Is the NUC platform the future of the Mac Mini? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 02-05-2013, 08:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi all,

I'm debating several options for an HTPC build, including a silent case (Streacom FC8 or FC10), a mac mini, or one of the new Intel NUC builds (probably one of the fanless versions coming out in the next few months). I'm pretty intrigued by the NUC platform, and it really seems to make the more expensive and larger fanless cases somewhat obsolete (unless you really need a video card and can find the appropriate balance of heat/size for a fanless case). I've decided that a smart move might be to wait for the Haswell NUC chipsets (haven't read anything solid on a release date for those, but they must be coming)...they'll offer better integrated graphics and lower TDP than the current chips, and seem like a perfect fit for the NUC.

However, theses NUCs aren't terribly cheap compared with a Mac Mini once you buy the barebones kit (~$300) plus ram, an OS, harddrive, etc....so I've been weighing the benefit of the Intel NUC platform and the Mac Mini when it dawned on me.....how can the NUC not be the future of the Mac Mini? Is there any reason to think that Apple won't move to that chipset?

It offers virtually all of the features of the current MacMini (the Intel version doesn't have USB 3, but other vendors [Gigabyte] will offer versions of their NUC offering with USB 3), so it seems like a no-brainer that Apple would release a fanless, Haswell-based NUC device in the future, right? Or am I just being overly hopeful? I haven't seen mention of this, but it seems like one of those transitions that will be obvious in hindsight. A passively cooled Mac-mini based on the Intel NUC chasis for ~$599 would be a great HTPC.
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post #2 of 6 Old 02-05-2013, 02:15 PM
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Have you seen this thread, NUCs are mentioned toward the end, one user (post #43) considers his the perfect HTPC:

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1444932/4-x-4-x-2-intel-i3-mini-computer-with-dual-hdmi-or-thunderbolt/0_40
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I've decided that a smart move might be to wait for the Haswell NUC chipsets (haven't read anything solid on a release date for those, but they must be coming)...they'll offer better integrated graphics and lower TDP than the current chips, and seem like a perfect fit for the NUC.

I think you're on to something, the most salient question for you will probably be, how long are you willing to wait?
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how can the NUC not be the future of the Mac Mini. Is there any reason to think that Apple won't move to that chipset? It offers virtually all of the features of the current MacMini (the Intel version doesn't have USB 3, but other vendors [Gigabyte] will offer versions of their NUC offering with USB 3, so it seems like a no-brainer that Apple would release a fanless, Haswell-based NUC device in the future, right? Or am I just being overly hopeful? I haven't seen mention of this, but it seems like one of those transitions that will be obvious in hindsight. A passively cooled Mac-mini based on the Intel NUC chasis for ~$599 would be a great HTPC.

You're not being overly hopeful. Haswell in some form will be coming to the Mini, it's the natural progression of what have already been pretty special, if not unrivaled, machines going back to 2010 or so. Powerful, slim, quiet and cool, I never hear my 2011s from the couch, there's enough space inside for two of your own drives, even the ability to roll your own Fusion drive of an SSD paired with a large 2.5" HD if you want, gigabit, Thunderbolt, FW800, USB 3, etc. Working against the NUC/Haswell update? The Ivy Bridge Minis with HD4000 graphics have only been out a couple of months and right now they can handle anything you throw at it in terms of HTPC (not that Apple cares at all about the Mini as HTPC, it does not.) Apple almost certainly feels no pressure to update the Mini for a good long while--looking back, previous updates were June 2010, then July 2011 and finally October 2012. While Apple would definitely be attracted to something silent and fan-less in a tweaked Mini form factor that will not be all that user-upgradeable, a positive in Apple's eyes, I'm also pretty confident the next Mini will not step back from what it currently offers, that means you can count on Thunderbolt and HDMI (or two Thunderbolt ports), several USB 3 ports and no external power brick. I hope Apple keeps throwing us the firewire 800 bone, it's been a nice treat on the 2011s and 2012s.

