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back to article Review: Intel Next Unit of Computing barebones desktop PC

Intel must really like the sound of its own ‘voice’. How else can you explain the fact that sliding open the box containing the chip giant’s latest desktop package plays the ding-da-ding-ding-ding jingle as soon as you open it. Amaze your friends! Irritate your colleagues! Keep opening and closing the box to replay the ditty …

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Nope

A Pi can do media playback, hobby programming, and server work. The next step up for an under-the-telly box is PC gaming with e.g. Steam and this isn't really good enough.

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Re: Nope

I use a Pi as a media player. It's running Raspbmc (XMBC 12.1). It's good at playing videos (thanks to hardware acceleration) but the UI is right on the very edge of acceptable performance. As long as XBMC is not busy its generally ok, but if I'm streaming a movie and I go into a menu, I can experience up to 30 seconds of unresponsiveness while the CPU sorts itself out and services the request. I assume that the thread doing the streaming is set to a higher priority than the UI which is starved as a result.

I assume it would be okay for programming scripts and stuff from a console. I wouldn't like to compile anything on it, or use a desktop which in raspbian is right on the edge of performance. I think if I were programming it in anger that I would favour doing as much work as possible on a desktop, e.g. cross compiling source into a network share and accessing that from the device itself for testing.

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Re: Nope

Intel ship another PC - same as the current PCs

Too expensive to watch TV, to expensive for schools, too power hungry and no connectivity for projects, not powerful enough for games.

Sadly it will sell for kiosks/digital signage to people who think they need windows to display a picture - and who will have a BSOD appear on their billboard on the dailywtf

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nope

A BSOD daily? Yeah, I see them all the time. Not really, not for ages, were I not already a Linux user, I'd be seriously questioning of an OS who's fans make things up in this manner and think that maybe all of the good things they say about the OS are made up as well.

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Re: Nope

I think you misread the previous post, or do not know what TheDailyWTF is (www.thedailywtf.com).

The OP said they will suffer a BSOD and end up being featured on a website, NOT that they would BSOD daily. Granted, more accurate grammar / capitalisation by the OP may have made that point clearer.

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Re: Nope

Ironically (and downvotes ahoy!) the self-indulgent slideshow thingy on the TV at work crashes quite frequently. It is running "the orange and brown Ubuntu" and I've seen all sorts of strange messages on the screen, though the most common result is a frozen half-drawn picture.

Windows may have been crashy (God knows in the right circumstances ejecting a CD would bluescreen W95 (but then, farting would risk W95 bluescreening)) however Windows does not own the monopoly here; other stuff has flaws, can crash, etc.

BTW, I'm using XP (yes, I know it is flatlining on life support, but it runs well on my little ol' Atom) and it has been in and out of standby for ages. I think I last rebooted it 2-3 weeks ago. My systems rarely bluescreen, but then I don't tend to install every bit of shit that comes my way, either on-line or the horrible horrible bloatware supplied with far too many a printer these days.

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Linux

Re: Nope

Continuing to play a movie while going back to the menus is just poor design or configuration. The fact that this goes tits up is really not terribly relevant to the usability of an HTPC in general. I always found that feature of XBMC a little annoying really.

The "as long as it's not really busy" problem is an issue for any cheap HTPC. It's not just a limit of the PI.

The NUC may very well suffer from the same "feature" when running XBMC.

The NUC is going to have the same disadvantages as any other cheap low profile box.

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Re: Nope

I'd very much doubt if the NUC suffers the problem that the Pi does at all when running XBMC.

The Pi is a comparatively slow, single core ARM based CPU. It's saving grace is it has hardware to do AVC and AAC decoding but the CPU has to be there to give a helping hand to shovel bits from the network connection into the decode buffers. And it simply doesn't have the juice to power other things in XBMC. And yes sometimes I do want to open a menu from XBMC, such as to flip to another episode or turn on / off subtitles, or seek. Having the UI suffer from a protracted brain freeze is annoying.

XBMC is being ported to Android so it may well be that the plethora of Android sticks that are being sold these days with more RAM, faster dual core CPUs and other advantages might actually prove to be better for media playback.

