Enlarge / Intel's new NUCs have an updated look and some nice new features. (credit: Intel)

In the last four or five years, Intel's "Next Unit of Computing" (NUC) hardware has evolved from interesting experiments to pace cars for the rest of the mini desktop business. Mini PCs represent one of the few segments of the desktop computing business that actually has growth left in it, and every year the NUC has added new features that make it work for a wider audience.

This year's models, introduced alongside the rest of Intel's new "Kaby Lake" processor lineup at CES, include new processors with new integrated GPUs, but that's probably the least interesting thing about them. Thanks to the demise of Intel's "tick-tock" strategy, the processing updates are minor. Kaby Lake chips include smaller performance and architectural improvements than past generations, and the year-over-year improvements have been mild over the last few years. The big news is in all the ways you can get bytes into and out of these machines.

There are two Core i3 models (NUC7i3BNK and NUC7i3BNH), two Core i5 models (NUC7i5BNK and NUC7i5BNH), and one Core i7 model (NUC7i7BNH)—that last one is intended to replace the older dual-core Broadwell i7 NUC and not the recent quad-core "Skull Canyon" model. The Core i3 and i5 versions come in both "short" and "tall" cases, the latter of which offers space for a 2.5-inch laptop-sized SATA hard drive or SSD. The i7 version only comes in a "tall" version. Like past NUCs, all five models offer two laptop-sized DDR4 RAM slots and an M.2 slot for SATA and PCI Express SSDs (up to four lanes of PCIe 3.0 bandwidth is available). Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi is built-in.

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