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Intel’s Unit of Computing is not just another cute little nettop-like computer, like dozens of others out there. Intel’s new miniature system stands out at least due to two unique distinguishing features. On the one hand, it is exceptionally tiny, and could clearly be one of the most compact systems existing today. On the other hand, it is quite powerful, because it uses a Core i3 processor. No doubt, Intel NUC offers the maximum performance per case size units, which none other mass production or DIY solutions can match.

However, is the ratio between performance and size really that important? This is one thing we are not so certain about. Of course, miniaturization is great for a desktop, too, to a certain extent. It will save you valuable desk space or will allow to hide the system behind the monitor altogether. However, making the system case even smaller than a thin Mini-ITX form-factor, may seem like a little too much. The new form-factor Intel engineers introduced in their new NUC systems, doesn’t unveil any principally new usage models for this computer system. Yes, it does give you that “wow” moment when you compare it side by side with other desktop systems, but that’s about it.

However, Intel NUC being so tiny does have its negative consequences. It lacks peripheral connectivity (no audio outs and only three USB 2.0 ports), requires a processor with 17 W TDP, which has relatively low performance compared against standard desktop CPUs. In other words, we could only consider Intel NUC a suitable replacement to a desktop PC with a number of allowances.

So, why the Next Unit of Computing? There must be a very good reason to give a new product a powerful name like that. Most likely NUC represents the systems of the future not in the performance aspect or infrastructural fit, but mostly in the principles of its internal organization. Remember the news we have been reporting about Intel focusing on mobile processors for the desktop segment, or Intel giving up processors installed into sockets… All this was about NUC! So, it is quite possible that the system discussed in this review is a concept intended to show the users what type of desktops the microprocessor giant envisions for the future. Watch and be prepared!

And today Intel NUC DC3217IYE system should probably be called an ultratop (similar to a nettop) – a desktop relative of an ultrabook. In this case everything will make perfect sense: miniature size, few external ports, performance compared to a fully-functional desktop and a nettop, relatively high price of about $300 (without the memory and SSD). Therefore, it isn’t surprising that NUC sales will probably face the same challenges as ultrabooks did in the very beginning. They will hardly become mainstream right from the start. But do not forget: Intel NUC is the very first member of generation Next.

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