that this is the precurser to the (I Know what your doing mmmmaaa)lower nanometer technology that is being developed at Microsoft. That being the 14 Nm tech.
I maybe wrong but I doubt it. Infact it could or should be the the 14 Nm tech.

This would produce far less heat at the performance level of the current DX11 GPU cards with comparible tolerances in
CPU/GPU point of heat disapation.

December 21, 2012 | 11:58 PM - Posted by KingKong75 (not verified)

Why do they sell the power cord separately for 3$ ?
Are they nuts ?
Maybe they forgot it in the original package... Anyway, they are nuts.

December 22, 2012 | 12:01 AM - Posted by KingKong75 (not verified)

Oh, i have just understand.
The plug is different for european customers.
But sell separately is not the best solution.

December 26, 2012 | 03:45 PM - Posted by moose4computers (not verified)

NUC + external Thunderbolt connected PCI-E box with Virtu support and a GTX 680 might be a nice lan rig.

December 26, 2012 | 07:07 PM - Posted by justin150 (not verified)

I like this, but using the board with wired ethernet connection.

Ideal as a small home server, stick windows server 2012 on it. Perfect

January 16, 2013 | 02:40 AM - Posted by ChrisM (not verified)

Meh. Power up and go quad core Exynos boards available for $50, with all the interfaces you need.

No thanks Intel, this is another one that's going nowhere.

January 17, 2013 | 12:47 PM - Posted by RG (not verified)

Ryan,

The table/chart on page 1 of this review where it lists specifications says compatible with Linux (Fedora, Ubuntu.. etc). What is the source of this information?

Have you successfully installed Ubuntu on this system? If you did, how do you install drivers, BIOS updates etc.,?

I just ordered this BTW. I am hoping to install Ubuntu.

March 14, 2013 | 06:32 AM - Posted by Matt (not verified)

I agree with orvtrebor, and I'm glad that Intel is finally jumping into this segment. My main complaint with the Intel barebones is that plastic case seems a little chinsty. I wish they came standard with something more industrial looking, like this: http://www.logicsupply.com/products/ag960

May 15, 2013 | 07:16 PM - Posted by Felipe (not verified)

Hey Ryan, were you able to install Ubuntu in this machine? I'm interested in purchasing this only if Ubuntu works ok and it is happy with the integrated NIC. Thanks

November 9, 2013 | 09:05 PM - Posted by Wes Mahan (not verified)

When installing the wifi card does it matter which antenna wire goes to the main or AUX?
Thanks

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote><p><br>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.