back to article You'll [BZZ] like Intel’s [BZZ] NUC 13 Pro once the fan [BZZ] stops blowing

Intel has delivered a fine mini-PC in the form of the NUC 13 Pro – but missed a trick to make a great one. We've just spent a week on the machine and in many regards it's just another PC, albeit a very small one at just 117 x 112 x 54mm. The 13th Gen Intel Core i7-1360P powering the machine is pleasingly muscular. It crunched …

  1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Not a fan of fans

    The small box restricts the airflow and the low mass limits the heat sink. Put a performance CPU in that situation and the choices are waste the money you spent on that performance by keeping the clock speed low or add a big noisy fan. Back when CPU performance mattered I used an over sized box full of holes, a large heat sink and no fans. These days I select the CPU near me for low power consumption and if I need performance I will ssh into something big enough and far enough away that I cannot hear it.

    The use case for a box like this is unusual. Perhaps if you have a cube farm packed with employees slaving away at tasks that require lots of compute and you want the excessive fan noise so they cannot waste time chatting with each other...

    1. Sampler

      Re: Not a fan of fans

      Definitely feels like it's an issue for getting the higher end chip in it, I have a five series i5 (iirc, it's at home under the telly so can't check right now) and it's quite as. Originally got it for work to drive a large 4k display and when the company was bought out it found its way under my tv where it's happily sat for the years since, the logitech keyboard with a built in touchpad makes it a perfect little htpc as it's whisper quite and smaller (in footprint) than the USB blu-ray drive plugged in to it.

      Have contemplated upgrading it, one issue with it being a five series (or however old it is) is it lacks the UHD blu-ray security on the chip, so a newer model would let me watch the two discs I have, but given how much chromecasts have moved on, the need of a htpc is starting to decline too, especially as mobile phones have improved enough to browse the web without having to break out a desktop means I don't need el'reg projected at a hundred inch..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a fan of fans


      Since moving to an M1 Macbook Pro, I've never heard the fans come on. With the old i7 version the fans would come on as soon as I start to render a video. Now? silence.

      In normal use, I can work all day and not have to worry about plugging in a power supply.

      I had an i5 NUC and the fans would come on even with it idling. Moved to an AMD powered device and silence.

      IMHO, Intel are trying to do a No 1 while facing into a force 10 gale.

  2. lglethal Silver badge

    Interesting idea...

    The thought of carrying a small little box, about 1/6 the size of my laptop, back and forth to work, but which is my entire computer and just needs to be plugged into a screen in the office or at home, is very interesting! Small, light, durable, you could chuck it into a normal backpack, and not worry at all. That would be terrific!

    The fan noise though. *shakes head* Make it 10mm bigger, and have a bigger heat sink, or allow better airflow. Anything to make it quiet. An extra 10mm is not going to change someone's purchasing decision. "I'm sorry it's 125mm long, no, no, no that's way to big! I wont take anything over 120mm!" was said by no one anywhere... But loud? No-one wants to work with a jet engine on their desk. Even more so, when it's an intermittent jet engine!

    You have to wonder who's writing the requirement specification for these devices, and if they ever bother to use the items there creating the specs for?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Americans can't hear fans.

      Almost every hardware design from large parts of the US have loud fans, and the designers are always really surprised when people complain.

      I believe it's because they're continously surrounded by aircon blowers for both cooling and heating, so genuinely cannot hear fan noise.

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

        Re: Americans can't hear fans.

        'Murican here, heck yeah.

        My personal tower at my right knee runs Folding@Home 24/7 (Go team Folding Vultures!), CPU at 100% and nVidia GPU at 25%, and has its fan running constantly. But I also have low-level tinnitus and they compete which one appears louder, but I can always hear both and just tune them out (light music helps). Plus, without any music, I welcome the steady "noise" that partially (sometimes completely) covers any other work-at-home noises like the HVAC, fridge, and most noise from outside save for the slammed doors of my neighbors' (both of them) pickup trucks.

        The work laptop on the desk barely makes a sound, but I rarely do the intensive stuff like Matlab/Simulink or AutoCAD. But when it blows, the exhaust is HOT -- no putting certain snacks (chocolate) on the left side and keep the cold drinks 6 inches (15 cm) away in an insulated flask.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Americans can't hear fans.

          Tinnitus helps. It masks the fans & vice versa.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Americans can't hear fans.

            Loud noises makes my Tinnitus worse.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Americans can't hear fans.

              Mine's worse when it's quiet althougt it would have been the noise of working in mills in the school holidays that caused it.

              I suppose it varies.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Interesting idea...