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Linux

Re: Nope

The NUC is also comparatively slow. Given the general weakness of Intel GPUs, I would be worried that this thing can even manage to be an HTPC at all. Although the PI was a bit of a surprise in that regard.

If space is not a premium, you can get so much bang for the buck.

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Facepalm

Re: "Sadly it will sell for kiosks/digital signage..."

"Sadly it will sell for kiosks/digital signage to people who think they need windows to display a picture - and who will have a BSOD appear on their billboard on the dailywtf"

In that usage anything seems to fail. I have now and then seen logs of failed Linux reboots on the time table displays at Helsinki railway and bus stations...

But I agree about the ridiculous overkill of using a full-blown PC and OS just to drive a simple information display. A task that could be done with a Commodore 64 -level computer. In fact, I think at some point decades past I recall home computers like that WERE used in Helsinki time table displays, there were failures showing a familiar "READY" and a blinking square cursor or some such...

On the other hand, going for a computer board that would be technically sufficient for the task will not save money compared to a system that is easy to program and commonly available off-the-shelf, even though 99.9% of the available computing power and features would be wasted.

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Re: Nope

"The NUC is also comparatively slow. Given the general weakness of Intel GPUs, I would be worried that this thing can even manage to be an HTPC at all. Although the PI was a bit of a surprise in that regard."

Comparatively slow to some desktop PCs perhaps but it's still an i3-3217U, HD Graphics 4000. That's a pretty powerful combination especially for a media player. It shouldn't have trouble decoding video & audio even if it had to fallback to software.

Where it might suffer by comparison to the Pi or other such devices is it might get a bit hot which is why it has a fan. My Pi is barely ever more than lukewarm from use which is very impressive and of course silent. If only it were a bit faster...

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Blue Screens are pretty rare really.

If I hear of someone experiencing them nowadays I ask them to do a Memtest on their ram.

Sure enough its usually faulty ram, if it isn't I then ask them what type of power supply they have in the PC.

"erm well it's grey....says 'Takashonky Power 300 watt' on the side. Is that okay?"

You know what I'm talking about. Problem solved.

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Stop

Re: Nope

"My Pi is barely ever more than lukewarm from use which is very impressive and of course silent. If only it were a bit faster..."

Have you overclocked it yet?

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Linux

Re: Nope

> Comparatively slow to some desktop PCs perhaps but it's still an i3-3217U, HD Graphics 4000.

Slow core coupled with the worst graphics vendor in the industry.

When you have to fallback to software, it takes quite a bit of computing power. That's why something like an ION or a PI is a problem. If you have to depend on the included CPU, you're toast.

It takes a LOT of of computational power to make up for the lack of good specialty silicon.

Modern codecs, High definition. High bit rates.

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FAIL

Re: Nope

Sigh. Define "comparatively slow". Compared to what? It's not going to be a Crysis rig, but it's more than sufficiently powerful for pretty much anything except high-end video games.

You seem unaware that general 3D-acceleration and hardware-specific acceleration for video (h.264, VC1, MPEG2 etc.) are not the same. This "thing" is so overpowered as an HTPC, it's not even funny, as you'd know if you bothered to check. It plays 1080p media in its sleep. Check out the videos of XMBC running on one on Youtube.

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Meh

lovely, until the price

Decent size, reasonable spec. But whoa, the price man. £225 barebones? thats a big premium for a reasonably small box.

I had a PI running XMBC and now an ebay acer revo thin client doing the same thing (£40). Who would want to spent £300+ on this solely to stream media to the telly?

Nive to see some lower wattage gear becoming a bit more mainstream, but wheres the niche? teach a kid to code x86 on this, or get them an old celeron off ebay for a 10th of the price? its not going to replace a laptop, and isn't powerful enough to be my main rig.

I'm sure this has a place, i'm just not sure where. Shame as i like the idea.

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Facepalm

Re: lovely, until the price

I don't know where the reg are buying their hardware, but we have a few of these in use as "desktop computers" for admin staff where I work, the last one I built came to £259 all in with 8GB RAM and a 128GB crucial SSD. As a replacement for low end desktop computer we have had very good feedback from all staff that have been issued with them.

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It cost your employer £259 per unit?

