Intel recently unveiled a new reference design for a palm-sized mini computer with an Intel Core i3 processor. The company’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC) platform was originally designed for niche markets such as digital signage and kiosks.
But in case you hadn’t noticed, mini PCs are generating a lot of interest these days — especially when they have low price tags. The Raspberry Pi $35 computer, the $74 MK802, and the VIA APC have all grabbed a lot of headlines in recent months
So it’s no surprise that the NUC platform is also turning a few heads — and Tech Report received confirmation from Intel that we could eventually see retail computers based on the design.
An NUC-based computer won’t be as cheap as a Raspberry Pi. A basic system will probably cost around $400 when it goes on sale during the third quarter of 2012.
But the NUC platform delivers a whole lot more power than the Raspberry Pi thanks to a 17 W Intel Core i3 Ivy Bridge mobile processor, Intel HD graphics, 3 USB 2.0 ports, 2 HDMI ports, WiFi, and Bluetooth.
The little computer will probably also have about 4GB of RAM and a 40GB solid state disk.
All told, an NUC-based PC would probably make a decent media center PC, home server, or even a low power desktop computer.
If the $400 price tag seems a bit high, Intel is also reportedly considering offering a model with a cheaper Celeron processor.
Intel doesn’t sell this type of hardware directly to consumers. You can’t buy a Classmate PC netbook or tablet directly from Intel, for instance. Instead the company works with hardware partners to produce computers based on Intel’s designs.
So if and when the NUC hits retail stores it will likely wear a different brand name.
Considering the graphics performance of Mali and other graphic processors for ARM, I believe the Intel price tag is pushing it. At $400, we could just purchase a netbook that can play HD and game pretty well (looking at AMD Trinity and even Intel netbooks themselves).
I would rather stick with cheaper ARM devices. MK802 doesn’t seem fast enough, the Z900 sounds more interesting. Sooner or later, and I mean real soon, we’ll be able to use these ARM sticks as emulator devices. So far I am waiting for a dual core version of Z900 or with better graphics for the same price. The BOM of these MK802 is around $20 so a $74 price tag is earning more than three times its price. Just have to wait.
At the price point this is problematic. If I want complete portability I’d stick with a MK802, but if I wanted the extra Omph of a full out Intel Box for that price I’d probably go with a mini-ATX to allow for expansion. Still if the price drops this might be a nettop from hell.
The price point of $400 is due almost entirely to the fact that they are selling their 17W i3 processors at $225 retail. This is a crazy price for a processor aimed at nettop-style devices when, as Brad indicates, far cheaper processors can handle the majority of household multimedia chores these days, as show by the plethora of sub-$100 devices that can decode HD movies.
I’m sure there’s a market for something like this, but reference designs should be starting at around $150-$200, not $400 — but I guess that’s too low to protect Intel’s current pricing structure.
Edit: I missed the fact that this is aimed at the business market (kiosks, etc). Still overpriced for that market too, though I suspect this type of business is less price-sensitive than the low-end consumer market.
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