      Yes, I've often thought about using a mini-PC instead of a laptop. I'm either in the office (44" screen) or in home-office (44" screen) and don't need a laptop as such, so a small, compact & lightweight device I can take with me would be useful. But the fan noise is the problem.

      I was thinking of a "puck" PC back in the early to mid 2000s. It contained processing & storage and you connected it to a dock in the office, or slotted it into a mobile screen & keyboard on the move, to make it a laptop, maybe wirelessly to a small handheld screen to be a mobile phone, although the puck would need to be bigger to allow for a battery.

      My previous desktop was a mid-sized tower & with AMD Ryzen 1700, nVidiai Geforce 1060ti graphics card and case fans, it was still fairly quiet - the major irritation was the internal hard drive spinning up every hour to perform a backup of the SSD. I now use a Mac mini, which is totally silent and have a MacBook Air as a backup laptop at work, my primary still being my ThinkPad and I'm becoming more and more intollerant of the fan noise of the ThinkPad, compared to the utter silence of the MacBook Air.

      1. the hatter

        Re: Interesting idea...

        "the puck would need to be bigger to allow for a battery." - not so much, these days. With the advent of both USB-C power, and more accessibility to lithium cells in general, it may be that for occasional use you just hook it up to the USB power bank that you carry anyway/carry when it might be needed. Whether that's just dangling from a cable, or some custom clip-on pack to the puck, that happens to also have USB-C ports to use as a regular power bank other times,

        For me, someone who's always owned big power banks, for a day of playing demanding AR games, it's been curious to see those larger units now being touted as a solution to someone's chromebook/ultrabook/etc needing a top-up without tethering themself to a wall socket.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Interesting idea...

      "Even more so, when it's an intermittent jet engine!"

      Back in the days of Pentium 4 and earlier, when most PC cooling fans had no speed control, few people complained about the constant noise. Once speed controlled fans became popular and some even turn off completely when not required, the complaints from users started as soon as a fan got anywhere near full speed and especially when the loading on the CPU was at the threshold of the speed up such that, as per the one in the article, it kept speeding up and slowing down. The human brain is very good at shutting out and ignoring a constant sound, but very poor at ignoring randomly changing sounds.

      1. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Interesting idea...

        Since we got our Apple Cube we have both been quite intolerant of too much fan noise.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Interesting idea...

      "Small, light, durable, you could chuck it into a normal backpack, and not worry at all."

      A Raspberry Pi would do that if you could get hold of one.

      But if the concern is something light to carry but relying on plugging it in at home and office why carry a computer at all. You could just carry data on a portable drive. If you're also concerned about having a PC configured to your exact software requirements, perhaps a bootable drive would do.

    5. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Interesting idea...

      I would strongly advise against moving a desktop machine twice a day.

      One place I worked at used mini PC's from Lenovo and had their staff do this if they wanted to work from home so basically most machines were taken away from the office most evenings and returned again in the morning.

      The failure rate was so high around the connectors (especially the VGA - and it wasn't even that long ago: c2016) that eventually Lenovo voided the warranty on any connector-based problems.

      It does sound like a good idea at first but desktops in any format simply aren't designed to be thrown in a briefcase/backpack on a regular basis.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Interesting idea...

        Single USB C cable is all that's needed nowadays though - and they're at least somewhat robust.

        1. Not Yb Bronze badge

          Re: Interesting idea...

          Cable's fairly robust, but that's never the problem. Can always get a new cable, but replacing the interior connectors is a lot trickier, and probably still required at scale.

    6. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Interesting idea...

      And a Raspberry PI could do much the same job for most of us.. Smaller, lighter and easier on the wallet.

  3. Detective Emil

    Additional gloss

    A link (maybe this one?) and a price would be useful. After a bit of clicking around, it seems to be a spot more than £1,000 as configured. At that price, an M2 Mac mini configured with 16GB is a serious competitor. Connectivity's comparable, except that Ethernet is just 1Gb by default (~£100 to upgrade to 10G); performance is comparable, too; it's double the weight, because of its aluminium case and NO POWER BRICK; and you'll never hear the fan. If you want to, you can run (ARM) Windows or Linux in a VM quite satisfactorily, although running Linux on the bare metal is currently an exercise only for the committed.

  4. abend0c4

    The same chore took a respectable 11:00 flat in an Ubuntu VM

    I'm not sure what exactly is being compared here and for what purpose.

    Did the 1:52 Handbrake figure use GPU acceleration (despite not having a discrete GPU, the integrated GPU will also serve)? If so, the VM comparison is kind of meaningless as at present it will lack any GPU assistance and so we're comparing turnips and pterodactyls.

