Desktops are often large, cumbersome devices. However, many think this is a reasonable compromise for the extra efficiency they offer through a laptop or tablet device. In recent years, however, technology has advanced so that desktops can now fit in smaller spaces.
Intel has been a market leader in designing compact devices that offer almost the same performance as a larger installation. The company calls these the next unit of account (NUC).
Here’s everything you need to know about Intel NUC.
What is Intel NUC?
Before the laptop, desktops were huge objects that required separate space. They didn’t fit in the comfort of your home, and a powerful computer was expensive and awkward. However, laptops made computers portable. You are no longer chained to your desk if you needed to access your computer.
Combining the monitor and battery, while still keeping the device comfortable to carry, left little room for improved performance. This is despite the manufacture of electronics that complies with Moore’s Law. The law predicts that the cost of electronics will decrease, while complexity and capacity will increase.
Intel noted this and planned to create a small-scale PC that became known as the next computing unit. The first generation NUC was launched in 2013. The headless computer – one without an integrated display – was designed as a kit PC. The small, usually square-shaped enclosure had a motherboard, an integrated processor, and a power supply.
The remaining components must be purchased separately and the specifications are at your discretion. Intel also doesn’t include peripherals, so you might want to consider buying one of them the best wireless keyboard and mouse combos
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. The same goes for your computer’s storage and operating system.
Although you can select any hard disk suitable for NUC, the software is not included. So if you are going to install Windows 10, you need your own copy. However, you don’t have to use the assets for it because there are still them ways to get Windows 10 for free or cheap.
How does NUC work?
Unlike the Mac mini, which is also a headless computer, Intel NUC devices allow you to customize settings. Your Mac mini is preinstalled, so you can buy it only from Apple. However, NUC is more flexible and cost-effective. Depending on what you want to use it for, you can choose the maximum supported RAM or the minimum memory to access.
Likewise, other components are easily replaceable. If budget is a concern, you can use the lower breakdowns and then update over time as money becomes available. The Intel NUC configuration is in many ways between the Mac mini and the Raspberry Pi. However, NUC devices are more powerful and more expensive than their Raspberry Pi devices.
To maximize space-saving potential, each NUC has a VESA mount for attachment to the monitor or the back of the monitor. Due to the size requirement, NUC computers are often unable to incorporate their own graphics card, relying instead on integrated graphics. Back in early 2020, Intel released the first NUC support for a graphics card, the NUC 9 Extreme.
Uses for Intel NUC
Because NUCs are portable, flexible, and generally less expensive than traditional desktop computers, they are an ideal choice for office environments. To create a comfortable workspace, you need to minimize clutter, but still provide the right equipment. Due to their small size, they are also well suited for those who move frequently but generally prefer a desktop installation.
That said, you can too Install a bootable operating system on a USB stick
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, which would achieve a similar result. However, NUCs are much more efficient, especially if you choose the highest technical components. These devices are not the only compact computers available. However, they benefit from a design that integrates neatly with the included Intel processors.
For home users, NUCs make a complete home theater center. Together with software like Plex or Home, you can to Build a Great Media Center for Your PC |. When you can customize your device, you can add memory, connect peripherals, and select the connection and display settings you want if you need it to perform more complex functions.
Intel NUC options
The modular design of the NUC is relatively unique. However, Intel is not the only company to produce compact computers. As we mentioned earlier, Apple also offers an endless Mac PC, the Mac mini. Of course, this unit far exceeds the cost of the NUC and cannot be modified or upgraded yourself.
However, the preinstalled device is easy to install and is an inexpensive, space-saving alternative to a full-size iMac. There are also cheaper options. The Raspberry Pi is the most popular NUC option, but even the latest models can’t achieve the same performance as Intel devices.
Despite this, you can still Use Home to turn your Raspberry Pi into a home media center
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. If you need a reasonably efficient device, but want more flexibility, you can build a small computer with the Mini-ITX format factor.
The right compact computer for your needs
The Intel NUC series was among the first to offer a customizable, modular, upgradeable small computer. Mid-range devices offer a low-cost alternative to pre-installed accessories and allow you to upgrade your computer whenever it meets your needs. In other words, if you are researching NUCs for use as a home media center, they are not the only option.
Plex is one of the most flexible media center applications, allowing you to stream content to almost any device. However, there are hardware requirements if you want to host your own Plex server. So, be sure to check the best prefabricated DIY and NAS solutions for your Plex server
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before investing in Intel NUC.