Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) review

Intel produces a Core i3-based computer you can hold in the palm of your hand. But the pint-sized wonder needs to be self-assembled and is going to cost you...

Manageability

As Intel has decided to forgo optical drives altogether, system administrators will need to load the operating system via the USB socket. We opted to use a USB DVD drive though seasoned administrators can make use of bootable USB disks, and even though Intel has stuck with USB 2 on the NUC, a standard Windows installation did not take noticeably longer compared to when using a standard DVD.

Intel's software support is good with the firm offering all the relevant drivers from two downloads on its website. Microsoft's Windows 7 and Windows 8 is supported as is the Ubuntu Linux distribution meaning most users are catered for.

For businesses thinking of replacing a fleet of oversized desktops with Intel's NUC, the firm has included a small subset of its management technologies. Intel's NUC has anti-theft technology and its Management Engine but AMT and vPro technologies are missing. Hardware security comes in the form of a Kensington lock on the device.

Is it worth buying?

What Intel has done with the NUC is shown just how much can be done with a lowly 1.8GHz dual-core Core i3 processor. The problem for Intel is that you can buy a similar processor, motherboard and case for less than the price of a NUC. Plus, Intel's decision to omit an Ethernet socket, USB 3 sockets and limited management leave us scratching our heads.

Furthermore, you won't be able to upgrade the Core i3 processor and the limited connectivity options will mean firms have to consider whether downsizing their desktop to a NUC is better than replacing it altogether with a laptop.

Whilst firms will like the ability to anchor the NUC to a desk, we can't see many firms investing in it at present especially as the price quickly escalates when you factor in the cost of RAM, SSD and Wi-Fi adapters. Our review system came to a total of 400, but the price will be variable depending on which components you choose.

Unless Intel or its motherboard partners can reduce the price of the NUC and products based off it, many firms will continue to invest in laptops/tablets as they offers added portability, similar specifications and a screen.

Verdict

Intel's NUC is a great showcase of just how much compute power the firm can now pack in a device that is smaller than a lunch box, however until it slashes the price by 25 per cent or some of its motherboard partners come out with cheaper devices then it most businesses will have to stick with microATX machines if they want small, affordable computers.

Barebone system with CPU, cooling, case and power adapter supplied CPU: Intel Core i3 3127U (dual-core 64-bit running at 1.8GHz) GPU: Intel HD Graphics 4000 (integrated into CPU) RAM: 2x SO-DIMM slots supporting dual-channel DDR3 1,600MHz Expansion slots: 2 mini PCI-Express (1 full length, 1 half-length) External connectivity: 3x USB 2 ports, 1x Thunderbolt port, 1x Kensington Lock Dimensions (including case): 4.59in x 4.41in x 1.50in 65W external power adapter

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