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

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: Intel

Quick Performance Metrics

After getting the hardware in our Intel NUC we next installed the operating system - in this case we chose to use Windows 8 just because it has the best sleep/resume speeds of any Windows we have used to date.  I installed the OS through a home made USB flash drive and it all went off without a hitch.  Drivers for the wireless adapter were already configured and we went about getting the latest software for the HD 4000 graphics, audio, etc.  Pretty standard fare.

For our performance comparisons we knew it wasn't going to be a fair fight to see the NUC go up against the likes of the Core i7-3770K or anything so instead we have included benchmarks from a recent Ultrabook notebook review as well as from the Core i3-2105 Sandy Bridge processor - a CPU that you can still find for $129 on Newegg.  It is also a dual-core HyperThreaded CPU like the Core i3-3217U in our NUC.  The Core i5-3317U in our Ultrabook platform (actually a Lenovo X1) is also dual-core HyperThreaded and in fact the only difference is that the 3217U in the NUC does NOT have Turbo Boost technology - peaks at 1.8 GHz.  The 3317U starts at 1.7 GHz and can boost as high as 2.6 GHz when able. 

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CPU-Z shows the 1.8 GHz clock speed but the wrong processor name

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It's really not surprising to see the numbers on the NUC coming in last in our comparison but the SiSoft performance is still reasonable enough when going head to head with the Ultrabook. 

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In our x264 encoding test, which the NUC will be doing some of if you decided to use it as a HTPC of some kind, the 3217U is about 50-60% slower than the Core i3-2105 in both first and second passes. 

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We couldn't run 3DMark11 on the Core i3-2105 since it doesn't have support for later versions of DirectX but the mainstream gaming performance is at least DECENT.  Keep in mind that an AMD A10-5800K Trinity will score something around 1300 on the test, doubling the gaming performance of the Intel NUC.

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Storage performance on the Intel 520 SSD is FAST!  Our ATTO results show read speeds as high as 550 MB/s and write speeds as high as 510 MB/s taking advantage of the of the SATA 6G connection. 

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General usage of the system was quite impressive though including doing things like HD video playback.  In the screenshot above you can see we are playing back an H.264 MKV file through VLC without a problem - CPU utilization is at 14% and there was no stuttering or hiccups to be found.

 

I think it's pretty obvious that the Next Unit of Computing has enough capability to do many things but not everything.  The fact that your standard Ultrabook hardware is going to run a bit faster than the DC3217BY might scare off some potential buyers but I do think that for most users standard use cases the hardware will still impress.

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.

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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)

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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

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