Assassin's Intel NUC Review - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Intel BOXDC3217IYE Intel QS77 2 x 204Pin Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated by CPU
Intel Core i3 3217U 1.8GHz
Chassis Dimension: 4.59" x 4.41" x 1.55"
Board Size: 4" x 4"

RAM: 8GB DDR3 1600

mSATA SSD: Crucial 64GB SATAIII

OS for testing: Win7 x64 Professional

The Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) is an almost square 4.5" x 1.5" little box. Very unassuming at first glance (I still have the protective film on the top of the unit). One thing that is neat about the build is the box --- it slides open and when you open it you hear a "dum......dum dum dum dum" jingle that we all know is Intel's. Yes --- the box plays music just like one of those greeting cards.



On the front you can see a single USB 2.0 port. The power and HDD activity LEDs are on the top front left corner.



On the rear of the unit from left to right is the power connection, two USB 2.0 ports (my RF dongle is in the right one), dual HDMI out, and gigabit LAN. The mesh area above is for the fan that is actually on the underside of the motherboard where the CPU is housed. There is a very small (and almost completely silent) fan located here that softly blows air out the back of the case.



Underneath the case you can see the four screws that keep the case together. Opening it is as simple as turning each screw counterclockwise. There also is a VESA mount that comes with the NUC making it easy to mount to the back of a TV, for example.



Once open you can see a few of the parts (there aren't many). On the top you can see my single 8GB stick of RAM. You can use two. One the bottom you can see the 64GB mSATA SSD. Under the mSATA SSD you also can use a wireless networking card if needed. The mSATA and wireless card share the same interface with one being on top of the other. That's really all there is to see inside. (Not pictured is the underside of the board where the CPU and small fan reside)




Here you can see the NUC powered up. A blue LED power and blue LED HDD activity light let you know that its on.



The power cord that is needed (the adapter comes with the NUC. But the parts that plugs into the wall does not. This allows the NUC to be easily sold all over the world requiring you to just use whatever cord is applicable).




I have only done limited testing but let me tell you my first impressions:

Build quality: Excellent.
Noise: Almost inaudible except when my ear is right next to the unit. I had it in my bedroom on a shelf and my wife never even knew it was there.
Speed: Plenty for HTPC use.
Ease of setup: Relatively easy once I found it on Intel's website for driver downloads.
Media playback: Tested a few files in MPC-HC and it was fluid and crisp. 23.973 fps.

Cons: So far the use of USB2.0 over 3.0 is the one glaring omission.

More testing soon...
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post #2 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Screenshots:

(Taken quickly with my camera)
WALL-E 1080p Full MKV Rip [testing file]



Skyfall 720p Compressed MKV Rip [testing file]




WMC Live TV from HDHomerun







Amazon Prime

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post #3 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:14 PM - Thread Starter
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post #4 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:20 PM
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Thanks for the write up! Could you possibly test a high bit rate video (like a blu-ray rip) in XBMC? I know hardware acceleration for Intel has been a bit buggy in XBMC for Windows, and I wonder whether the NUC can handle decoding without acceleration.
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post #5 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

Thanks for the write up! Could you possibly test a high bit rate video (like a blu-ray rip) in XBMC? I know hardware acceleration for Intel has been a bit buggy in XBMC for Windows, and I wonder whether the NUC can handle decoding without acceleration.

Sure. I have a full rip of Wall-E that I use. Will that suffice?
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post #6 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by assassin View Post

Sure. I have a full rip of Wall-E that I use. Will that suffice?

Hmm, I might have to do a bit more research and get back to you. If I remember correctly, it only struggles with some rips, I want to say VC-1 but I'm not positive. This weird macro-blocking occurs.
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post #7 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

Hmm, I might have to do a bit more research and get back to you. If I remember correctly, it only struggles with some rips, I want to say VC-1 but I'm not positive. This weird macro-blocking occurs.

I turn DXVA off. Not really needed, imo.

Wish XBMC would get it fixed though.
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post #8 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

I turn DXVA off. Not really needed, imo.

Wish XBMC would get it fixed though.

