Thanks in large part to the Raspberry Pi, mini PCs are all the rage these days. In terms of power, none of them yet compare to a standard gaming rig, but they’re slowly creeping toward that end. If some leaked slides are to be believed, then Intel’s next NUC — thenext Next Unit of Computing — is creeping much faster than the competition.
The NUC 2.0 is a significant upgrade compared to the original — which we hope Intel will rename to the First Unit of Computing — by the time 2.0 releases. Leaked slides not only point toward a more powerful product line, but two models focused on gaming. Intel will release various models of the NUC, adding new tech and shedding old parts.
The initial next-gen NUCs will be powered by Core i3 and i5 Broadwell and Braswell chips, can support up to either 8GB or 16GB of DDR3 RAM depending on the model, and will feature Intel HD graphics. Don’t balk at the inclusion of Intel graphics — Steam’s hardware survey shows that Intel GPUs are the most used on the service. This makes the NUC a real possibility for use as a Steam Machine, assuming Valve hasn’t abandoned the initiative by then. The exact models of GPUs are not revealed, but the slides state that they will be capable of 4K output, so it looks like the NUCs could enjoy long lives as home theater PCs.
Perhaps most interestingly, it appears as though the next NUCs will make standard 2.5-inch SSDs optional, instead opting for the more flexible M.2 drives — a type that can can even be shoved onto a stick of specialized RAM. As for the ports, the NUCs will feature four USB 3.0 ports, two internal USB 2.0 headers, a mini HDMI and mini DisplayPort connector, a headphone and microphone jack, and a higher-end model will have optical audio.
If you end up using a NUC as an HTPC, but the grey-and-black box clashes with your tastefully decorated living room, Intel is also planning to release colorful case lids that can be mixed and matched. The slides also reveal that Intel plans to release an entry level NUC sometime in the middle of next year — using Celeron Braswell chips — aimed at “HTPC and light mainstream gaming.” Certain current models of NUC run quite cheap, as you can find them on outlets like Newegg for just $150, so a model specifically targeted for entry-level use could be very affordable.
The leaked slides disclose that Intel is targeting a 2015 release for the new models, so if you’re in the mood to stick some powerful, affordable HTPCs all over your apartment, you won’t have to wait too long.