Intel's next-gen NUC has the potential to be a PC game changer

Summary:I firmly believe that the people haven't fallen out of love with the PC, but instead they've grown bored of the form-factors on offer. It seems that Intel is now ready to transform the NUC from a science experiment into a mainstream product.

I firmly believe that the people haven't fallen out of love with the PC, but instead they've grown bored of the form-factors on offer. While Smartphones, tablets, and even notebook systems have grown lighter and thinner, desktop PCs are still big hulking boxes that take up lots of desk space.

See also What the post-PC PC of 2025 will be like

At one time it looked like the all-in-one, which combines the PC into the display, might take over as the leading for factor, but outside of the Mac ecosystem, all-in-one systems are pretty thin on the ground.

Enter the NUC, of "Next Unit of Computing." The NUC is a series of small form factor PC designed by Intel. The first NUC, which was based on the Sandy Bridge Celeron CPU, was released early last year and since then we've seen a second generation system based on the Ivy Bridge Core i3 and Core i5 processors, and a third generation based on the Haswell architecture. The design is a cross between Apple's Mac mini and the Raspberry Pi.

Now, according to tech site FanlessTech, the next-generation systems based on Broadwell processors are in the pipeline for later this year. The leaked roadmaps (which Intel has declined to comment on) outline two different architectures:

Rock Canyon (aimed at the mainstream)

  • Next gen CPU/Graphics performance:
  • Intel Core i3/i5 Processor
  • Power the big screen via miniHDMI
  • 4k and triple display support via miniDP
  • M.2 SSD & 2.5” SSD/HDD drive options
  • USB 3.0 ports for faster data transfers
  • Headphones/headset ready (audio jack)
  • Wireless built-in (wi-fi and Bluetooth)
  • HTPC remote control ready (IR sensor)
  • Replaceable lids for NFC, Wireless Charging

Maple Canyon (aimed at professional users)

  • Next gen CPU/Graphics/Turbo performance
  • Remote manageability and security with
  • Intel vPro Technology & TPM hardware
  • 4k and triple display support via 2x miniDP
  • M.2 SSD and 2.5” SSD/HDD drive options
  • Comprehensive I/O with audio and USB 3.0
  • Replaceable lids for NFC

While the leaked roadmap doesn't fill in all the blanks – specifically price and overall design – it does make it quite clear that Intel is serious about the NUC. In fact, it seems so serious that it plans to include business-oriented features such as vPro security and remote access technology and TPM. The inclusion of support for NFC and wireless charging are nice touches and expand what might be possible with the next-generation NUC.

What this next-generation of NUC clearly does it make the device far more user-friendly and user-accessible that previous devices, and turns the NUC from an interesting science project into a real-world tool.

The biggest weakness of the NUC is the lack of any serious GPU horsepower. While I expect built-in support for DirectX 11.1+, OpenGL 4.1, OpenCL 1.x, Intel Quick Sync Video technology, MPEG/JPEG decode acceleration, and 4K UltraHD display resolution output, serious gaming (or for that matter anything else that puts a heavy workload on the GPU) will be out.

Intel is taking the first steps towards the post-PC PC of 2025 I wrote about the other day.

Topics: Hardware

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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