back to article NUC NUC. Who's there? It's Intel, with a pint-sized 8-core Xeon workstation

Intel's Next Unit of Compute PCs debuted a few years back as a small form box that could hang on the back of a monitor using a VESA mount and screws. The machines were supposed to be easy to work on and fix, but were limited in terms of expansion capabilities and for some users, more power was needed. Enter the all new NUC …

  1. KorndogDev
    Linux

    Have some Mint instead!

    I meant Linux MintBox 3 of course!

    review

    shop

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have some Mint instead!

      That looks good. Does it only run linux though?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Have some Mint instead!

        It's a Mint branded CompuLab AirTop, so feel free to install whatever OS you prefer to run on PC hardware.

    2. TheProf Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Have some Mint instead!

      It's a money-saving alternative and no mistake.

    3. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Have some Mint instead!

      US$2,499 + VAT...that is a lot of money for a desktop.

      I mean it's well specced and gorgeous but, expensive.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: Have some Mint instead!

        That's around 5 times the amount I'll be spending on my next Linux desktop. I like the small aluminium air-cooled SSD boxes you can get from China via Amazon; my last one is still going strong after 5 years giving me confidence about the build quality.

        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eggsnow-Fanless-Desktop-Computer-2-5Ghz/dp/B07C61GF2F/ref=sr_1_10?dchild=1&keywords=eggsnow+fanless&qid=1588765625&sr=8-10

        1. KorndogDev

          Re: Have some Mint instead!

          Yeah, almost identical! No front display, though.

        2. Mike Flex

          Re: Have some Mint instead!

          Egg-snow or Eggs-now?

        3. Danny Boyd Bronze badge

          Re: Have some Mint instead!

          Eggsnow doesn't hold a candle against MintBox 3 Pro in reviewed configuration. i7 vs. i9, 16GB RAM vs. 32GB, 128GB SS D+1TB HDD vs. 1 TB NVME, Intel HD 520 vs. Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti, etc.

          No wonder it's 5 times cheaper.

      2. richardcox13

        Re: Have some Mint instead!

        > US$2,499 + VAT...that is a lot of money for a desktop.

        But not a huge amount for a workstation. Comparisons are with Dell Precision, Mac Pro and the like. (In this space a fully loaded up NUC Pro is low end.) Consider that price includes ~$1000 for a graphics card which will look pretty more if you want FPS for your FPS, but if you need maximum quality rendering then it is cheap.

        Specialist machine for those with high end requirements.

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Have some Mint instead!

      That looks interesting. It's faster than the reviewed NUC by a little bit on single thread and significantly so with all cores running. The MintBox is a bit larger (6.2 cm deeper, 1 cm wider, and 0.5 cm taller), but that's probably not a big deal for anyone. I only have one doubt about it, namely this from the specifications for the processor: "95W, fanless natural airflow cooling". The 95 W is only the CPU (and the Intel-quoted TDP at that, and this machine also has a relatively powerful GPU in it as well. I know they use the metal case as a massive surface for heat dissipation, but I wonder about overheating when under consistent and heavy load.

      I don't need that much power near at hand, as most compute-intensive things I might require can be offloaded to a remote server, but if I suddenly get a couple grand I can't use for anything else, this would be very tempting.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Have some Mint instead!

        According to the linked review, the MintBox's nVidia 1660 GPU overheated in Windows 10:

        "it was able to render the [iRacing] game with almost any in-game settings, but if you asked too much of it, the temperature could get close to 90C, at which stage the NVIDIA card would cut the signal to the HDMI port."

        Also:

        "I found that NVIDIA HDMI port to be sensitive to high frequencies also. It didn’t like pushing signals at 120 FPS. I don’t know if it’s a limitation of the GTX 1660 Ti, if it’s due to heat dissipation or if it’s a decision made by NVIDIA. In any case it only affects the HDMI port. The DisplayPort continues to work without any issues at these temperatures and at 120Hz."

        In conclusion:

        "My overall impression on the performance of the MintBox 3 is that it’s overpowered. It has so much power in there I’m not sure we’ll ever use it… and when asked to do things completely over the top (like playing a sim in VR with HDR and max settings) it bottlenecks on heat more so than on performance."

