Intel has unveiled two new NUC mini PCs and five NUC kits this week, including devices bearing the Core i3-8121U CPU, based on Intel's 10nm Cannon Lake microarchitecture.
The NUC mini PCs are powerful enough to play such popular games as League of Legends, Team Fortress 2 and Counterstrike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) at 1080p, according to Intel. It should be noted, though, that while popular these games are not exactly new or cutting edge - they're probably not going to cut-the-mustard for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
The pre-built NUC mini PCs - formerly code-named Crimson Canyon - will come with one terabyte of storage, 4GB or 8GB of memory, Windows 10 Home and an Intel Wireless-AC 9560 WiFi networking card, which plugs straight-in to the motherboard via the M.2 NVMe slot. It offers both 802.11ac wireless as well as Bluetooth 5 support.
In addition, it has two HDMI outputs, one Ethernet slot for wired networking, and four standard USB 3.0 slots. An SD card can be shoved in around the side, too.
It's these devices that will be getting the Core i3-8121U, which also has integrated AMD Radeon 540 graphics with 2GB of dedicated RAM, rather than Intel's own integrated graphics technology. While AMD's Polaris 12-based Radeon 540 graphics is nothing to write home about, it still comfortably outperforms Intel's current HD Graphics 620, according to the raw technical specs.
Prices in the US would appear to be either $529 for the 4GB version or $574 for the 8GB version - with just a $50 price difference the 8GB would be strongly recommended. The prices should come in under £500 in the UK. The devices will be available in September.
The 10nm Core i3-8121U was first spotted earlier this year encased in a Lenovo laptop. It is the first 10nm device produced by Intel, which has struggled to make the leap from 14nm to 10nm chip-manufacturing processes. The chip is not being produced in large volume, hence its deployment on niche devices such as the NUC.
The NUC kits - formerly code-named ‘Bean Canyon' - offer lower entry prices and more flexibility. These feature various eighth-generation Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs bearing different categories of Intel Iris graphics. Rather than for playing (old) games, these are intended for "home theatre systems, [to] drive content creator boxes and [to] serve as a personal voice assistant", according to Intel.
These new Bean Canyon NUC kits - the snappily titled NUC8i7BEH, NUC8i5BEH, NUC8i5BEK, NUC8i3BEH, and NUC8i3BEK - will join a burgeoning line-up of NUC kits.
These will start at $299 for the Core i3 models (the NUC8i3BEH and the NUC8i3BEK), $399 for the Core i5 models (the NUC8i5BEH and NUC8i5BEK) and $499 for the Core i7 model (the NUC8i7BEH).
However, the kits don't include storage, memory or operating system. Storage will need to come in the form of an M.2 SSD and the devices can have up to 32GB of DDR4-2400 1.2V SO-DIMM stuffed in. Bearing in mind that 8GB will cost about £80 and 16GB about £130, maxxing out the memory is not going to come cheap.
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3 July 2018: Intel is planning a new range of NUC fanless ultra-mini PCs based on its own Coffee Lake U-series CPUs.
The trio of new NUCs will be 117mm by 112mm by 36mm. They will be just big enough to house a standard 3.5-inch SATA 3 SSD. All three will be able to support up to 32GB of DDR4-2400MHz memory.
The base model will have an Intel Core i3-8109U running at 3GHz, featuring two cores, four threads and 4MB of level 3 cache. The CPU can turbo up to 3.6GHz.
The next model up will bear a Core i5-8295U offering four cores, eight threads and 6MB of level 3 cache. While clocking at 2.3GHz, it will be able to boost up to 3.8GHz.
The top-of-the-range NUC will come with the Core i7-8559U, which also offers four cores and eight threads, but 8MB of level 3 cache. It clocks at 2.7GHz as standard, turboing up to 4.5GHz.
Each of the CPUs share the same TDP of 28 watts and come with the same Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655, except the Core i7 model is capable of boosting the graphics speed to 1.2GHz compared to 1.05GHz on the two cheaper models.
News of the new NUCs were revealed by the specialist Fanless Tech website, which also suggested that the Iris Plus Graphics would be supported by 128MB of eDRAM.
The i3 and i5 iterations will also be available as motherboards only (NUC8i3BEB and NUC8i5BEB), ready for third party fanless cases, Fanless Tech reported.
The NUC devices were originally intended for enthusiasts, providing a basic kit in which they could supply their own SSD, memory, wireless card and operating system.
The NUC - which officially stands for ‘Next Unit of Computing' - was first unveiled by Intel in 2012. It is unclear whether the NUC is Intel's cut-price answer the to Mac Mini or its overpriced response to the popular Raspberry Pi.
The fourth generation NUC was reviewed in January 2014 by Computing, and noted that it didn't provide a great deal for around £300. "As with so many things, the NUC i5 appeals to a very specific kind of use case," Computing concluded.
It continued: "If your office is small, and you want to buy in mass, and you have access to wholesale purchase of the components you'll need, and require a large enough quantity to make it viable, it could be just what you need.
"But beware of considering the machine a compromise between ultrabook and desktop - it's really not so portable in practice…
For footprint alone, the NUC i5 is still a very special creation. A more than robust office machine, an excellent media centre and a worthwhile gaming device on the side, it could occupy almost any role in the home, office or in-between, with minimal physical fuss. Just remember that this versatility will cost you a few more bucks."
The forthcoming NUCs, with TDP increased from 15W to 28W, should provide an increase in power and capability, but pricing has not yet been revealed.
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