Single page Print

Going NUC-ular
Beyond the embedded CPU, the NUC is still a bare-bones system. You'll to have to supply the Wi-Fi adapter, storage, and memory—and install 'em into this tiny little box. Let's see how that process looks.

Flip the NUC on its back to expose its belly, and you'll find four screws inside of the rubber feet that support the chassis. Remove the screws, pull off the cover, and you're staring at the Lilliputian future of PC expansion, also known as the Lilliputian present of laptop expansion.

Intel supplied us with a pair of expansion cards for our NUC review unit. The first of those, pictured above, is a mini-PCIe version of Intel's 520 Series SSD. This particular drive isn't cheap, mostly due to its fairly high capacity. We couldn't find this mSATA model at online retailers, but the desktop equivalent sells for $189. You can find 64GB mSATA drives for much less, though, such as this 64GB Crucial m4 for 75 bucks. Of course, any of these SSDs is going to feel like a minor miracle next to your average hard disk drive. Not only are they tiny, but they're also silent and have virtually instantaneous access times. You're really not compromising much, storage performance-wise, to get into this form factor.

That postage stamp-sized item you see in the image above is a half-height mini-PCIe card, in this case an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 Wi-Fi adapter. The NUC has a pair of pigtail connectors for the antennas, which you'll have to snap into place over the proper terminals. This is a dual-band card able to connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, and it will set you back a whole 23 bucks at Amazon.

The final piece of the puzzle is a pair of memory modules—DDR3 SO-DIMMs, in this case. We pulled a couple of Corsair 2GB 1333MHz modules off the shelf and snapped them into place in the NUC's slots. The modules we used are going for $23 at present, although you may wish to upgrade to higher-capacity modules or some capable of running at 1600MHz, especially if you plan to make heavy use of the NUC's integrated graphics.

You'll have to add one other thing in order to get the NUC up and running. Strangely, although the system comes with a 65W laptop-style power brick that plugs into the back of the enclosure, it doesn't come with a power cord to connect the brick to the wall socket. What you'll need is one of those triple-prong laptop-style power cords; we happened to have one lying around that we ganked from an old netbook. If you don't have an extra, you'll need to order a power cord—specifically, one with an IEC 60320 C5 connector to mate to the power brick.

Add the NUC's likely price and the various components, including the 64GB SSD we mentioned above, and the total price tag rings up at just about $450, without shipping. That's pretty reasonable, all things considered—better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, a sensation that's probably similar to what you'd feel upon forking over 600 bucks for a Mac Mini.