    If you want to have efficient graphics processing in a VM currently you either need a dedicated graphics card you can pass through or older integrated graphics adapters that support GVT-g (and a lot of faffing around) or very expensive solutions intended for VDI. This is not the right device for that application.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: The same chore took a respectable 11:00 flat in an Ubuntu VM

      My guess is that they would compare the pterodactyl of this machine to that of others in the "desktop hopping test series", and likewise the turnips. Alas, it is not obvious from the text. Maybe it has been shortened by the editor in charge to fit the woefully small space that was left on the newspaper page layout (you have 45 lines for this text, exactly), or in order to save electronic trees...

      1. abend0c4

        Re: The same chore took a respectable 11:00 flat in an Ubuntu VM

        I could just about accept that as an argument (though IMHO you'd have to go out of your way to construct a scenario in which converting videos in a GPU-less VM was a useful measure) if other machines reviewed in this series had not been a CrowPi-L, Samsung Smart Monitor and ChromeOS Flex on a MacBook on which no similar comparison was attempted/possible.

        And if you wanted to offer performance figures for the CPU and GPU independently, you could simply run Handbrake with acceleration turned off and on.

        It seems such a weird choice of benchmark that I can't help feeling there is a better explanation I've managed to miss!

  5. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

    Maintenance nightmare

    GF has an earlier generation NUC which seems similar to this and has the same gripe: the fan. It's got worse and worse over the couple of years she's had it and now regularly crashes due to overheating. I thought it would be a simple matter of taking the lid off and giving it a clean but nothing is that simple and even compressed air won't do anything useful. Seems there're two approaches: one involving careful dismantling, including desoldering fragile and hard to spot wires; the other brute force which may or may not destroy the case. Neither seems very inviting so she still has a crashy PC a year after it became a significant problem rather than just an irritating noise.

    It's been a known problem for years so really bad form of Intel to still have "issues" with the cooling. Then again it was bad form to produce something so maintenance-unfriendly to begin with.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Maintenance nightmare

      I've not yet had to deal with actual Intel NUCs yet, but have dealt with a number of other well known brands of the same form factor. The most common repair is replacing the fan, on all brands and models I've seen, either because it's noisy or has failed completely. I don't think I ever repaired one by simply cleaning it because that has never actually worked. On the other hand, replacing the fan is pretty simple, if not especially cheap since you need that precise model of fan from the OEM. NUCs may be different if it's as difficult to replace as you say.

      1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

        Re: Maintenance nightmare

        I admit the "maybe it needs a clean" thinking was perhaps a little optimistic but I've occasionally found that badly-designed coolers will get clogged with dust, especially the one in the predecessor to my current gaming PC. In the NUC's case it's impossible to even see the heatsink's vanes without performing major and rather delicate surgery on it. :|

        Fans in general are probably my least favourite thing about computers, though, whether it's the rattly and annoying type that take years to fail so I continue to endure and hate them for the interim, the large and noisy type on minicomputers which can be loud enough to wake the dead (looking at you, Philips P9070, which was cooled by a single, large and exceedingly insistent fan: reliable but not exactly office-friendly. Fortunately ours all lived in the main computer room) or the three-phase fans on larger systems that would apparently run backwards if someone messed up the wiring, though that one might be apocryphal as the computer I suspect it referred to used a single phase per fan and they were centrifugal rather than axial.

        Er, what were we talking about again...?

  6. jollyboyspecial Silver badge

    I've never been able to quite grasp the point of a NUC. I'm sure there are niche issues for them. We have a few driving wall mounted monitors in the office. A friend of mine spent quite a lot on a NUC as a home media server, but with external storage it actually takes up more space than the PC I use for the same job.

    1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

      They're cute. That's why we bought ours, anyway. But like many cute things, they can also be annoying.

    2. Jaybus

      They make great two-monitor low-end workstations. They have a VESA mount. I have 2 large monitors, the nuc, and a power strip mounted to a VESA mounting plate. One power cord unplugged and I move my two-monitor workstation outside onto my deck in a minute. It is actually easier to move than my laptop. The trick is to get one of the lower-powered ones. I don't need a 14 core i7 for development work. Much of the time I'm working on a remote server and an i3 does me just fine. I rarely notice any noise. If the fan is on, then it is at low speed.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      There are several cases where a small computer is desirable and a laptop isn't needed, and this can be a candidate for those roles. However, in my experience, those roles tend not to need such a powerful one, which means you can opt for something with a much cheaper processor that generates less heat, and that would save you from the fans. There are a lot of tiny boxes with Celerons, I mean Intel Processors*, that run at 6-15 watts, and those tend to be quieter and some are fanless. While you'll get a lot less performance out of that than you would with an I7, they can be suitable if you want a basic desktop spec, either for a basic desktop or for a use case where a Raspberry Pi would be suitable but a bit more performance or X86 software compatibility is wanted.

