Intel Board Team Creates New Form Factor

Intel recently released the NUC, Next Unit of Computing, a small-form factor PC based on notebook-level parts.

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.

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!

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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!

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

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).

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!

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