Intel first announced plans to start selling small form factor barebones systems at last year’s Computex. Dubbed Next Unit of Computing (NUC), the diminutive machine represents a modern take on the traditional beige box, packing capable entry-level hardware into a 1.5 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide chassis.
A model based on Intel’s Core i3 processor retails for just shy of $300 on Newegg, while a less expensive model equipped with a Celeron 847 was recently added along with a new starting price of around $165.
Higher end i5 and i7 variants were also teased in January, and if some recently leaked slides obtained by ComputerBase.de are any indication, these should be hitting the retail channel soon. The Core i5 3427U version is code-named “Horse Canyon,” while the i7 3537U model is referenced to as “Skull Canyon.” Both models use 17W processors originally designed for notebooks and ultrabooks, so they’ll use less power than typical desktop PCs, and more importantly will be able to maintain the fanless design.
The port configuration will change a bit given the systems are based on a different motherboards compared to previous models. Namely, the Thunderbolt connector is gone in favor of USB 3.0 -- three on the i7 model, one on the i5 -- with DisplayPort 1.1a added to each along with HDMI 1.4a connectors.
There's no word on pricing yet. It’s worth noting that as with any bare-bones kit, you'll need to install your own memory, storage, wireless networking components and operating system. In other words, the NUC is geared toward hobbyists that want a capable, silent and space efficient system rather than mainstream users.