Everyone needs a computer. It’s just the way the world works now. The thing about computers, though, particularly PCs, is that there’s a lot going on in there, hardware-wise. Most of the manufacturers can give you a small CPU, sure, but it’s still a chore finding a place to place it, or worse, getting it ready to move to another spot. Intel is changing that with the NUC kit. To put it as simply as possible, the Intel NUC is a whole CPU that’s smaller than most wireless routers. It’s distractingly small. Let’s take a look if it can get the job done.
There’s really not much to say about the NUC. It’s simple, and beautiful for being so. The device measures a scant 4.59 x 4.41 x 1.36 inches, and could easily be mistaken for an external hard drive. The top is finished in a shiny black finish, and is bare, save for a power button and HDD light, while the side appears to be a single piece of metal, peppered with ports. It’s designed to rest flat on a table, but should have no trouble being mounted behind or to the side of a TV or some other display, offering you an elegant solution to keeping visual clutter down.
Despite its size, the NUC Kit is a beast. While you do have to provide a few things yourself, it does come with an Intel Core i5 4250U processor running at 1.3GHz that can boost to 2.6GHz when needed, two slots for up to 16GB of DDR3L RAM, and a SATA port for connecting a hard drive. Our test unit came with 4GB of RAM, and an 80GB HDD. There is a bit of DIY involved, but nothing too complicated, and you’re likely going to be able to do it yourself, though the unit sent over by Intel was all ready to go. It also has Wi-Fi connectivity, just to keep things as tangle-free as possible.
On the outside of the device, you have four USB 3.0 ports; two each on the front and back, a LAN port, a miniHDMI port, and a headphone jack for analog output. It also comes with a Mini DisplayPort, should you want to connect another display.
Being a fourth-gen Intel processor, it comes with the beefy Intel HD Graphics 5000 integrated graphics solution, which, as you probably know, delivers high-quality video performance, up to and including some medium-level gaming, without the need for discrete graphics.
Setup is dead simple. Plug in the power brick, plug the device into a TV and hit “On.” You’ll need to plug a keyboard and mouse in for it to be usable, so if you’re going to be using this in conjunction with a TV, wireless might be the best way to go.
Once everything is ready, hit the switch, and everything is ready to go in about ten seconds or so, thanks to an optimized Bios that dramatically shortens boot times. It’s so nice to have a fast-booting device, particularly for the kind of applications this box is designed to handle.
User Experience: 4/5
I’ll say it up front. I honestly wasn’t expecting to be impressed by this device. It seemed like a vanilla little PC box that would barely perform the function for which it exists. I haven’t been this excited to be wrong.
It had me at first boot-up. It was so fast; I could totally see this as a TV-mounted option. Forget the smart TV sticks being sold in market; go full Windows 8 instead. You’ll have a lot less frustration later on. What’s most surprising about it is just how seamlessly Windows 8 the experience is. Apart from the tiny little box on your desk, there’s no way to tell you’re not running on a large, conventional tower.
Even with the rather basic configuration (4GB RAM, 70GB SSD), the little guy ran smoothly and seamlessly, multitasking like a champ, and even serving full HD video to a 32-inch TV that was serving as my monitor for the duration of the test.
Since it runs the Intel 4th Gen i5 processor, the NUC, with enough RAM and a decently-sized hard disk, should be capable of handling some mid-level gaming. You should even be able to run older graphics-intensive titles, such as the Crysis series and other games of that generation. We only had 4GB of RAM for the test, so we weren’t able to carry this out, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t handle it just fine.
This little box should retail for about PHP20,000. That is a great value proposition, given everything it can do. Sure, you could build a full0sized PC for that amount, but let’s see you mount that onto your TV for a device that can out-smart any other smart TV out there, or have the versatility to be used as a display device for business. It gives you a lot of bang for the buck, and if you’re serious about making the most of your TV, this box is going to be a great addition to your home, or a handy little workbox for the office.
Loads of power
Some DIY necessary
If you have a small desk, a small office, or want to put together a smart TV to end all smart TVs, this is your device.