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Intel Hardware

Hands-On With Intel's "Next Unit of Computing" Mini PC 177

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the get-one-for-the-cat dept.
crookedvulture writes "Intel's Next Unit of Computing has finally made its way into the hands of reviewers. The final revision is a little different from the demo unit that made the rounds earlier this year, but the concept remains the same. Intel has crammed what are essentially ultrabook internals into a tiny box measuring 4" x 4" x 2". A mobile Core i3 CPU provides the horsepower, and there's a decent array of I/O ports: USB, HDMI, and Thunderbolt. Users can add their own memory, storage, and wireless card to the system, which will be sold without an OS for around $300. Those extras raise the total price, bringing the NUC closer to Mac Mini territory. The Apple system has a bigger footprint, but it also boasts a faster processer and the ability to accommodate notebook hard drives with higher storage capacities than the mSATA SSDs that are compatible with the NUC. If Intel can convince system builders to adopt the NUC, the future of the PC could be a lot smaller."
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Hands-On With Intel's "Next Unit of Computing" Mini PC

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  • by drewm1980 (902779) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @04:22AM (#42037997)

    ...will be a worthy challenge.

    • But to make it worth the effort, make sure it sports the steampunk look. Final size of it be damned.

  • Bah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @04:23AM (#42038003)

    Need to be smaller and cheaper and plug together like lego to allow me to add processing power. Now that I'd buy.

    • Re:Bah (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @07:40AM (#42038889)

      YES! I knew I wasn't alone!

      I've been wanting a PC-based system that expands like LEGO for over a decade now. However, I don't insist it be smaller. In fact, I want it bigger. 4" x 4" x 2" is too small. 4" x 4" x 4" (or 100mm x 100mm x 100mm for the normal parts of the world) is much better. That provides enough room for a CPU, a GPU, a standard notebook hard drive, and a standard 80mm fan. With a certain amount of squeezing, a CPU, a GPU, and a second GPU, each on its own board, stacked one on top of the other, and still with room for a hard drive. If the product takes off, offer additional configurations, such as dual CPU + GPU, or quad CPU no GPU, or single CPU + 4 hard drives, or single CPU + single GPU + 2 hard drives. Add a whole boatload of off-board signals on the chipset on the CPU card and run those signals to pinless contacts in each of the 6 faces of the cube. Round springloaded contacts might do. Add extra contacts for a DC power bus. I was told by an Intel test engineer, years ago, that PCI-e in its external connector incarnation could probably work well under these conditions. Hold cubes to each other with magnets at the corners, arranging the polarities of the magnets to force the correct lineup of the boards and exhaust fans into wind tunnels.

      Software would be tricky. Ideally you would want an arbitrary collection of cubes to be able to self-organize into a ccNUMA system. In practice, you may want dual mode software. Default coupling might be as a compute cluster, and only manually enable ccNUMA when you know a particular collection of cubes is going to be stable long term.

      Give the standard configuration cube (whichever one that might be) 1 DC power connector, 1 gigabit ethernet port, 1 Displayport, and 4 USB ports. Vary the ports as needed for the other configurations. Add some external LEDs for indicators of power and compute coupling mode and voila, an arbitrarily expandable compute platform that scales from a minimum of one cube to some silly maximum that is probably only hit when thermal management gets out of hand.

      Someday I'll have money enough to have some boards designed... Someday.

      • Damn, forgot the audio ports on the standard configuration cube. Yeah, add those too.

        Oh, and desktop versions of the CPU(s) and GPU(s). If possible. Get creative... This particular wish was a lot more feasible when I first conceived of the idea a decade ago. These days the infrastructure surrounding desktop CPUs and GPUs has gotten too extensive to fit anymore. The collection of capacitors alone has gotten silly. More's the pity.

    • well then to add cpus it may need some like a HTX (HyperTransport) bus.