        So does the MintBox make a good workstation? From the sounds of it, no. An excellent compact desktop, yes. Sure. according to the review you can use DisplayPort to avoid shutdown of the video output, but that doesn't address the GPU temps a single bit - running an nVidia card over 90C for a significant length of time (from historical evidence) usually doesn't end well -_-

        We will have to await the results of tests on the NUC9VXQNX to see if it can stand up to the heat (pun intended) of a workstation workout.

    5. jonnycando

      Re: Have some Mint instead!

      I'd put some sort of Linux on one for sure....but small form factor to me means cheap and cheerful and while this one is certainly cheerful....it ain't cheap!

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Have some Mint instead!

        "small form factor to me means cheap and cheerful and while this one is certainly cheerful....it ain't cheap"

        Out of curiosity, why? Sure, you can get much more powerful if you get a large tower, but machines like the one that started this thread and the one reviewed in this article prove you can get really fast with small profile devices. Assuming issues like heat management aren't problems at that profile, and the reviews don't complain about it so it at least can't be overheating all the time, why should small profiles be limited to the lower end of the price and performance range? I think powerful and small devices have some interesting niches, including local servers and those who need more power portably than they can get in a laptop.

        1. Allan 1

          Re: Have some Mint instead!

          Apparently LTT did an in depth review of this model NUC, and specifically looked into the thermals, and in their opinion, they have done a really excellent job of managing thermals and dispersing the excess heat.

  2. Shadow Systems Silver badge
    Linux

    Clean up on aisle 5!

    *Copious geeky drooling*

    Bring a mop!

    <Homer Simpson>Me waaaaaants...</Homer>

    Fill it with the full 64Gb of RAM, slide in a pair of capacious NVMe drives, & a video card with a few Gb of VRAM, then give it a copy of *nix for that all powerful feeling of having "computational overkill" at your fingertips.

    Of course there's no such thing as overkill, only reboot & reload! =-)p

  3. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    We have a few NUCs at work (mainly in the various Video Conferencing suites we have installed). Quite nifty little machines. While they won't compete with a decent gaming machine or workstation for high end games, and other high end work, they *are* surprisingly powerful.

    Tempted to get one myself. My main PC is also acting as a file server, which is something that could easily be done on a less power-hungry machine. I want to wire up the house with Ethernet first though.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Have one (nuc6i5syk) in my TV cabinet, apart from crashes caused by overheating (I admit I was hitting CPU and GPU load heavily in one go and the fans were not ramping up to full speed in time) they are great little machines.

      I recommend adjusting cooling to have faster fan speed at lower temperatures to give it a chance if hit with both cpu and gpu load.

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        I've been running a D54250WYK in a fanless enclosure since 2013 as the only thing I "watch TV" on.

        No heat problems here.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          Personally I have found some fanless cases work really well, so that doesn't surprise me.

          I am using the standard nuc cases fan mounted behind the screen.

  4. Daveytay

    We have been using NUCs for a few years now as Papercut Print Servers. There is no existing server, domain, but they want report and follow-me. LPR shares, Windows 10, Papercut NUC in a rack, running headless. It just works and is in budget for a school with no budget. The hardware just works, so now have said this...

  5. Joe Drunk

    Awesome! Been looking to replace my HTPC with something very small form factor. I would also like to ditch Windows 10 because it is a hog - the only reason it exists on my HTPC is because of the built-in DLNA/Miracast support (must have features for me). Are there any Linux distros that support both of these?

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      Pi plus LibreElec solves the file server problem for 50 quid

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Unfortunately Kodi supports DNLA but doesn't support Miracast.

      1. Joe Drunk

        Yup - Have Kodi 18.3 on Win 10 and also had it on Lubuntu. Wouldn't be an HTPC without Kodi. I couldn't find Miracast support in Linux by searching the web - I was hoping some die-hard penguinistas knew something search engines didn't.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          I run my Kodi frontend on Amazon FireTV 4k stick. Talks to tvheadend running on a linux machine in a closet, with fileshares over NFS for "other content". Works pretty good.

      2. Lotaresco Silver badge

        ""Unfortunately Kodi supports DNLA but doesn't support Miracast."

