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UberGerbil
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Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:31 pm

So my mother's Dell Studio finally kicked the bucket (a rather surprising short in the SATA cable that melted the cable and left scorch marks on the drive supports and SSD -- I may post some pictures eventually when I have time). It was a 2009-era Dual Turion with a minimal MXM discrete graphics chip. And it was (with 4GB of RAM and an SSD upgrade) serving her perfectly well, which is why I hadn't bothered replacing it. But now I have no choice.

I'm definitely getting her something like a NUC or a Brix: her old Dell was roughly the same size, so it's familiar to her, which is important for an elderly person with slipping memory (I know if I just stuck a chrome stick or PC stick into her monitor she'd be perturbed by not knowing how to turn it off; she's from an era when electric devices were always turned off when not in immediate use). She likes her current screen and keyboard, so a chromebook or other laptop/iPad like thing doesn't make sense, and the Mac Mini hasn't been updated in forever and I don't really want to do remote support on a Mac. It's going to be bad enough moving her to Windows 10. So one of these little burger-sized buggers it is.

Which brings me to you: I'd like to tap the wisdom of those of you who have used a NUC or a Brix or a Zbox, mostly regarding reliability and noise. She's not going to be gaming (besides Freecell) though she may stream the odd video from a link in one her "Fw:fwd:FW:" emails. Right now I'm leaning towards a 6100U-based box like this box as a reasonable choice (I like that it supports both M.2 and a SATA drive, and the SD slot is handy for backups). She really doesn't need anything more than this old Celeron but I just can't bring myself to buy something so hobbled (single channel memory, what is this, the 90s?) even if it is much cheaper. But it might be quieter and cooler under load; I don't have a sense of how much fan noise there is in these things (15W max can't require much, right?) The Newegg comments also indicate they might be a bit finicky about compatibility with memory and/or M.2 drives, though that kind of surprises me, so any insight there would be appreciated also. Meanwhile there seem to be some good deals on fully-assembled Brix systems, but I don't know if I'd be happy with the components -- and again, I don't know about heat or noise or reliability.

So... what say the crowd?
 
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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:42 pm

Sounds perfect to me.  I have a NUC with an i5 4250U which I bought a few years ago and is still running along just fine. I've actually had a few of them in the past few years, and got one for my folks also once their old machine died.  I use it now as my Plex machine and the only time I hear the fan is when it's transcoding something.
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DancinJack
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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:48 pm

Oh man, this is perfect.

https://www.amazon.com/Intel-BOXNUC7I3B ... =slas0a-20 (2.5" SSD version)
https://www.amazon.com/Intel-BOXNUC7I3B ... =slas0a-20 (m.2 SSD version)

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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:51 pm

NUCs are laptops that cost more because they don't have a screen, or something. 

I'd check Amazon or Newegg for the cheapest Kaby Lake dual core system you can find, and then connect her monitor and input devices to it. I find it useful to sort by "HD Graphics 620", since Intel likes playing games with identifying Atom-based systems with other brand names.

Here's an sample system
 
DancinJack
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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:03 pm

Vhalidictes wrote:
NUCs are laptops that cost more because they don't have a screen, or something. 


Yeah, because the Kaby Lake NUC that I just linked above at 295 is way overpriced...
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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:06 pm

DancinJack wrote:
Vhalidictes wrote:
NUCs are laptops that cost more because they don't have a screen, or something. 


Yeah, because the Kaby Lake NUC that I just linked above at 295 is way overpriced...

And comes with... no ram, no disk, and no Windows license? Add... oh, call it 40+40+120 = $200 US to the cost of those links and get back to me.

EDIT: I've wanted a NUC for years. Years! And year after year, they stubbornly continue to cost too much to make any sense. I could talk about how the battery is effectively a free UPS, and how the cheap case, keyboard, and trackpad don't matter if you never use them, but I guess we can agree to disagree.
Last edited by Vhalidictes on Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
 
DancinJack
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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:11 pm

Vhalidictes wrote:
And comes with... no ram, no disk, and no Windows license? Add... oh, call it 40+40+120 = $200 US to the cost of those links and get back to me.


That's only 50 dollars more than your sample system, which utilizes a slow mechanical HDD. Worth it. Especially in this case where the buyer already has all the other accessories (kb, monitor, mouse, etc).

I'm also not a fan of cheap, cheap laptops. There is a reason they are cheap.
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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:44 pm

I have a Haswell i3 Intel NUC which I got on sale for $220 (watch for sales, the regular prices on these things aren't real great)  It's very quiet, like a laptop (because the internals and cooling are basically a laptop).  I'd guess it will be quieter than her old desktop.  I didn't have any trouble with the G.Skill RAM I put in there, or the 2.5" SATA SSD (which I'd recommend since 2.5" SSDs are cheaper than M.2).  Other than that...yeah, pretty painless experience.  I'd say it's on par with an equivalent laptop considering you're carrying over the monitor and keyboard/mouse (which IMO would be better than a laptop, especially for older folks).  Keep in mind, it doesn't have an optical drive.
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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:15 pm

I see no reason a NUC won't work for this use case. I don't have experience with those particular machines, but the 15W Broadwell CPU in the Zotac EN970 makes for a completely serviceable everyday PC. If she was used to some sort of small Phenom II-based or Athlon II-based system in the past, the NUC should feel like an upgrade.
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ChronoReverse
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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:51 pm

I have a Skylake i3 NUC that I use for my HTPC and some emulation.  Works great and is pretty much silent.
 
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Re: Experience with NUC / BRIX etc?

Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:38 pm

I always seem to find Asus VivoPC on sale somewhere.

At full price they're no cheaper than NUC/BRIX/ZBox but I found a couple of haswell i3 models for €139 on clearance in the autumn of last year and they both came with VESA mounts to hide them behind the monitor too. Build quality seemed adequate and they were quiet enough, probably because they're not as incredibly tiny as a NUC. 

I've struggled to find reason to buy a NUC, BRIX or ZBox. They're not much cheaper than a proper mITX build and the higher-performance ones seem to suffer with fan noise which seems stupid to me when the whole point of a NUC is for it to be unobtrusive.
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