NUC as desktop replacement

Info & chat about quiet prebuilt, small form factor and barebones systems, people's experiences with vendors thereof, etc.

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Boomerang Rapido
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NUC as desktop replacement

Post by Boomerang Rapido » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:26 pm

I'm considering the Intel NUC D54250WYK2 as a replacement for my old desktop.

Does anyone have any "real life" experience with these things? I've read all the reviews and it't a bit mixed.

How quiet is it during normal use (casual office work)?
How fast does it heat up (get noisier)?
What sort of performance can I expect compared to my old Core2 Duo?

Am I better off building a PC myself if quiet and small is what I'm going for? I figure if I want to keep the cost down I will have to compromise on the "small" part.

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Re: NUC as desktop replacement

Post by nutball » Fri Nov 08, 2013 12:49 am

I've used the Ivy Bridge Celeron and i3 models for HTPC use, and a bit of light desktop. The fan can be audible, the Celeron model seemed a little worse for this for some reason. Performance is ... well they're based on laptop CPUs, so you get similar performance to an SSD-sporting laptop. Decent enough for most desktop use. They do get warm, but then folks do seem have a bit of a logical disconnect when it comes to component temperature, especially for mobile parts.

Don't know if you're aware but there are third-party passive NUC cases available, and for the Ivy Bridge models at least you can buy the bare motherboards. I presume that Intel will be selling the bare motherboards for the Haswell versions too, though I've not seen them listed on yet.

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Re: NUC as desktop replacement

Post by ggumdol » Fri Nov 08, 2013 3:32 am

1. Core 2 Duo is way slower than any i3 CPU. Even the cheapest model such as i3-2100 (Sandy Bridge) will easily perform at least twice as fast (even thrice) as any Core 2 Duo CPU. There is huge architectural improvement between Core 2 Duo and i3. I remember that I was pleasantly surprised when my PC was upgraded from Core 2 Duo (I can't recall the exact CPU model) to i3-2100.

2. As for the tradeoff between smallness and quietness, it depends how much you prioritise them. If you need absolute quietness, you would better opt for at least an micro-ATX sized configuration because as far as my experience goes, you should expect a decently snappy rig to emit at least around 40-70W heat, for which mini-ITX or smaller is not spacious enough for silence operations. Otherwise, I reckon Intel NUC should do fine on the condition that you are neither a gamer nor an overclocker.

3. I also would like to add that the entire CPU market is somewhat bubbled and exaggerated by gamers and overclockers, who are definitely isolated from standard users. I think most people will be completely satisfied with i3-2100 from performance perspective. Just remember that Intel NUC performs similarly to a laptop computer with the same CPU. I gather the aforementioned NUC D54250WYK2 (Laptop i5) will perform similarly to i3-2100 (Desktop i3) or will be slightly snappier.
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Re: NUC as desktop replacement

Post by CA_Steve » Fri Nov 08, 2013 8:12 am

The Ivy Bridge based NUC wasn't too quiet and wasn't a well thought out design (there were some overheating/lock up issues due to the wireless card placement on top of the SSD). The Haswell version looks to be improved. Missing Remote found the cooler to be a bit buzzy.

The i5-4450U in the NUC is the same CPU you'd find in the MacBook Air. More than enough horsepower for office tasks (CPU Mark result compared to the e8400 Core 2 Duo is 3586 vs 2171, so 65% faster). Decent iGP.

If you like this form factor, there should be 3rd party versions with better cooling/noise.
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Re: NUC as desktop replacement

Post by HFat » Fri Nov 08, 2013 10:42 am

Boomerang Rapido wrote:Am I better off building a PC myself if quiet and small is what I'm going for? I figure if I want to keep the cost down I will have to compromise on the "small" part.
It's getting easier to build an affordable and silent mITX basic computer.
A custom NUC case will deliver but would be expensive compared to a mITX solution.
The Celeron 847s which have been used for passive boards/barebones for a while are kind of weak. But some smallish chain store in Germany now claims to have GA-C1037UN in stock. I haven't tried this board yet but the CPU should be adequate for your purpose. This board might not overheat in a reasonably open case like the Antec 110 (again, I'm only being cautious because this is a new part and I haven't got my grubby hands on it yet).
And hopefully even cheaper and efficient Bay Trail boards will become available soon. These will no doubt run fine without fans.

Of course single-fan mITX builds can be pretty quiet as well now that CPUs have become efficient. People have been building them for quite a while. Search for "Kozuti" and so forth.

The one non-obvious thing you need to pay attention to if you're new to this is the difference between DC-powered and regular boards. DC-powered boards give you a wider choice of small cases and (typically) a better efficiency.

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Re: NUC as desktop replacement

Post by xan_user » Fri Nov 08, 2013 5:35 pm

the real question is how much is having a computer 4 x 4 x 2, instead of 7.6 x 8.25 x 2.5, really worth to you?
-btw, i plan on getting a haswell nuc in a thirparty case.- :mrgreen:

(7.6 x 8.25 x 2.5 = m350 dimensions. sure, there are slightly smaller mitx cases than the m350, but not for $40, and not with the same vented chassis.)
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