        Unfortunately Kodi doesn't support DLNA particularly well. It always feels awful using it and if you ask for support with DLNA issues there tends to be quite a bit of abuse from the Kodi enthusiasts. It works much better from a SMB share but then it requires every video file to be named in accordance with the developers' beliefs about how files should be named, which is a bit tedious if you have a large video collection. When it works I really like Kodi, but given what a pain it can be to set everything up I tend to ignore the Kodi box and use the much less attractive but functional Humax video player on my STB. YMMV.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          You can sometimes get away with using Yatse or Kore Android apps instead of DLNA get Kodi to play e.g. YouTube or videos from the NAS. There's also a cast to Kodi plugin for Firefox.

          As for Miracast, my TV does it, so I turn it on when I need it and use that instead of Kodi. As Miracast uses WiFi Direct the TV doesn't need to be on the LAN (which it never has been and never will be).

          1. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

            Universal Media Server?

            I've used UMS to stream to a Samsung TV. It was not set right, the TV supports everything through H.265 4K 12-bit, and UMS wanted to re-encode everything above like MPEG4, but worked once I persuaded it not to do that. Don't think it supports Miracast either though...

        2. Joe Drunk

          Unfortunately Kodi doesn't support DLNA particularly well.

          Works fine here on Kodi 18.3 - I can watch videos and stream music from my DLNA server just as easily as from local storage. I can certainly agree with you on one thing - setting up Kodi is a PITA especially for DLNA, Netflix plugins etc. Takes a LOT of tinkering. I make frequent backups. Yes, the Kodi forums can be a free for all, I mostly search engine first before I hit their forums.

          One of my TVs has DLNA and both of my Samsung Bluray boxes have it. The TV I have my HTPC connected to is dumb so the easiest way to add DLNA was an HTPC with Win 10.

          I prefer Miracast because it mirrors the screen and there are no additional apps to install. People want to show me videos or pics they took on their Android phone when they came over before Covid-19. The easiest way to put it on the big screen was Miracast, no additional anything to install or new app for them to figure how to use/cast.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How noisy is it?

    The PSU fan is rather small - is it one of those fast-spinning ones that ramp up like a jet engine just out of earshot?

    1. Stuart Burns

      Re: How noisy is it?

      Hi,

      Sorry, I missed that out in rhe review. During day to day work its silent. Doing compiling or rendering it does get a bit noisy but its still a whisper and you could have a conversation in hushed tones and have no problem.

      Regards

      Stuart

  7. Raithmir

    Pretty beefy CPU for such a small case, upto 64GB memory, a couple of NVMe slots, this could be a great little home server for me.... sees price. THEY WANT HOW MUCH?!

    Looks like it's back to looking at HPE Microservers.

  8. Lotaresco Silver badge

    I'd quite like one but...

    There are equally well specced refurbished MacPro's available with 128GB RAM and 2TB SSD for around £1800. So much as it would pain me to pay the Apple Tax at one step removed I have to say I'd probably save my £600 and enjoy the extra RAM.

  9. conscience
    FAIL

    That price is ridiculous, for that sort of money you could have a far superior AMD build instead. Plus in a box that small with a power hungry Intel chip there are bound to be some significant heat problems, especially if the plan is to add a beefy GPU as well.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ew those better not be hops. Don't ruin beer for me by association with intel :(

  11. Korev Silver badge
    Linux

    For those of a Linux persuasion, it works as expected.

    I don't actually know if that means it works or doesn't. Although things have got a lot better, there is still an annoying amount of hardware out there that isn't supported or doesn't work on Linux.

    I speak an HPC guy and former Linux admin and I've failed to get Linux running on a few desktops over the years before I get downvoted to hell :)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In 2003 my friend's son going to university chose a Dell 5150 laptop to give him some gaming power. The total came to near enough £2,500 - actual not inflation corrected.

    My Apple ][ in 1979 - with a 5.25 floppy but only B&W graphics - cost £1,800 - again actual not inflation corrected.

    $2,499 + vat for the power of this NUC sounds like a bargain.

    1. conscience

      Computers, like any new technology, cost far more back in the day and the prices always fall dramatically over time so you can't really compare 1979 prices to 2003 prices as evidence of a 'good deal' in 2020. You need to compare it with another 2020 option to judge value. In doing so, this NUC does cost too much compared to the alternatives: including VAT, the base unit is £1,680 (or £2,880 with graphics card), so I think AMD would still be the better option.

      An AMD system would offer a cheaper price and likely come with better specifications too (depending on the hardware selected), as well as generating less heat and using less electricity on computation as well as cooling. It'd probably be more repairable too.

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