Intel tasked its engineers with building the absolute smallest fully featured compute unit possible. The result is something Intel markets as the Next Unit of Computing. This isn't a standard form factor (yet), but it's fully featured. The 4" x 4" motherboard features an integrated Core i3 with 7-series chipset, mini-PCIe slot, mSATA slot, two SO-DIMM slots and three USB ports. Power is supplied by an external AC/DC adapter, but there's also a small 2-pin header for an optional internal power supply. There's also an ethernet jack and two HDMI outputs.

Since the NUC isn't yet a standard form factor, Intel had to work with a chassis vendor in putting together a reference platform. The result is this:

Later this year you'll be able to buy this chassis, power supply and Core i3 equipped motherboard for around $399. That price won't include an OS but it will include a smallish mSATA SSD. 

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  • maglito - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Because that's all 95% of users need. With a 40-60GB drive for win7/8 ultimate HTPC (with all content streaming from NAS). Heck, forget HTPC, the possibilities are endless. Awesome, and about time!
  • Captain Jackass - Friday, September 21, 2012 - link

    "Ultimate HTPC" must do few more things:

    1. Custom refresh rates with small step, like in nVidia drivers/cards
    2. Upsample any source to minimum 1080p60 with Smooth Video Pack 3.1.

    So, for ultimate HTPC we go to mini-ITX 1155 boad with clocked at 4.0-4.5 Ivy with graphics not worse than GTS520 or other VP5 engine based. But GTS 520 has low shaders power for something else like madVR of Smooth Video Pack.

    "Ultimate HTPC" will not fit to 4x4 inch area with 22 nm silicon process just from thermal reasons.
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I wonder how it is cooled. On the bottom there seem to be 2 chips with thermal tape on them. So do they connect to the chassis and are cooled like that? Does the chassis have any airflow?
    Other than that, interesting stuff. I would hope the mPCIe slot is populated by an Intel wifi card (not sure what else could be stuck in there) and the mSATA is a beefy model. I could see niches for this thing.
    Though for my usage model it doesn't fit and I wouldn't recommend it to my family and friends because the size won't matter that much to them and I could probably get a notebook with similar performance for that price and it would offer more for them overall. :)

    Going off a tangent here: Back in the days of high-idle PC systems (Q6600 with a beefy GPU) I was briefly thinking about sticking an Atom-ITX board inside my chassis to get good idle numbers for when I'm doing just music/video or web stuff, while retaining a single chassis. Of course this isn't that time anymore. :D
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Looking at the case, I think the chips are the top, and the io ports the bottom of the board. Some of the pictures show what looks like a heat sink behind the vent mesh. I'm skeptical about passively cooling even a a mobile I3 with that small of a sink; and suspect that there's some sort of fan hiding inside.
  • Metaluna - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I agree. From the position of the ports, it looks like the board is flipped upside down, with the CPU facing the top of the case. I think it would be nearly impossible to cool it passively like that. My guess is there's a thin horizontal blower like you see on laptops. Maybe one of the mesh ports is an intake and the other an exhaust, since I can't see any other vents on the case.

    Except for the price, this would make a killer XBMC box. To be truly interesting it does need to up the performance bar to well above Atom/E350 levels though.
  • shomizu9 - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    If we look at the 2nd picture, the cpu has 3 mounts around it; then look at the 5th picture, with the vent ports at the "top" (relative to the picture anyway) of the case, where you would be looking "in" at what we saw in the 2nd picture - I would guess a fan/heatsink of some kind on those 3 mounts, blowing out these ports
  • mforce - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    Indeed , I think the most interesting thing is how will this be cooled. If there's a small noisy fan somewhere it's useless.
    This would probably need to use 10W at most to have some decent passive cooling and I'm not sure that it uses so little.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    At 102x102mm it's roughly halfway between NanoITX (120x120) and PicoITX (100x72).

    I suppose hyping it this way lets Intel Marketing avoid admitting they still can't squeeze a board as compactly as Centaur has for the last 5 years.
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    True... but I'd take an i3 over a centaur any day :-)
  • mforce - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - link

    I think there's actually 2 things here.

    First and most important is why use some standard or something that's out there when you can make your own. This is very popular with companie... imagine users being able to buy a NanoITX case and then being able to choose where to get this Intel thingy, an AMD one or the cheaper Via one... now that's a big no-no. Maybe other manufacturers will adopt Intel's form factor but it will take some time and Intel can have it they way they want it.
    Second is that I think that while the PicoITX form factor does exist it's really not quite usable and to get anything our of it you need addon cards and such. I suppose there's a physical limit give by IO ports and stuff.

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