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

Manufacturer: Intel

Intel Board Team Creates New Form Factor

In many ways the desktop computer needs to evolve.  Yes, I know that PC gaming is not only thriving and growing but for the majority of consumers the need to have a box in their office that measures 2' x 3' x 1', taking up leg room under the desk is...exaggerated.  Intel thinks they have a solution for this, a new form factor for a PC they are calling the NUC - Next Unit of Computing.

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By utilizing low power versions of the Intel Ivy Bridge mobile processors Intel has shrunk the desktop PC to a size even smaller than mini-ITX and hopes they can address various market segments with this new design.

Check out our video right here and continue on for the full written review!

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While the consumer that simply needs a basic computing box is definitely a target for Intel and its board division, they are hoping to hit the mainstream markets with interactive displays, digital signage, marketing, analytics and more.  And though the design we are looking at today has a very specific form factor, the low power boards themselves could easily be placed into nearly any industrial design.

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For a size reference, the Intel NUC is a 4-in x 4-in design that is noticeably smaller than even the mini-ITX form factor that is quickly becoming popular in the DIY markets.  The NUC does not have a removable processor though so what you buy is what you get with only a few components that are upgradeable. 

Continue reading our review of the Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) System!!

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Another potential use case for the NUC could be as a low power HTPC (home theater PC) that can connect to your TV via an HDMI connection, use wireless connectivity for data access and even support USB and Thunderbolt external devices for storage. 

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The initial wave of Intel Next Unit of Computing will be built around two platforms, the D33217GKE and the D33217CK that differ only in the connectivity options they offer.  While the Golden Lake board will include Gigabit networking and dual HDMI outputs, Campers Lake replaces one of the HDMI ports with a Thunderbolt connection and removes the Gigabit networking option. 

We'll be testing and reviewing the Box Canyon system based on the platform without hard wired Internet but with the Thunderbolt connection.  Let's get to it!

Inside the Box for the NUC

The NUC DC3217BY seems a bit odd at first since it is an Intel-branded barebones system; something you would normally only see from the company's partners. 

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The packaging is well done though and even includes a little surprise when you open the box, a light sensor and integrated speaker that plays the Intel chime.  Cute!

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In the box you'll find the NUC barebones unit, a VESA mount to attach the device to the back of a monitor or even to a wall, half of your power adapter and quick instructions. 

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Here is the full specification list for the motherboard and platform used in our NUC.  It includes the Core i3-3217U processor, QS77 chipset, two SODIMM slots for DDR3 memory, HDMI output, two mini PCIe slots and quite a bit more.  The big change between the two available options is with Thunderbolt - our unit includes while the second model replaces it with a Gigabit Ethernet connection. 

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The mounting bracket has VESA mounting capability to attach a NUC to the back of a TV or monitor for a truly seamless installation.  You could also use it to attach the NUC to a wall, table or anything else you don't mind putting some screws into.

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Ah, the power cord.  Notice above I said that inside the box was "half" of the power adapter; that's mostly true.  While Intel includes the power adapter, the actual power CABLE that goes from the wall to the adapter is left out and up to the user to purchase seperately.  Unfortunately, the adapter doesn't use a standard PC connection but instead a triangular C5 style power cable. 

While I understand Intel's desire to keep costs down and remove accessories from the box, I have a feeling quite a few users are just going to expect the cable in the box only to be disappointed when they finally get a NUC of their own. 

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Our DC3217BY came with a dark red finish with a plastic top and bottom.  On the front here you see one of the USB 2.0 ports (no 3.0 to be found on the NUC).

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Along the back are two more USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI output, Thunderbolt connection as well as the power input and laptop-style locking opening. 

Flip on over to the next page to see us rip the thing open!

Video News

December 14, 2012 | 12:24 PM - 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 | 12:40 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yes, it did.  

December 14, 2012 | 01:36 PM - 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 | 02:38 PM - 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 | 08:16 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

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

June 4, 2013 | 09:42 AM - Posted by Joann (not verified)

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December 14, 2012 | 08:54 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 | 10:44 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 | 01:24 PM - 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 | 09:04 PM - Posted by ToiT (not verified)

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

December 14, 2012 | 11:13 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Multiple displays without the need for DisplayPort.

December 14, 2012 | 10:11 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 | 11:18 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 | 10:48 PM - Posted by Devil 2 U

Could be an excellent client for digital signage systems.

December 15, 2012 | 01:30 AM - 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 15, 2012 | 01:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You're in the market for something like this, but much cheaper?
Then this is for you:

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 | 01:13 PM - 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 | 10:27 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 | 10:18 PM - Posted by Milan (not verified)

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March 8, 2013 | 05:27 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 | 10:11 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 22, 2012 | 02:58 AM - 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 | 03:01 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 | 06:45 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 | 10:07 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 | 05:40 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 | 03:47 PM - Posted by RG (not verified)


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 | 09:32 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:

May 15, 2013 | 10:16 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 10, 2013 | 12:05 AM - Posted by Wes Mahan (not verified)

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

May 20, 2015 | 11:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Does it have the ability to hook up a wireless remote control?

Anyone try it with Mythbuntu?

Will it fit a 2.5" internal HDD?

Can you install an internal Haugepauge PCIe dual-TV tuner and hook it up to an antenna?

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