      Now maybe with some kind of a pci-e link at least 16+(more) + sata pass though.

      thunderbolt is to slow as 1 video card can max out the bus and under power the video card at the same time.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Behold... the future! [theoldcomputer.com]

      And if that is too obscure, the PC Jr also had sidecar expansion - as well as vertical expansion for drive bays. I couldn't find as funny a picture, though.

  • Mac Mini wannabe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kergan (780543) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @04:28AM (#42038027)

    After pushing PC makers into going after the MacBook Air, Intel wants them to also go after the Mac Mini. News at ten...

    Seems a bit too pricey to succeed, though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tuppe666 (904118)

      Intel wants them to also go after the Mac Mini

      Yes because MAC invented small PC's its not like the microATX was introduced in December 1997. The original
      release was January 22, 2005 for the MAC Mini. Lets ignore the rich history of SFF PC's from the likes of Shuttle [I have owned many] http://www.shuttle.com/ [shuttle.com] or even new popular brands like Revo from Acer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acer_Aspire_Revo [wikipedia.org] Which oddly I also own.

      • Yes because MAC invented small PC's its not like the microATX was introduced in December 1997.

        Perhaps what Apple invented was selling small PCs to the public. I don't believe Shuttle PCs were sold in brick-and-mortar stores, and the Mac mini predated the Revo by four years.

      • by beelsebob (529313)

        You realise that ATX motherboards have a footprint nearly 4 times that of the MacMini (and that's without a case). They also mandate space above the CPU for a cooler that's twice as tall as a MacMini... So your example doesn't really seem apropriate.

        You may have meant mITX, which was developed in 2001... But *still* wasn't as small as the MacMini.

    • by Haxagon (2454432)

      Yeah, it's not like there are already cheaper and more powerful options for a mini-pc than a Mac Mini; I'm sure Intel was just so threatened by Apple's second least popular product.
      Face it, this Intel initiative is about semi-ubiquitous computing with a bit of a general twist. Not a response to the Mac that's seen the least innovation/interest.

  • and I might consider it. Looks like a reasonable HTPC, but without the video horse power to run ZSNES, other emulators, or even Linux native 3D games (not even necessarily the advanced ones) I won't consider it.

    • I'm sure Intel will get right on making sure all their products support SNES games.

    • Ignoring the fact that its clearly not a gaming rig, the intel HD Graphics 4000, to put it in some kind of perspective I am currelty using Intel HD Graphics 3000 which allows me to play games like trine http://trine-thegame.com/site/ [trine-thegame.com] and Rochard http://www.rochardthegame.com/en/ [rochardthegame.com] both great Linux games

      As for ZSNES please [snaps fingers],that was designed to run SNES full speed on a 486 with a SIS 630 chipset. Now BSNES now that is a different beast!!

    • by darkain (749283)

      Problem Solved, and for only $100 - http://www.ouya.tv/ [www.ouya.tv]

    • Really? SNES Emulators? You're aware they run on Pentium IV generation Intel graphics, right? I have a Pentium M machine here that gets regular use as an SNES emulator...

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Erm, the newest Intel graphics can run Crysis at semi-respectable settings. Considering I ran ZSNES just fine on a Rage 3D, I have no idea where you got the idea Intel graphics can't run a simple SNES emulator.

      Remember, Intel's newest graphics ("Intel HD") are a ground-up new design, not at all related to the old ("Intel GMA") integrated graphics.

  • Does Intel know you can get a Nexus7 or chromebook for $200?
    • Those are ARM based. But you're right, the price seems a bit high.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ikaruga (2725453)
      Not only these devices are significantly weaker, but Google is selling them for the manufacturing cost. Google wants you to use them so they can make money through advertisement and selling content. Intel is trying to provide a stand alone computer platform. They are selling hardware and if they don't make a profit on hardware sales, they won't make profit anywhere. The problem of these devices is not the price, but the lack of basic audio output ports and ethernet. Even for a device that I guess is suppose
      • The problem of these devices is not the price, but the lack of basic audio output ports and ethernet.