So have you tested decoding performance on the NUC without DXVA? What is CPU usage like?
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post #9 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:33 PM - Thread Starter
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One note on the mSATA SSD --- there aren't a whole lot to choose from. I was actually wanting to try something other than the Crucial but its the only 64GB I could find at the time (which was about a month ago). I couldn't find the Plextor anywhere which was my first choice.
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post #10 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

So have you tested decoding performance on the NUC without DXVA? What is CPU usage like?

Playing Wall-E right now the CPU is jumping between 20-35% with an occasional spike around 45% without DXVA enabled. FPS is jumping between 23.95 and 23.98. No drops reported by XBMC.

CPU recognized as 4 core.

Task manager shows CPU use at 20-35% as well. 1.32GB of RAM being used.

PQ looks fantastic.

BTW 30.4 GB free of 59.5GB (64GB) once Windows 7, all updates, and XBMC are installed.
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post #11 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:43 PM
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Good info in this thread. For some reason I thought it was a fanless design, good to know it has a fan. I use a mac mini as my htpc and this is probably the only thing I would think about replacing it with. It seems like a good value, except the msata ssd options are so few. I hope the prices go down for msata ssd. I guess the other option is just to run openelec from a usb flash drive.. but I find it's nice to be able to alt tab to chrome and look at my sabnzbd downloads.
edit: other thoughts, I guess it's not that much smaller than a mac mini when you consider the mac mini power supply is internal and this has an external ad/dc brick

Gear list: Main setup - Kef Q900, Svs sb12-nsd subwoofer, onkyo 609 receiver, epson 8350 projector, elitescreens sable 92" screen, mac mini htpc
bedroom setup: PSB Image B5, maverick tubemagic a1 amplifier, hifimediy sabre9023 dac, ZMF Fostex T50RP modded headphones
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post #12 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 07:51 PM - Thread Starter
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post #13 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 08:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

One note on the mSATA SSD --- there aren't a whole lot to choose from. I was actually wanting to try something other than the Crucial but its the only 64GB I could find at the time (which was about a month ago). I couldn't find the Plextor anywhere which was my first choice.

They've been scarce lately when there were plenty before. I've been wondering if the NUC has something to do with it.

With HW acceleration, even the Celeron 847 (Intel 2000 HD) played every high bit rate MKV I threw at it (Windows/WMP) H.264 or VC-1 so no surprise HD 4000 did as well.

Now we just need:
1. NUC boards sold in 1-pk not 10-pk
2. Some nice NUC cases

 

 

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post #14 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 08:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Tested on a much smaller compressed 720p MKV. CPU usage was consistently less than 20%.

Skyfall 720p Compressed MKV Rip [testing file]


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post #15 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 08:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

Playing Wall-E right now the CPU is jumping between 20-35% with an occasional spike around 45% without DXVA enabled. FPS is jumping between 23.95 and 23.98. No drops reported by XBMC.

CPU recognized as 4 core.

Task manager shows CPU use at 20-35% as well. 1.32GB of RAM being used.

PQ looks fantastic.

BTW 30.4 GB free of 59.5GB (64GB) once Windows 7, all updates, and XBMC are installed.

Thanks for the info! Sounds like it will do just fine with DXVA turned off.

To make it even cheaper, I was thinking you could use OpenELEC and boot off a usb stick. Hopefully it boots without an msata card installed.
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post #16 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 08:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

Thanks for the info!

You're welcome!

Sorry it took me so long to play with this thing and get a review out as promised. You know I am busy if I don't have time to tinker with a new gadget!
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post #17 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 08:36 PM
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Sweet! Might just be the perfect thing for my living room. The price is still a bit high after everything is installed.

Silverstone and Gigabyte are coming out with fanless versions of this I believe.

And thanks for this nice little review Assasin. What more tests are you planning to do with this?
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post #18 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by assassin View Post

You're welcome!

Sorry it took me so long to play with this thing and get a review out as promised. You know I am busy if I don't have time to tinker with a new gadget!

Haha, I had no idea you were even planning on getting one. I really like this devices. It's unfortunate that they aren't about $100 cheaper though. That would be a sweet deal. The advantages of course are a small footprint and near silent operation. My HTPC is quiet, but the fan is noticeable during very quiet parts of movies.

