Intel Pushes Broadwell to the Next Unit of Computing

Intel showed us its updated NUC based on Broadwell at CES and we finally have our review ready for you!

Intel continues to invest a significant amount of money into this small form factor product dubbed the Next Unit of Computing, or NUC. When it was initially released in December of 2012, the NUC was built as an evolutionary step of the desktop PC, part of a move for Intel to find new and unique form factors that its processors can exist in. With a 4" x 4" motherboard design the NUC is certainly a differentiating design and several of Intel's partners have adopted it for products of their: Gigabyte's BRIX line being the most relevant. 

But Intel's development team continues to push the NUC platform forward and today we are evaluating the most recent iteration. The Intel NUC5i5RYK is based on the latest 14nm Broadwell processor and offers improved CPU performance, a higher speed GPU and lower power consumption. All of this is packed into a smaller package than any previous NUC on the market and the result is both impressive and totally expected.

A Walk Around the NUC

To most poeple the latest Intel NUC will look very similar to the previous models based on Ivy Bridge and Haswell. You'd be right of course – the fundamental design is unchanged. But Intel continues to push forward in small ways, nipping and tucking away. But the NUC is still just a box. An incredibly small one with a lot of hardware crammed into it, but a box none the less.

While I can appreciate the details including the black and silver colors and rounded edges, I think that Intel needs to find a way to add some more excitement into the NUC product line going forward. Admittedly, it is hard to inovate in that directions with a focus on size and compression.

On the front of the new Broadwell based NUC you'll find a pair of USB 3.0 ports, one of which (in yellow) supports fast USB charging for your phone or tablet. A single 3.5mm port for headphones/microphone connections keeps the face clean and simple.

The plastic top of the NUC defaults to a piano-black finish with the power button (with embedded power light) and storage access light is removable, one of the few changes to the chassis design. In theory you would be able to remove the lid and replace it with a multi-colored replacement or maybe use an NFC-enabled cover similar to what we saw on the Gigabyte BRIX with Broadwell a couple of weeks back. 

Around the back we find the power input, mini-DisplayPort and mini-HDMI connections for external displays, a Gigabit Ethernet connection and two more USB 3.0 ports for a total of four. The mini-HDMI connection is recessed in the body again, a trait that was accidental in last year's design and questionable in this one; I honestly would have liked to see a full-size HDMI connection to remove complication of new cables or adapters. 

In fear of your NUC being stolen off your desk? Then you can appreciate the Kensington lock connection along the side.

The Intel NUC 5i5RYK is small – small enough that you could be forgiven for mistaking the computer for the power adapter, both of which are near the same size! 

Intel has included a 65 watt power adapter though you will likely not see power consumption near that level. The cord attached is 10 feet long so you shouldn't have to worry about getting any kind of extensions. I know that some consumers hate these style of power adaters that plug directly into the outlet, but it is thin enough that it does not interfere with other standard plugs!

It's hard to talk about the NUC without gushing about the size of it – it really is incredible to hold and use in person. Technically it all makes perfect sense – I have seen plenty of Ultrabook motherboards and designs, and compressing that into the 4" x 4" block is reasonable. But…just look at it. This size allows the NUC to be placed in locations you might not have otherwise considered: the back of TVs or monitors, discretely in a home theater setup, in a drawer, etc.

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