What is a computer NUC

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A few years ago, Intel noticed that fewer and fewer people were as interested in buying desktop and tower PCs as they were during the roaring 90s. As sales continued to decline for the dinosaurs of modern computing, the company decided to mix the best of both worlds in a blender to see what came out on the other side, and their new line of NUC computers is the result of this experiment

But what is a "NUC" exactly? Confuse acronyms and ad-speak aside, are those little boxes so valuable that you should buy one yourself? Keep reading our guide to find out.

"What's the matter with NUC?"

A NUC, short for "Next Unit of Computing", is a small, box-shaped computer, often only a few inches wide or deep, with an entire system crammed into its tiny chassis. A home improvement dream, NUC computers are sold as barebones kits that users have to assemble themselves to get it working, much like an old-timey airplane model that is also capable of playing Starcraft at 60 fps.

Create a new custom PC without touching a screwdriver

The performance you can get out of a NUC depends heavily on the type of unit you choose, equipped with an Intel G3258 1.5GHz dual core and 1GB of RAM, up to an i7-5577u quad Core and 8 GB of RAM. In general, NUCs are pretty limited in the number of ports they can hold or the additional features they can support, but they are not nearly missed when you see that NUCs are priced to match.

Some older generation NUCs can be found on the doorstep for as little as $ 100, and will still give you all the umph you would expect from a laptop that costs three times as much. The higher-end new models can be customized up to $ 500 without a keyboard, monitor, or mouse (all the additions a NUC needs to achieve full functionality).

Because of their size, NUCs don't have an optical drive, nor are they preinstalled with a pre-installed version of Windows. This means you need to load a licensed copy of the operating system onto a flashable USB stick before receiving the NUC, or at least order an external DVD drive over USB to work with a disc.

As someone who's done the math out there has probably figured out by now, with all the extra parts added plus the cost of an operating system, a NUC can easily cost as much as how would you pay for a standard laptop or desktop? What is the real point of a NUC over a traditional desktop PC or laptop?

Power in portability

A NUC is great for a lot of reasons, but the one that trumps them all is the fact that it's just that small. Some NUCs are so thin and light that they literally fit in your pocket, but still have the same performance that you would expect from a 15 "or 17" laptop.

Intel isn't the only one seeing this is value too, as several other companies have started releasing their own versions of Mini PCs. Both Google's Chromeboxes and Apple's Mac Mini (which shaped the first NUC by about two years) are examples of small, portability-centric computers that can be used as plug-and-play media streamer or web browser on the go one of Intel's NUCs about the cheaper, easier to set up competition?

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For starters, NUC PCs are great if you're a road warrior who needs a powerful PC that they can pull with them when they need to power a large display at a trade show, or just add some extra weight to a regular laptop can't cope alone. Pound-for-pound NUCs offer better processors than what you could pay for in a laptop, because with the increased space and airflow that NUCs offer, Intel has been able to equip its NUCs with the full-fledged versions of their Intel Iris HD graphics chips don't skimp on power like their laptop colleagues do.

Not only that, the small systems can be a perfect fit if you want to set up a media center in the living room but don't want a noisy, overheated standard desktop tower that takes up all of the space in your entertainment center to get it running . NUCs fit perfectly into any TV without sacrificing the design of your home, and most even have adjustable VESA mounts that allow you to mount the NUC directly on the back of your TV. I expect to pay for a Mac Mini.

With the 4K streaming revolution just over the horizon, a NUC is a perfect investment for Xbox or PS4 owners who are still watching with bated breath whether their console is updated to handle the resolution anytime for the next few years . Most NUCs over $ 200 can stream Netflix in 4K resolution without stuttering, and even the lowest models have ports for hooking up the network devices you need for a dedicated media server that you can access from each mobile device or a separate desktop can access from.

Finally, NUCs can also make fantastic hobby kits for the aspiring computer scientist in your home, with tons of modular parts that can be swapped in or out of the system in one piece. All boxes are sold in barebones kits which can then be upgraded with different parts that you or your children can assemble. NUCs are quick, easy introductions to the basics of learning how computers work that can get everyone in your household to know more about which parts go where, and what drives the whole thing inside out.


As a consumer market continues to move into the world of mobile and wearable devices, it's nice to see that a company like Intel isn't afraid to adapt or roll with the strokes as they come. NUCs are undoubtedly a very specific product for a very specific type of customer, but nonetheless, they are still a fun addition to the market, giving users the opportunity to customize their computing experience from the ground up.

If you're looking to build a 4K streaming box or something that can run rudimentary games (think mostly 2D and some older 3D titles like Diablo III on the lowest settings), a NUC is a cheap and easy way to keep your PC Fill up the lineup without emptying your wallet at the checkout in the process. Otherwise, if all you want is a project computer that you and your kids can put together as a team, a NUC to start off with is a great weekend hobby that will let your imagination and interest in computers run out.

NUCs might not be for everyone, but they are still fun for some, and that's reason enough to give them a shot.

Image credits: Intel 1, 2, 3


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