At the bank I work at (one of the largest 3 UK banks) our IT Dept's "purchasing power" could pick these up at £2,590 per unit. With a 6 month delivery SLA.

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Re: lovely, until the price

Maybe your work has the celeron barebones version which seems to retail for around £130 a pop?

quick google and look on the main retailers suggests the pricing is pretty similar around the £240-£250 mark

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Re: lovely, until the price

They are quoting RRP I believe

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Re: lovely, until the price

I'd love one of these boxes but it is does seem expensive for it is. I think the small form factor (and the price of existing sff kits / products) has a lot to do with that.

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Happy

Re: lovely, until the price

No, they are definitely the i3 version, I placed the order for them, the barebones unit was just under £180, for just over the £250 I think they are quite a good deal.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: lovely, until the price

They are spectacular for watching pr0n through the telly.

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"At the bank I work at (one of the largest 3 UK banks) our IT Dept's "purchasing power" could pick these up at £2,590 per unit. With a 6 month delivery SLA."

Are you buying from that outfit owned by an east end barrow boy?

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Facepalm

It's not uncommon for large firms to get ripped off.

I used to work for one of the very very big financial firms.

I was often asking why our company with its huge buying power (our business was replacing things that got broken or lost) when ordering IT kit would have to pay £300 for 32MB of ram (6 week lead time) from our official supplier, when I could order it from Crucial for £30 (next day delivery)?

Every time I was told to "shut up!"

So I guess it was kickbacks between the IT supplier and the folks that organised the suppliers contracts.

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Childcatcher

Re: It's not uncommon for large firms to get ripped off.

I used to work for a very big financial firm in England too... and we had an RFP followed by a dutch auction. It was amazing just how much further those prices dropped over an hour.

One year based on our anticipated purchases (around 25,000 units) we knocked over five MEELLION pounds on the price (from the RFP pricing, not RRP).

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Anonymous Coward

Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

A pedant writes:

Kettle connector? KETTLE CONNECTOR?

A kettle connector is *never* used on equipment like this, it's only ever used on, er, a kettle or equipment that gets [very] hot. It has the special cut out which means IEC 60320-1 C15 type connectors cannot be used.

The clover-leaf style of connector is also an 60320-1 connector, but style C5.

Sheesh, and I thought this was a tech site!

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Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

Cloverleaf's are also known as 'mickey mouse leads'

Turn it upside down to see why.

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Pint

Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

We know. Everyone knows.

But it's still fun to say "kettle lead" even though we know (or I'd hope everyone does) that the kettle type itself has a notch in the socket on the device to prevent the use of what we call Kettle Leads that you get with a PC, because, as you say, temperature rating.

I still like calling it a kettle lead. It's fun. Kettle lead.

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Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

If you're going to be pedantic, at least be correct...

You *can* use a kettle lead to power a computer. What you can't do is use a standard PC power cord to power a kettle, since the PC power cord won't have the cut out required for it to fit in the kettle, but the kettle lead will fit in the computer. Saying that a C15 connector cannot be used for domestic computer applications simply isn't true.

C13/14 - no cutout, rated to 70C, usable in computers.

C15/16 - with cutout, rated to 120C, usable in computers and kettles.

You may be thinking of C15A/C16A, which are a slightly different shape.

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Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

A kettle lead is handy when you take them out for a walk. My kettle likes nothing more than chasing toasters around Richmond Park

"Breville? Breville! Oh Jesus Christ, Breville!"

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Facepalm

Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

A pedant writes:

Kettle connector? KETTLE CONNECTOR?

A kettle connector is *never* used on equipment like this, it's only ever used on, er, a kettle or equipment that gets [very] hot. It has the special cut out which means IEC 60320-1 C15 type connectors cannot be used.

Do you tell your wife off when she asks you to make yourself useful and hoover the house?

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

*awards Frankee Llonnygog an internets*

You sir, owe me a new keyboard.

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Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

Kettle leads do nicely for things like guitar amps too. As a student I soon learned that it was a hell of a lot easier to ask "can I borrow your kettle for a couple of hours" than it was to request just the power lead...

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Windows

Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

Where would we be without a Stanley knife?

There! Fixed.

