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Intel's Next Unit of Computing

December 2, 2012

Intel released a really cool new device called the Next Unit of Computing. It's a small 4x4x2" box that packs the power of an Intel Core i3 processor. It has three USB ports, two HDMI ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, and consumes very little power as compared to normal a desktop machine.

It's designed to be mounted right on the back of a display using the supplied VESA mounting bracket, turning any display device into a computer.

It was not made for the technically challenged, though. At the same time, one does not have to be a hardware expert, either. It is sold as a kit, and one has to buy the memory and storage separately. While that was expected, what was not expected is the fact that the kit is shipped without a power cord to go from the power brick to the wall. I had to make a run to the local CompUSA to get one of those.

It uses an mSATA drive for storage and can hold up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM.

I purchased a 128GB mSATA drive and 4GB of RAM for mine. Total cost was about $440 for the NUC, storage, RAM, and power cord.

I've only had it running a few hours, but this thing is awesome. I installed Linux on it and replaced one of my aging Linux machines. I use Linux machines in my house to provide various network services, including DHCP, TFTP, and DNS, and use the devices when writing software on Linux, including AES Crypt. These devices also handle storage functions for me, allowing me to back up data to Amazon S3.

I don't have a monitor or keyboard connected to the box. It's just a tiny little box connected to the network that I access via SSH that serves a useful purpose for me and my family.

Another great feature with this device is that it consumes far less power than the desktop it is replacing. The desktop I was using was not a monster machine: just a low-end Dell Dimension. Even so, I could tell from the display on my UPS that the box consumes far less power.

So, I save space in the house, the machine runs way faster (since it's solid date vs. traditional hard drives), and save energy. What's not to like? Very cool box.

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