Although, I just installed HyperSpin and am now running various emulators on my i3-2100 machine. So for my 2nd HTPC, instead of getting something nice and quiet like this, I'm thinking about upgrading my old E5400 machine to something more beastly. Oh, sometimes I feel like I've lost it rolleyes.gif
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post #19 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 08:59 PM
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Awesome stuff-thanks! Am seriously considering this-would love to see how it handles everyday stuff-WMC, live TV, mediabrowser- going in and out of programs, etc.

Thanks again! Looks good so far.
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post #20 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 09:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Awesome stuff-thanks! Am seriously considering this-would love to see how it handles everyday stuff-WMC, live TV, mediabrowser- going in and out of programs, etc.

Thanks again! Looks good so far.

I will test it with my hdhomerun asap.
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post #21 of 578 Old 02-28-2013, 09:49 PM
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I was going to wait for your review but I went and bought one anyways! The CPU is similar in performance to what I'm using now so what the heck. I got 8gb of 1600 ram and a 64gb crucial m4 msata drive. I have not installed windows yet but so far the build quality is good.

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post #22 of 578 Old 03-01-2013, 04:44 AM - Thread Starter
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I was going to wait for your review but I went and bought one anyways! The CPU is similar in performance to what I'm using now so what the heck. I got 8gb of 1600 ram and a 64gb crucial m4 msata drive. I have not installed windows yet but so far the build quality is good.

Great! Please share your experience and thoughts as well.
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post #23 of 578 Old 03-01-2013, 06:27 AM
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I'm very intrigued by this concept and am debating between a NUC and a Xbox 360. Would like the NUC because i could run XBMC/get access to all my media without problems, but it's hard to justify ~$400 minimum for the NUC v. ~$200 for the 360.

Do you see the price of this coming down within the next few months? I know Intel usually has a bit of price premium, but as other manufacturers start making these types of devices will prices start coming down?
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post #24 of 578 Old 03-01-2013, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin View Post

BTW 30.4 GB free of 59.5GB (64GB) once Windows 7, all updates, and XBMC are installed.

Tried OpenELEC?

See what an anamorphoscopic lens can do, see movies the way they were meant to be seen
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post #25 of 578 Old 03-01-2013, 06:56 AM
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Does OpenELEC support TrueHD/DTS-HD yet?
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post #26 of 578 Old 03-01-2013, 07:23 AM
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Does OpenELEC support TrueHD/DTS-HD yet?

OpenELEC 3.0 does, except on AMD graphics.
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post #27 of 578 Old 03-01-2013, 09:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike10778 View Post

Awesome stuff-thanks! Am seriously considering this-would love to see how it handles everyday stuff-WMC, live TV, mediabrowser- going in and out of programs, etc.

Thanks again! Looks good so far.
I've had mine for for about a month and a half, same spec's as Assassin's except I have an 128gb Crucial M4 SSD and running Win 7 Home Premium, and love it.
I use WMC with an HDHomerun Dual for live TV and DVR functionality, use Mediabrowser for files over the network (no blu-ray rips though, so haven't tested that with Mediabrowser), also use it for Netflix, Hulu and other various streaming in Firefox. Also have an external blu-ray drive for blu-ray rental disc playback with MPC-HC (stock settings at the moment). It handles everything so far without a hitch, very quick booting and program launching and very quiet.

The only time I've heard the fan without being right next to it, was when left idle in WMC and the default photo screensaver launched... can hear the fan for a couple seconds when the screensaver first starts.
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post #28 of 578 Old 03-01-2013, 09:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

OpenELEC 3.0 does, except on AMD graphics.

Yup, seems to work fine with my 3770S.

See what an anamorphoscopic lens can do, see movies the way they were meant to be seen
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post #29 of 578 Old 03-01-2013, 10:10 AM
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Any particular reason you went for the dual-HDMI as opposed to the Thunderbolt one?

XBL/Steam: JHoff80
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post #30 of 578 Old 03-01-2013, 11:58 AM
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Windows is now installed, all updated. Plus I installed a few programs like MPC HC and Mediabrowser.

 

 

 

I disabled system restore and hibernation, also changed the page file to 512-512. Now I have 46.7gb free out of 59.5gb!

 

This thing boots incredibly fast, from the moment I press the power button it takes 15 seconds to get to the desktop.

 

Here is crystal disk mark running on the Crucial m4 64gb msata drive.

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