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Happy

Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

Or if you're from Nuu Zuuland you can call it a "jug plug" instead...

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Gahhhh, when will people learn kettle style IEC leads are different to others?

Now, I wasn't prepared for that.

Perhaps I should have been. But I wasn't. I now have screen and keyboard soaked in coffee and I'm all out of straws.

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FAIL

Chromebox is cheaper

Really get a Samsung chromebox for £250 which includes 16GB od SSD storage and 4GB of RAM. In addition the PSU is built into the box no some separate add on.

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ODROID-U2

If you want more horse power than a Pi but don't want to be ripped off by Intel, you might want to give the Odroid-u2 a shot, it has a Samsung Exynos4412 Prime Cortex-A9 Quad Core 1.7Ghz and cost $89 plus shipping.

http://www.hardkernel.com/renewal_2011/products/prdt_info.php?g_code=G135341370451

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Re: ODROID-U2

I was using a MK802 as a home server. Similar specs to what you quoted (a little lower though). They cost about 20-30 quid brand new on ebay and you just have to download and flash linux to a microsd card. They're pretty capable but I found myself putting up to its limits quite often so ended up upgrading. Still far more powerful than my raspberrypi though and it has 1GB RAM. Graphics capabilities are lower though.

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Re: ODROID-U2

I like the ODROID, but exynos has no SATA, so I'm erring towards something like this - http://boundarydevices.com/products/sabre-lite-imx6-sbc/

But that's $200, which is a bit of a leap.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ODROID-U2

costs $89 plus shipping.

Plus local taxes, plus FedEx's charge for bringing the thing through customs. Also, that $89 is the bare-bones price. You'll need to add the 2A power supply that hardkernel sells and flash storage (micro SD or the faster, more expensive eMMC). You might also want a fan if you intend to OC it and run it at full tilt all the time. It probably doesn't need a case, as the heatsink doubles up as a sort of enclosure. A minimal order (U2, PSU, 8Gb micro SD) is going to cost $110 plus $40 shipping plus local/PayPal/FedEx taxes, so a single system costs close to $200, but since a big chunk of that is shipping, you can save by ordering several at once.

I actually own both a U2 and an X2 and I think that they're excellent machines for the price. Although the CPU is about 10x more powerful than the Pi, they're still closer to the Pi than they are to this Intel box. They're ARM for one thing, along with being flash-based, its internal data bus is limited to USB 2.0 speeds and there's no way to upgrade the RAM (from 2Gb) or connect any SATA/PCI peripherals. If you can live without such things then the ODROIDs are better value for money, while the Pi has better support (full warranty period instead of the ODROID's two weeks, tech support, forums) and hardware drivers (OpenMAX, OpenGL ES and hardware-accelerated video codecs, whereas the ODROIDs' GPU drivers still aren't 100% there yet, it seems, though it does have an accelerated 3D OpenGL driver for the pretty powerful embedded Mali processor).

As the article says, it's horses for courses. I think this Intel box is just too expensive, though if expandability is important, it might suit some people's needs. Just not mine :)

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Re: ODROID-U2

@AC

Thanks for the low down on the U2, I was thinking about one of these but I think I'll hold off and see what is coming else might be along in the next few months. Hopefully a Pi multicore

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Anonymous Coward

Celeron version

There's also a Celeron 847 version around that you can pick up for around £135

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Stop

Re: Celeron version

or, for much better value, the Core i5 version.

2.5GHz i5, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, FULL thunderbolt, HDMI, 1G ethernet, 3 x USB3, SD card slot, Firewire 800, built in power supply.

Only 100 quid more than the NUC tested here.

Vendor? The fruity one.

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Zotac rival?

Can only see this as a rival to the Zotac Zbox Nano ....

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No USB3?

Without USB3 it should be called the "Previous Unit of Computing", not the Next! The form factor is its best feature but I'd prefer to buy an Acer Revo because it's better value, has USB3, more ports, and cheaper.

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Unhappy

zOMG - you can only learn to program on a Pi

>Running Ubuntu means there’s no reason why the NUC can’t be used to learn programming the way the Pi can<

Is there any reason that one can't learn most second or later generation languages on just about any mainstream OS running on any piece of hardware?

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