NUC NUC Everywhere at Intel Solutions Summit 2014

Intel’s bet on the tiny 4x4 PC is paying off - big time. By Matt Whitlock

Intel’s bet on the tiny 4x4 PC is paying off - big time. Demand and sales for the itty-bitty PCs with big PC guts are going gangbusters, and with numerous improvements coming to the NUC line, it seems Intel is only getting started.

Many partners may think of NUC as those little square boxes that can mount to the back of a display or sit on a desk, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg for these do-anything boards.  On display here at Intel’s 2014 Solution Summit are a huge variety of products powered by NUCs. Little boxes, sure, like this K3 Ultratop solution from In-Win that allows system builders to cram a NUC, 3D camera, and storage into a bitty box that can be mounted anywhere.

The small size of the NUC board also allows partners and integrators to do some amazingly cool things, like stack 10 of them on top of each other to make a very powerful cluster with a small footprint. Others are building unique AIO-type solutions by cramming a NUC into the stand with ports and drives in the base.

Even Intel’s tiny square boxes are getting some oft-requested features. According to Intel’s Director of Product Marketing, John Deatherage, the company has been listening closely to user feedback since the very first NUCs shipped. Over the past 18 months, Intel has integrated a regular SATA port, integrated IR receiver, and more at the request of channel partners.

The common NUC chassis was designed solely to use mSATA SSD as the storage, but users have often cited interest in allowing for 2.5” storage drives to be used in an effort to better customize solutions. Intel now has a NUC chassis that can accommodate 2.5” drives. It’s a little taller than current units, but the flexibility it provides is heaven sent. Recently I did a video showing how NUC can be used as a set-top media device, but if you wanted to add a lot of storage for DVR use it had to be external. With these new designs, you could use a large 2.5” hard drive, or some combination of mSATA SSD storage plus HDD.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for an i7 performance NUC (although the company still seems very interested in pursuing that angle). For now, Intel is going to drive NUC into the thin-client market with its new Thin Canyon board and new chassis design.

Thin Canyon is based on its Atom SoC instead of the Core Series of processors, which definitely means these NUCs aren’t as high performance as the others. However, the NUC boards require no active cooling, sip power, and are incredibly cost effective. From digital signage to thin-client PCs, there are a wide variety of use cases here.

Another Thin Canyon differentiator is that these Atom boards ship with 4GB NAND on board, which means that (depending on the application) additional storage isn’t required. A thin client connecting to a Citrix server, for example, doesn’t need much.

MSRP for Thin Canyon with the chassis is an incredibly low $129, and since the only actual hardware requirement is RAM, these could be deployed for as low as $150. Integrator kits that include only the board can be picked up for less than $100.

Check out the attached gallery for a lot more photos of the Thin Canyon NUC board and chassis.