        Buy the one that comes with an ethernet port. Sound comes through the HDMI port.
  • ... a laptop in a box. Except without all the extra things a laptop comes with -- like battery, keyboard, speakers, screen, ethernet, etc. Cute, but that's all.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      No, no. It's more like one of those small HTPC boxes you can fit to the back of a VESA-mount TV, but more expensive and less powerful.

  • A quick look at the Mac mini shows them at $600 [500 i5] or $800 [1TB i7] so about half the price sans memory and hard drive. Ignoring the OS they are significantly better value, and you get to avoid all the Apple lock-in crap that is forced on you.

    Though I have to admit both these options seem incredibly expensive vs the myrid of ARM choices out there with a variety of funky/functional enclosures, and use next to no power, running everything from XBMC; Full Desktop Linux; Android[TV], and more than anythin

    • by Kergan (780543) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @06:09AM (#42038461)

      I'm not getting the impression that the Mac Mini is so much more expensive. On the contrary...

      - Core i3 vs core i5/i7.
      - No RAM (2 * DDR slots) vs 4GB RAM
      - No HD vs 500GB/1TB HD
      - HDMI, Thunderbolt (or GigE and an extra HDMI), 3 * USB2 vs GigE, Thunderbolt, HDMI, WireWire, 4 * USB3, SD Card, Speaker In, Speaker Out
      - No OS vs OS X

  • by l3v1 (787564) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @05:42AM (#42038369)
    "most of the world is convinced the PC is doomed"

    I still can't take any writing seriously which begins by preaching the end of the PC. First, every computing-capable non-mainframe computer is a PC. Second, there will always be a need for PCs with "normal" computational capacity (meaning more than a mobile i3 cpu), of course in smaller numbers, but still. Remember, not everyone is only a content consumer living on tablets and small form factor AIO computers.

    That said, I like these small devices, they have their use and place, in my home too. And I like that there are nice alternatives to Apple.
    • by tuppe666 (904118)

      First, every computing-capable non-mainframe computer is a PC.

      Second, there will always be a need for PCs with "normal" computational capacity

      I am not convinced that we will in a post-pc world...an always connected world maybe. but I disagree with you justification on defending a PC as a "personal computer", because tablets/Smartphones albeit incredibly powerful computing devices, and not tradition [Desktop] PCs. Ironically you recognise this by saying smartphones and tablets cannot do [well do badly], by accessing that traditional PC's [what you call "normal"(sic) PC's].

      I'm kind of tired of people trying to defend traditional PC's. If you create

    • by tepples (727027)

      Remember, not everyone is only a content consumer living on tablets and small form factor AIO computers.

      The thinking is that the majority of home users are using their computers to view existing works rather than for medium- to heavy-duty creation of new works. As applications for light-duty creation become available for locked-down computers, more and more heads of household will choose not to own a computer that's not locked down. People who fear a "post-PC" ecosystem fear a loss of economies of scale that will cause the price of a computer that's not locked down to increase beyond a typical hobbyist's budg

  • by Genda (560240) <mariet@got.nERDOSet minus math_god> on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @06:06AM (#42038451) Journal

    Please take a quick look at the soon to be available board being proffered at Parallella.org. or you can enjoy their videos [kickstarter.com]. Now you can get the 16+2 core super computer for $99, or the 64+2 core super computer for $199. The board comes with plenty of I/O options and two GPIO bus board expanders. By the way the board is expected to run under 5 watts in use.

    It comes with linux installed. I could easily imagine a computer dramatically smaller than an Mac Mini running at lower power with the selection of peripherals that nobody expects. This little machine is going to redefine computers and I hope Intel can hear those tiny feet running up behind them at this very moment.

    Things are going to get more interesting by the day.

    • "soon to be available" == vaporware.

      Yes, if it ever appears, it might be interesting - but there is no indication that 64 slow cores will beat two fast ones.

