[New!] Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) Review [MiniTool Wiki]

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What Is Intel NUC?

Intel NUC refers to Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC), which is a line of small-form-factor barebone computer kits designed by Intel Corporation. It was previewed in 2012 and released in early 2013. Intel NUC kit is a direct clone of the Apple Mac Mini that was launched in January 2005.

Intel next unit of computing kits have developed for over 10 generations, spanning from Sandy Bridge-based Celeron CPUs in the first generation until the latest Jasper Lake (Atlas Canyon) in the eleventh generation. As for Intel NUC boards, they usually measure approximately 4 x 4 inches (10.16 x 0.16 cm), although some models have had different dimensions.

The barebone kits consist of the motherboard, in a plastic case with a fan, an external power supply, as well as a VESA mounting plate. Intel does sell just the NUC boards that have a built-in CPU although (as of 2013) the price of a NUC motherboard is very close to the corresponding cased kit. Besides, third-party cases for the NUC boards are also available.

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Intel NUC Generations

The following lists all the generations of Intel’s next unit of computing kit and its contents until recently.

First Generation of Intel NUC

  • Sandy Bridge

Second Generation of Intel NUC

  • Ivy Bridge

Third Generation of Intel NUC

  • Bay Trail-M
  • Bay Trail-I

Fourth Generation of Intel NUC

  • Haswell

Fifth Generation of Intel NUC

  • Broadwell-U
  • Broadwell

Sixth Generation of Intel NUC

  • Skylake-U
  • Apollo Lake

Seventh Generation of Intel NUC

  • Kaby Lake-U (Baby Canyon)
  • Kaby Lake-U (Dawson Canyon)
  • Kaby Lake-R (Dawson Canyon)
  • Gemini Lake (June Canyon)

Eighth Generation of Intel NUC

  • Kaby Lake-G
  • Coffee Lake-U
  • Cannon Lake-U
  • Whiskey Lake-U (Islay Canyon)
  • Whiskey Lake-U (Provo Canyon)
  • Apollo Lake

Ninth Generation of Intel NUC

  • Coffee Lake Refresh-H
  • Xeon E-2200M / Coffee Lake Refresh-H

Tenth Generation of Intel NUC

  • Comet Lake-U

Eleventh Generation of Intel NUC

  • Tiger Lake-U
  • Jasper Lake (Atlas Canyon)
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Intel NUC Supported Operating Systems

NUC kits support UEFI compatible operating systems (OSes) like Microsoft Windows, most distributions of Linux (e.g. Ubuntu). In addition, NUC kits can be applied for virtualization with VMware vSphere. Multiple NUCs can be used together to build a home lab for special purposes such as learning.

Moreover, it is technically possible, with some limitations in functionality, to install an unauthorized copy of macOS on a NUC to create a “Hackintosh”. The pre-Haswell Core i3 and Core i5 NUCs will run OS X 10.9 Mavericks well. Besides, Skylake and Broadwell-based NUCs are also supported devices in Google Fuchsia OS.

Intel NUC Alternatives

The NUC was seen by some reviewers as Intel’s response to or adoption of the Apple Mac Mini format, although it’s physically smaller. Given its kit nature, other reviewers have seen it as a more powerful Raspberry Pi, especially since the NUC mainboards can be purchased with a case. The NUC can also be regarded as an extension or continuation of Intel’s earlier mobile-on-desktop (MoDT) initiative that was spearheaded by AOpen as early as 2004.

Therefore, the following items can be seen as alternatives to Intel NUC.

  • Apple Mac Mini
  • Raspberry Pi
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