Intel continues to refine and update its Next Unit of Computing (NUC) mini-PCs, which take much of the hardware from its Ultrabook line and package it into a tiny square chassis. The major updates for this year's NUCs include the latest seventh-generation Intel Core processors and support for Optane memory.
Intel's Optane memory, co-developed with Micron, is a non-volatile memory technology that's faster than flash but denser than DRAM. It doesn't replace standard RAM in these NUCs, which have two familiar SO-DIMM sockets for up to 32GB of DDR4 at 2133 MT/s. Instead, Optane is meant to offer speedy storage, possibly in an M.2 format, to provide fast boot times and application launching.
This year's NUC models offer a number of processor and storage options. The top of the line NUC7i7BNH is powered by a Core i7-7567U, a dual-core processor with a max turbo clock of 4.0GHz and a 28W TDP. Intel's Iris Plus Graphics 650 IGP runs the display. For storage, there's an M.2 slot and room for a 2.5" HDD or SSD up to 9.5mm tall. All this hardware fits into a chassis that's only 4.5" x 4.4" x 2" (or 11.5 cm x 11. cm x 5.1 cm).
The NUC models with Core i5 or Core i3 CPUs are available in two configurations: one with a slot for a 9.5-mm-tall drive, and a low-profile model that only has room for an M.2 unit. The low-profile variants (whose names end in K rather than H) have similar dimensions, but are only 1.4" (3.5 cm) tall.
The kits labeled NUC7i5BNH and NUC7i5BNK are powered by Intel's Core i5-7260U, a dual core processor with a max turbo clock of 3.4GHz and a 15W TDP. This processor integrates Intel's Iris Plus Graphics 640 unit. The Core i3 variants of this year's NUCs, the NUC7i3BNH and NUC7i3BNK, have Intel's Core i3-7100U processor inside. This dual-core CPU has a base frequency of 2.4GHz, a 15W TDP, and offer up an Intel HD Graphics 620 IGP.
The rest of the feature set in these NUCs remains quite solid. They have dual-array front microphones for taking advantage of Cortana, an HDMI 2.0 port, and Intel's 802.11ac dual-band wireless connectivity. There's also a Thunderbolt 3 port on tap that can offer USB 3.1 and DisplayPort connectivity. A Micro SDXC slot with UHS-I support and Bluetooth 4.2 support round out the list of features.