Can you wait until the Fall?
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post #3 of 6 Old 02-06-2013, 03:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Good points....yeah, I can definitely wait 6-8 months and see what shakes out. I think I'd be happy with a fanless Intel NUC-based computer. I also want to see what ends up happening with these rumored Steam Boxes from Valve and others...maybe those would be a nice open platform for gaming and HTPC duties.
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post #4 of 6 Old 02-09-2013, 06:24 AM
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I get that it can be fanless, and it's smaller (does anyone consider the Mac Mini to be too big?) but the NUC kit I looked at on newegg.com had considerably less ports and an external brick power supply. IMO, the current Mac Mini design/platform seems like the better HTPC platform. I just bought an open box 2012 base Mac Mini and haven't configured it yet, but I was under the impression that for most HTPC purposes the fan probably shouldn't even kick on. In my case I might use it as a Plex transcoding server, so I am worried about how loud/high-pitched the fan might be, but I doubt a NUC would be a good platform as a transcoding server.

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post #5 of 6 Old 02-09-2013, 07:49 AM
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does anyone consider the Mac Mini to be too big?

No, not at all, it's an incredible little package, no need for it to be any smaller, that's what an Apple TV is for...I hope the Mini retains its current form factor because I like that as shipped it brings so much to the table, and I don't want to lose the space inside for two drives of my own choosing...
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the NUC kit I looked at on newegg.com had considerably less ports and an external brick power supply.

Agreed, if Apple goes Haswell NUC it would be with something customized. But, as you'll probably figure out once you get your Mini up and running, its fan does present a minor inconvenience, it's intake is on the bottom, so most of us elevate our Minis a bit, and dust and gunk does get stuck at the metal mesh just inside the black bottom disc. Now imagine the same Mini with greater processing power without any need for a fan? That would be a very elegant, very Apple-like evolution.
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I just bought an open box 2012 base Mac Mini and haven't configured it yet, but I was under the impression that for most HTPC purposes the fan probably shouldn't even kick on.

Who gave you that impression, not someone in this forum I hope? The fan most definitely revs up with a 2011 or 2012 Mini when doing something intensive like a Handbrake transcode or playing back a blu-ray, two things one would do with an HTPC quite often. But, whether you'll even hear that over ambient room noise sitting 10 feet away, I doubt. I don't ever hear mine over and above the most quiet of passages, (and I even turn my fan speeds up a little bit on purpose just to keep the Mini as cool as possible.)
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but I doubt a NUC would be a good platform as a transcoding server.

A Haswell NUC? Haswell is supposed to be a significant step up from Ivy Bridge, where Ivy Bridge (2012 Mini) was just an iterative step up from Sandy Bridge (2011 Mini.) Haswell should do a killer job transcoding media, but, I think what you'll find is that your 2012 Mini will probably already be overkill for your HTPC needs, it'll do live transcodes just fine, barely breaking a sweat.
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post #6 of 6 Old 02-11-2013, 12:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by srauly View Post

I get that it can be fanless, and it's smaller (does anyone consider the Mac Mini to be too big?) but the NUC kit I looked at on newegg.com had considerably less ports and an external brick power supply. IMO, the current Mac Mini design/platform seems like the better HTPC platform. I just bought an open box 2012 base Mac Mini and haven't configured it yet, but I was under the impression that for most HTPC purposes the fan probably shouldn't even kick on. In my case I might use it as a Plex transcoding server, so I am worried about how loud/high-pitched the fan might be, but I doubt a NUC would be a good platform as a transcoding server.

Yeah, I agree...and I didn't mean to imply that they would necessarily reduce the footprint of the mac mini to the intel-branded offerings, but why wouldn't they move to this integrated/smaller chipset? If they kept roughly the same size as the current mac mini (I could get a bit smaller I guess, and still offer expansion room), but improved it by offering an integrated the power supply, added usb3 and didn't make you trade off thunderbolt vs. ethernet then they would really have the ideal mac mini....I think getting rid of the fan (which would presumably be easier in a "larger" case would be a huge selling point (for me at least).
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