Small Form Factor Intel NUC PCs coming in October for under $400

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2012 - 12:16 AM |
Tagged: ssd, small form factor, SFF, nuc, Ivy Bridge, Intel, htpc

Earlier this year, Intel showed off a small motherboard and processor combination that piqued the interest of many enthusiasts and attendees. The rather oddly named Next Unit of Computing (NUC) PC was originally intended to power digital signage, kiosks, and embedded systems (car PC anyone?). However, in response to the interest shown by enthusiasts, the x86 chip giant has decided to bring the super-small form factor computers to retail.  

The Next Unit of Computing PC’s main attraction is its small size: the motherboard is tiny, measuring a mere 4” x 4.” For reference, the mini-ITX standard is a 6.7” x 6.7” motherboard, and VIA’s Pico-ITX form factor boards measure 3.9” x 2.7.” In that respect, the NUC is not the smallest PC that you can build, but it will be the fastest – and by a significant margin thanks to the bundled Ivy Bridge CPU.

While i3 and i5 editions were allegedly designed, currently Intel is only bringing the i3 to the retail market. Specifically, the CPU powering the NUC will be an Intel Core i3-3217U Ivy Bridge processor, and it will be soldered onto the motherboard. That particular CPU is a 1.8GHz dual core/four thread part with 3MB cache, and Intel HD 4000 graphics (there is no Turbo Boost functionality). Not bad for a small form factor PC!

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Image credit: PC Pro.

The boards will have two SO-DIMM slots for RAM, an mSATA port for an SSD, and a mini-PCIe slot for a Wi-FI card. Intel is making two versions of the NUC motherboard that will differ only in IO. One motherboard will have 3 USB 2.0 ports, 1 HDMI output, and 1 Thunderbolt port. The other board will have 3 USB 2.0 ports, 2 HDMI outputs, and one Gigabit Ethernet jack. Intel believes that the Thunderbolt-equipped model will be more popular with consumers while the Gigabit-Ethernet and dual HDMI model will be used more by businesses.

Intel is reportedly sourcing several chassis designs for its custom form factor motherboard (there are at least two cases at present), and you will be able to build out a barebones system with one of the custom cases, integrated heatsink, and power supply. Additionally, when spec'ed out with the Intel i3-3217U CPU, 4GB of RAM, Wi-Fi card, and a 40GB Intel SSD, the company expects the entire NUC computer to cost around $399 in the US. The parts will be available for purchase in October, according to Engadget.

Hopefully, we will see OEMs take this form factor and make something cool with it. It's not clear which specific OEMs will be first to bring pre-built systems to market but they should be coming in the future.

Personally, I’m a big fan of small form factor computers, and despite the odd “NUC” name I’m excited to see where Intel takes this platform. If you were looking for a small but powerful computer to drive your next project, it might be worth keeping an eye on the NUC. What do you think of this sub $400, approximately 5” (with case) PC?

Read more about SFF and HTPC components at PC Perspective.

Source: Engadget

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September 16, 2012 | 03:51 AM - Posted by Patrick (not verified)

The form factor is very attractive but any idea what total power draw could be?

September 16, 2012 | 04:58 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

Hmm I'm not sure, though it should be fairly power efficient as it is running a mobile Core i3 and laptop components, for the most part..

September 16, 2012 | 07:44 AM - Posted by Freshie

Looks a lot like a roku. wouldnt mine that kind of power in the next roku, but $400 would be a big jump in their prices.


Thinking about this more. Its really like a mac mini and for $400 that good.

September 16, 2012 | 07:57 AM - Posted by orvtrebor

Really it's just an intel branded/version of the E series Amd boxes that have been on sale for a while now.

That being said I really like this trim, I moved my gear to ITX boxes last year, and if this form factor ever gets a shot in horsepower I'll jump on it as well.

Definitely would buy one of these for my mothers office.

September 16, 2012 | 12:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

keep the prices down!!!!

then smaller you wanna go with power the more $$$$$$ it costs *agh*

September 16, 2012 | 11:29 PM - Posted by Aussiebear (not verified)

I'll hold out for the Haswell version of this platform. Definitely perfect as a general PC solution for my parents, uncles/aunts, etc.

September 17, 2012 | 03:20 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Should good for educational institutes and other places where they need lots of PC without high power consumption associated with desktop CPUs. Also this tiny box will a very good HTPC.

September 18, 2012 | 07:10 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, this tiny box WILL a very good HTPC.

I hope I don't accidentally the whole thing.

September 17, 2012 | 04:02 AM - Posted by MrKing (not verified)

One of these in your car running Windows 8 could work really well considering how Windows 8 boots up.

October 12, 2012 | 04:49 PM - Posted by DOS76 (not verified)

That's exactly what I was thinking when I started researching this

September 17, 2012 | 04:47 AM - Posted by Tralalak (not verified)

Ad. "and VIA’s Pico-ITX form factor boards measure 3.9” x 2.7.” In that respect, the NUC is not the smallest PC that you can build, but it will be the fastest – and by a significant margin thanks to the bundled Ivy Bridge CPU"

YES of course Ivy Bridge CPU is fastest but competitive Platforms is sufficient efficient for this small PC segment.

VIA Announces First QuadCore Pico-ITX Board with 3D Display Capabilities
•• ZOTAC ZBOX nano Series ••
• Length: 5in - 127mm
• Width: 5in - 127mm
• Depth: 1.77in - 45mm
ZOTAC ZBOX nano VD01 (VIA Nano X2 U4025 1.2GHz + VIA VX900H MSP + VIA Chrome9 HD IGP) => ZOTAC ZBOX nano "VD02" (VIA QuadCore U4650 1.0+GHz + VIA VX11H MSP + VIA Chrome 645/640 DirectX 11 GPU)

September 17, 2012 | 05:24 AM - Posted by Justin 150 (not verified)

As an HTPC this is a compelling package. Personally I would like to see a version with slimline optical drive (maybe under the motherboard so as not to interfere with air flow) but I know not everyone will agree with me.

I do not see any space for a CIR module which is a bit of a design failure if going for HTPC market.

The crucial issue is likely to be noise. I have looked at the Zotac boxes and reviews have indicated noise is an issue there so it will be interesting to see if Intel does it better.

September 17, 2012 | 04:01 PM - Posted by deowll (not verified)

Need a sound out jack.

September 18, 2012 | 10:30 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Well, you can get audio out over HDMI, but I see what you're saying. In the video, just under the USB ports (on the board with 2xHDMI and GbE), is that a front panel audio header on the mobo? If so, maybe you could get audio out through that...

September 23, 2012 | 01:57 AM - Posted by jewie27 (not verified)

use an external usb sound card

September 17, 2012 | 06:16 PM - Posted by stefan (not verified)

This might be a naive question but why would they solder it in place?

September 18, 2012 | 04:40 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

I'm not really sure to be honest, but it some laptops do this as well.

September 19, 2012 | 12:51 PM - Posted by klatch

Like it but I'm disappointed that they aren't including ethernet on the consumer model. Not sure how accessible msata drives are in the USA but I don't see them floating around in Canada, not that I have really looked for them.

October 2, 2012 | 01:37 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well, October is news about availability. Gimme one now please!

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