    • by Nimey (114278)

      "supercomputer".

      You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    • In practice, things won't get more interesting until computer science professors figure out how to teach the average college student how to use 64 cores safely and effectively.
  • Intel calls it NUC, for short, which is incredibly cute.

    This CPU, with the incredibly catchy name Core i3-3217U, ...
    ... the DC3217BY, a lovely name that could double as a software registration key ...

    (Emphasis mine) Huh? Are they being sarcastic or funny?

  • Not modular? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flappinbooger (574405) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @08:27AM (#42039161) Homepage

    When I saw it called the "unit" of computing I thought maybe it was modular so I could snap together a few "units" of them to make it faster, bigger, etc.

    Shoot, make it NOT expandable at ALL and simply modular, so more ram, more hd, more proc, etc, just click it together. Have variations, different colors mean more ram or more hard drive. Pair a unit with more ram with a unit with more processor.

    Otherwise, whats the point? They've made a nettop with an i3 rather than a atom? Ok...

  • by fnj (64210) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @09:08AM (#42039447)

    I LOVE the idea of this thing. I LOVE the size. I LOVE most of the choices and tradeoffs. i love the external power brick - and big fat Bronx cheer to Apple for abandoning that and bringing 110VAC right into their latest minis. Really stupid, Apple.
    But so sorry...
    1) No ethernet = HUGE FAIL
    2) No USB3 and not enough USB's = HUGE FAIL
    These are absolute showstoppers. Fix these and this thing is the answer to my prayers. I'll accept up to 1" more width and depth to get them.

    Until then, it's not even close to making me abandon my Aopen Mini.

    • by kenh (9056)

      There will be a version with onboard Ethernet, and they are trying to promote use of thunderbolt, just like Apple is.

      I'll probably get one of the model with built-in Ethernet and put a system together - coukd be fun to play with.

  • It looks nice, but the price is not right. $450 pays for a nice i3 laptop with screen, ethernet, keyboard etc...

    If they could keep the price under $300 with 4gb of ram (at $10/piece retail) and a 500gb hdd (at $80 retail), then this would be interesting.
  • People here seem to have forgotten what a proof of concept design is. This board is intended to inspire Intel's partners to take the basic building block, extend it in some certain way and address their cluent's needs. Like the Atom MBs. After Intel produced their first few Atom MBs all kinds if systems emerged - SuperMicro made some server MBs, others added better graphics support, etc.

    I look at the NUC and I can easily imagine a system with similar specs, 8 gigs of RAM, 64 Gigs of local storage, a gigabit

  • $300-$320? The original /. article was quoting prices of around $100, but it looks like it was more like wishful speculation. Where is the Ethernet port, memory or storage? Hell they don't even have an eSATA port which you can find on just about every motherboard these days. I can buy the parts to make a mini PC using an ITX board for less than $300 and that includes storage, memory and gigabit Ethernet plus eSATA. The CPU would be an AMD A series which has graphics that will wipe the floor with the i3's HD

  • by sottitron (923868) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @10:06AM (#42040257)
    $200 scores you a 5x5 box with wireless, LAN, can fit a 2.5" drive, and has a dual core (sandy bridge?) intel processor: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856173042 [newegg.com]
  • The review says it has a VESA mounting bracket. With that, you can probably hook it up to the back side of your monitor and make yourself a simple all-in-one pc. Of course, it will be less neat than the prepackaged options, but it will probably also be much cheaper and allow you to upgrade monitor and pc separately.

  • Until I saw the price tag. Comparing those specs to a tablet or laptop, this is a pricey machine without an OS or monitor. I suppose I can see a market for this as a compact personal server, but still, no ethernet? I'm just not clear what market they are targeting with this.
  • by Erikderzweite (1146485) on Tuesday November 20, 2012 @11:56AM (#42042129)

    So, it is just a Raspberry Pi with x86, built-in hard disk and $300 instead of $35?

You will lose an important disk file.

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