      * I'm probably never going to get used to the Processor line of processors. There are AMD-powered ones as well, but they're usually a bit larger and more expensive.

      1. jollyboyspecial Silver badge

        The problem is that there are very few situations where you actually need (rather than want) something quite that small. VESA mount? There are small form factor PCs with VESA mounts. For any given spec a small form factor PC seems to be cheaper than a NUC. And the beauty of that small form factor PC is that it tends to have more upgrade options than a NUC.

  7. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Portable heater

    So Intel produced another portable heater?

    Do they know it would be more efficient and cheaper to build a dedicated heating cell rather than using their CPU?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Portable heater

      Cheaper, yes, but it wouldn't be any more efficient. A 50-watt heating element and a 50-watt processor take in the same power and put out the same heat. I've long wondered if someone might try to take advantage of that by building heaters that use old processors instead of heating elements and put those processors to work. Maybe it's so cheap to build traditional heating elements that nobody's bothering.

      A friend of mine took advantage of this fact. Her university did not permit students to operate electric heaters and didn't provide enough heating, but they did allow students to operate computers. She had access to some kind of computer, my memory says that it was a PDP8 but it might not have been, which worked pretty well to fix that problem. This would have been years after the PDP8s were new and expensive, which is why I'm not sure how likely one would be to be used, but it was before my time so I can't speak from experience on whether it's likely.

  8. Dave559 Silver badge

    "It's a pity the NUC can't use USB-C as a power source"

    "It's a pity the NUC can't use USB-C as a power source"

    Thanks for highlighting that! In 2023 not using USB-C for power-in should really count as a hard fail for any reasonably ordinary computer design, regardless of any other good features. Have they not got the memo (and legislation) from the mobile device world?

    Death to the too-numerous twisty and not quite alike rubbishy barrel connectors!

  9. _Elvi_

    " I canna change the laws of Physics, Cap'n .. "

    "machine boasting 32GB of DDR4-3200 memory and a 12-core, 16-thread CPU that cruises at 2.3GHz and peaks at 5.0GHz."

    And that's why the fan runs ... Thermals, are thermals , and Bypasses must be built ...

  10. David 132 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    There's a BIOS setting to control fan profile

    I suspect that either the author - or more likely, whoever supplied the NUC for review - missed the fact that there's a BIOS setting that controls the fan profile. "Cool", "Quiet", "Balanced", that sort of thing. Given the fan behaviour of every NUC I've used over the years - from the very first prototype ones right up to a 12th-gen Extreme - I strongly suspect that something was amiss with this review unit, either a BIOS setting or possibly (albeit unlikely) a mis-installed fan. Certainly no NUC should normally be running the fan "when copying files" as the article reports.

    However, I concur with those above who've commented on the long-term reliability, or otherwise, of the fans on some models. They're better these days, but the 6th gen gaming NUC (Skull Canyon? NUC6i7KYK) is/was notorious for fan failures, and replacement units are unobtanium. I have one here and I've learned to live with its convincing impression of an amorous goat.

  11. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Noise rating trick

    I learned something the last time I bought a "low noise" fan from DigiKey. A trick is to measure the air noise while the fan suspended by its wires. The motor can have violent torque ripple but that sound cancels out a short distance away with nothing to push against. Mount it on a hard surface and it's an air raid siren. Maybe the blades even ring.

  12. Fursty Ferret


    when I was doing nothing more than adding a couple of tabs to my browser. It seems odd that would strain a machine

    Dude, welcome to Chrome.

  13. Humpty McNumpty

    Poor review

    Most reviews of tiny overpowered little boxes like this do at least enough to establish they are thermally limited meaning you are better off running the most basic model as the full power of the higher end CPU's is simply not available. No such testing was done here by all accounts. And did they even look at the fan profiles (assuming they exist) either in BIOS or some natty intel tray app? Lots of default profiles for fan control are really really twitchy. In larger systems we don't notice because those fans are bigger slower and quieter.

  14. Bogusz

    HP Elite Mini 600 G9 is 'crazy quiet':

  15. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

    I have a tower computer

    Smoking specs when I built it. Sadly it died late last year, so I replaced it with a midrange micro form box that measures 6in by 6in by 1.5in. This one has no fans at all, and is a lot faster than my custom tower ever was. The only bad is it's a Win10 box, but I wanted one to play with.

    Eventually I plan to use one as a SAN to put music and movies on my home network so as to not need CDs or DVDs anymore. The one I have can address up to a 2TB SSD drive which should hold most if not all of my collection. I'm also building a car and will be using one as a juke box along with letting me program the car's ECU. I like these tiny little boxes.

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