Introduction

The Intel NUC category has been an interesting product line to analyze, as it provides us with insights into where the traditional casual / home use desktop market might end up. Officially falling under Ultra-Compact Form Factor PCs (UCFF), units in this category take miniaturization to the extreme by even making 2.5" drives unnecessary. Last year, we reviewed Intel's first NUC. Fast forward to the present, and we have the Haswell-based NUC already in the market. How does Haswell improve upon the original NUC? Before going into that, a little bit of history is in order.

The ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) for PCs was originally championed by VIA Technologies with their nano-ITX (12cm x 12cm) and pico-ITX (10cm x 7.2cm) boards. Zotac was one of the first to design a custom UCFF motherboard (sized between nano-ITX and pico-ITX) for the ZBOX nano XS AD11 based on AMD Brazos. The motherboard was approximately 10cm x 10cm. Intel made this motherboard size a 'standard' with the introduction of the Intel NUC boards in May 2012. The first generation Intel NUCs were both launched with Core i3 17W TDP CPUs. While one model had a GbE port, the other traded it for a Thunderbolt port.

The Haswell NUCs come in two varieties too, but Intel has opted for a more conventional configuration this time around (particularly due to the slow uptake in Thunderbolt adoption in the target market). The following table provides a quick look at the specification of the two Haswell NUCs, with our review configuration highlighted. The WYB suffix refers to the board alone, while the WYK suffix refers to the kit with the chassis. The WYKH increases the dimensions of the chassis to support a 2.5" HDD / SSD in addition to the mSATA drive.

Intel's Haswell NUC Kits Comparison
  D34010WYK D54250WYK
CPU Intel Core i3-4010U Intel Core i5-4250U
Chipset Integrated PCH Integrated PCH
RAM 2 x DDR3 SO-DIMM slots 2 x DDR3 SO-DIMM slots
Display Outputs 1x mini-HDMI 1.4a, 1x mini-DP 1.2 1x mini-HDMI 1.4a, 1x mini-DP 1.2
USB 4 x USB 3.0 4 x USB 3.0
Gigabit Ethernet Y Y
mini PCIe (half-height) 1 1
mini PCIe (full-height, mSATA support) 1 1
Power Supply External 19V DC External 19V DC
Suggested Pricing $285 - $295 $363 - $373

The layout of the board is specified in the diagram below. The integration of the PCH into the processor is one of the advantages of the Haswell NUC compared to the Ivy Bridge NUCs (which used a QS77-Express chipset).

For such a small motherboard, the unit does pack quite a punch. The choice of the WLAN card as well as the mSATA disk is left to the system builder. This is in contrast to the Gigabyte BRIX, where consumers are advised not to remove the supplied WLAN card. The extra degree of freedom will definitely be appreciated in some circles. The default chassis provided by Intel employs active cooling and has a height of only 1.4 inches. This rules out the possibility of cramming in a 2.5" drive into the enclosure of the WYK, even though the motherboard provides SATA ports. The WYKH models alter the chassis dimensions to take advantage of the on-board port.

In the remainder of the review, we will look into our choice of components for completing the NUC build, some notes on the motherboard design, performance metrics / benchmarks, HTPC aspects and round up the review with some coverage of miscellaneous aspects such as power consumption and thermal performance.

Hardware and Setup Impressions
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  • RealNinja - Friday, January 03, 2014 - link

    Maybe not the most exciting computer around, but...would probably be more than sufficient for > 90% of office work-loads (email, word processing, spreadsheets, etc) Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, January 03, 2014 - link

    I actually have one of the first gen NUCs with the Core i3. My wife uses it in her home office and it works perfectly for what you mentioned. I have 2 1080p monitors hooked up to it via the HDMI ports. Reply
  • nevertell - Friday, January 03, 2014 - link

    Intel is basically trying to miss every single possibility to increase thunderbolt adoption by not including it on all of their NUC's. Reply
  • darwinosx - Saturday, January 04, 2014 - link

    Yeah what the hell Intel...they sure are screwing up thunderbolt and TB 2 is great. Reply
  • ddriver - Saturday, January 04, 2014 - link

    Even a puny ARM SOC at 1/5 of the price of this product can handle 90% of the computing needs of the general population - messaging, browsing, media consumption and casual gaming. Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Saturday, January 04, 2014 - link

    I am sorry, but I could not disagree more. Your evaluation is probably based upon your mobile web experience on your smartphone. Most "normal" websites, the kind that you like to visit when you are siting behind a desktop, feel very slow on our Atom based pc (1.8 Ghz N2800) and reading some PDFs with some pictures is pure horror. And do not even try to print a word document with 20 pages ... that takes minutes. You would be surprised how fast you miss the high single threaded performance of modern CPUs. Reply
  • thexile - Saturday, January 04, 2014 - link

    Double negative. So you actually agreeing with ddriver. Reply
  • skifiddle - Saturday, January 04, 2014 - link

    Not goes with more, more than with disagree. Reply
  • wperry - Saturday, January 04, 2014 - link

    Step 1) Make sure you're right
    Step 2) Be a smartass

    You neglected Step 1.
    Reply
  • bji - Sunday, January 05, 2014 - link

    I can't believe that people actually argue about such ridiculously stupid things.

    "I could not disagree more" means that I am already disagreeing the maximum amount possible -- if I could disagree more, I would; but I can't because I already disagree as much as possible. Get it?
    Reply

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