The first non-Intel NUCs – Preview

The first non-Intel NUCs – Preview

When Intel went through a financially difficult period last year, it decided to divest several side businesses, including a business unit that made small NUC personal computers. ASUS acquired the series this summer and is presenting its first products under the NUC name at CES, which I was able to get a closer look at.

In its own words, ASUS wants to continue to equip familiar devices with its NUCs and give the series new energy with completely new products. The mini PC you'll most recognize as an NUC is the NUC 14 Pro, which is the direct successor to Intel's NUC 13 Pro.

Newk 14 Pro

Although Intel's latest mobile processors are no longer officially called 14th generation, the NUC 14 Pro naturally uses the latest Core Ultra chips, known under the codename Meteor Lake. We previously wrote an extended preview about these highly technically innovative processors, for which Intel is using a microchip design for the first time.

The NUC 14 Pro uses the familiar size of 4 x 4 inches, which is about 10 x 10 cm, allowing existing accessories such as display stands to remain compatible. This is especially important for business customers, who can easily upgrade. As we've come to expect from Intel, two versions will be released: a low-end version in which you can just put an M.2 SSD and a high-end version in which there's room for an SSD or a 2.5-inch hard drive. As before, you can easily access components by removing the bottom of the mini PC. Previously, you had to use screws, but thanks to the new locking mechanism, it is now possible to do this completely without tools. For added security, for example when used in a public space, you can move this panel into place if desired, and secure it with screws.

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ASUS has made the NUC 14 Pros' housings out of plastic, just like recent generations of Intel. The units shown were still pre-production and contained no hardware, but my first impression was that the materials used were distinctly less durable than those found in Intel's NUCs. This may become better in the final versions, which will likely include a metal frame for reinforcement.

On the front of the NUC you'll find the on/off button and three USB ports. Two USB-A ports operate at a maximum of 10 Gb/s, and a USB-C port maxes out at 20 Gb/s. I think it's good to now have a USB-C port on the front, because with Intel's NUCs you still have to be on the back. The headphone jack has been removed from the ASUS design. To connect wired headphones or speakers, you'll have to use the output on your monitor.

On the back you'll find plenty of ports: two HDMI 2.1, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and a 2.5Gb/s Ethernet port (Intel I226-V/LM) are the most important. On the High model, the location of the 2.5-inch hole is clearly visible, with two screws on either side. However, this is not a cradle or anything like that; According to the manufacturer, the SSD mounts flat on the bottom plate.

The NUC 14 Pro can be equipped with a Core Ultra 7 165H or 155H, a Core Ultra 5 135H or 125H, or a Core 3 100U. The processor may consume a maximum of 40 watts. If you purchase the barebones version, you must provide a maximum of two DDR5 Sodimms and two M.2 SSDs. Both SSD slots support PCIe 4.0 x4, but while the primary slot can accommodate a standard M.2 2280 SSD, the SSD in the secondary slot may be up to M.2 2242. The WiFi chip used is Intel AX211 with Wi-Fi 6E support .

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Newk 14 Pro+

With the NUC 14 Pro+, ASUS has already taken a small step towards the original concept, because this mini PC is no longer square, but rectangular. It measures 4 x 5 inches, or 12.7 x 10 cm. This extra space gives ASUS more room to cool. Thus, the NUC 14 Pro+ can maximum accommodate the Intel Core Ultra 9 185H processor, which has slightly higher maximum clock speeds. More importantly, the processor in the Pro+ is allowed to consume 65W, while processors in a regular NUC are limited to a TDP of 40W.

The larger case of this model has a more luxurious finish and is made of anodized aluminum. Only the base panel is made of white plastic.

Walnuts please

ASUS is really going all out with the ROG NUC, a mini PC that no longer has anything to do with the original concept. Unlike Intel's NUC Extreme series, ASUS doesn't use a desktop-series CPU for its gaming mini PCs, but rather a Core Ultra 7 or 9 chip from the latest Meteor Lake series for laptops. The main difference with regular NUCs is that the ROG NUC is equipped with a discrete video card: the mobile variants of the RTX 4060 or RTX 4070.

The ROG NUC chassis measures 14.4×11.2×4.1cm and therefore has a capacity of 2.5 litres. That's still compact, but it's much larger than the sub-0.5 liter regular NUC. In addition to the space occupied by the video card, it is mainly used for cooling, but the storage options of the ROG NUC are also more spacious. You can install three M.2 2280 SSDs with PCIe 4.0 x4 interface. You can place memory in two DDR5 SODIMM slots, which support a maximum speed of 5600MT/s.

You can use the ROG NUC in both horizontal and vertical orientations; A clamp holder is included for the latter scenario. What's also notable from the outside is that the mini PC has an RGB-lit logo, which you can turn on via the Armory Crate software, and it has plenty of ports. On the front you'll find an audio jack, two 10Gb/s USB-A ports, and an SD card reader that supports the latest SD Express standard. On the back, ASUS has placed a Thunderbolt 4 port, four USB-A ports (2x 10Gbit/s, 2x USB 2.0), an HDMI port, two DisplayPort outputs, a 2.5Gbit/s Ethernet port and a power connection. You can connect an external 330W power supply to the latter. Like regular NUCs, ASUS uses Intel's Wi-Fi 6E adapter for wireless connectivity.

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Availability and prices

ASUS plans to launch the NUC 14 Pro, NUC 14 Pro+, and ROG NUC this spring, with the ROG NUC likely to follow a little later than the two regular models. Pricing is not yet known, but it probably isn't much different than what Intel has asked for for its new urban communities. The ROG NUC will cost around 2,000 euros as a stripped-down version for the RTX 4060 version, with an additional cost of two to three hundred euros for the version with an RTX 4070 GPU. Obviously, variants with memory and SSD pre-installed will become more expensive.

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