Intel’s Next Unit Of Computing Review - The Future Desktop Or Another Nettop? (Part 5)

4/18/2013 2:37:56 PM

Compact size is not the only one advantage for systems like Intel NUC. There is another crucial feature closely related to the first one: they are amazingly energy-efficient. The DC3217IYE discussed in this review uses a CPU owning an integrated graphics core and 17W TDP only, and the power supply unit for this computer is just 65 W. But they are indirect consequences of this system’s high energy-efficiency. For the objective data, could only practical power consumption tests provide those to us?

To measure the real power consumption of the tested platforms, we used a portable voltmeter, which measures the power consumption from the on-wall power outlet. We carried out measurements in four different modes: idle mode, full load created by LinX 0.6.4, full graphics load created by Furmark 1.10.3, plus simultaneous high usage of the CPU and graphics core.

Idle mode

Idle mode

CPU load mode

CPU load mode

GPU load

GPU load

CPU + GPU load

CPU + GPU load

As we expected, Intel NUC is not only a minimized one, but also a highly energy-efficient computer. Its power consumption is on par with that from a Brazos 2.0 platform, which is really great regarding that its performance is slightly better. In case we compare NUC with a DIY system built with traditional desktop Ivy Bridge processors with 55W TDP, the ultra-compact computer will ensure significant energy savings which varies between 40 and 120% according to the type of operational load.

Here, I would like to interest you with an interesting thing: NUC’s power consumption increases significantly in case of heavy graphics load, while the computing processes don’t load this system to such level. It means that Intel lowered the clock frequency of the Core i3-3210U processor to an extreme. Attempting to keep high performance of the graphics core, but simultaneously staying within the 17W TDP, Intel engineers sacrificed the usual performance. We think users could be more interested in NUC modifications with higher usual performance, maybe even at the cost of some graphics speed. Fortunately, we have good news: Intel will have another NUC modification - DCCP847DYE, which should use a faster Core i5 processor featuring Turbo Boost.

Nonetheless, now return to the Intel NUC DC3217IYE. Power consumption is not the only essential parameter for computers of this form-factor. You should also pay attention to their temperature and what it takes to get there. Fortunately, Intel engineers made it possible to flexibly configure the coolers in their mini-computers. The users actually can choose either lower noise level or lower internal temperatures at custom. Here you can set the maximum CPU temperature, which shouldn’t be exceeded at all times even at 100 degrees, and in advantageous operational conditions the only existing fan may be temporarily off.

Of course, you won’t be able to get rid of the noise from the cooler completely. Core i3-3210U is not cool enough to perform well with just a tiny passive aluminum heat-sink. So sometimes you must face it. And I have to admit that it can be pretty annoying. While it is only 30mm in diameter, it may speed up to 6500RPM and produce very unique whistle. Luckily, it is fairly hard to accelerate the fan that much. If you use the current “mixed” profile for the cooler settings set up around 77 degrees for the CPU temperature, the temperatures and fan rotation speeds will be as follows:

CPU temperature and cooling fan speed

CPU temperature and cooling fan speed

In other words, the cooling system is under maximum pressure of heavy graphics load. I am sure you will agree that this isn’t a common situation for systems like Intel NUC. The applications which don’t matter the 3D capabilities of the integrated graphics core, don’t heat up the CPU to such extent. In this case DC3217IYE system works very well and causes uncomfortable sound.


Intel’s Unit of Computing is not just a lovely little nettop-like computer, like dozens of others out there. Intel’s new minimized system shines at least due to two distinguishing features. On the one hand, it is amazingly tiny, and could clearly be one of the most compact systems that have existed today. On the other hand, it is quite powerful, as it uses a Core i3 processor. Undoubtfully, Intel NUC offers the maximum performance per case size units, which no other mass-producted or DIY solutions can suit.

Though, is the ratio between performance and size really vital? This is what we aren’t sure about. Of course, miniaturization is great for a desktop to some extent. It will save you valuable work space or will allow covering the system behind the monitor. Yes, it gives you that “wow” moment when you compare it side by side with other desktop systems, that’s it.

But, Intel NUC is so tiny that it causes negative consequences. It lacks peripheral connectivity (no audio outs and only three USB2.0 ports), requires a processor with 17W TDP, which has correspondingly low performance in comparison against standard desktop CPUs. In other words, we could only regard Intel NUC as an appropriate replacement to a desktop PC with a few allowances.

Intel NUC is the next generation’s very first member

Intel NUC is the next generation’s very first member

Hence, why the Next Unit of Computing? There must be a very good reason to give a new product such a powerful name. Seemingly, NUC represents the systems of the future not in term with the performance or infrastructure, but mostly in the principles of its internal arrangement. Bear in mind that the news we have been reporting about Intel’s concentration on mobile processors for the desktop segment, or Intel’s giving up processors installed into sockets… All was about NUC! So, it is quite possible that the system discussed in this review is a concept which shows the users a kind of desktops microprocessor for the future. Watch and get prepared!

And today Intel NUC DC3217IYE system should probably be called an ultra-top (similar to a nettop) – a relative of an ultra-book. In this case everything will be proper: minimized size, few external ports, performance compared to a fully-functional desktop and a nettop, correspondingly high price of around $300 (without the memory plus SSD). So, there’s no surprise that NUC sales will probably cope with the same challenges which ultra-books initially did. It will be hard for them to become mainstream from the start. But don’t forget: Intel NUC is the Next generation’s very first member.

Technical specs


·         Intel Core i3-3217 (tow cores, 1.8GHz 3MB L3-cache)



·         Intel QS77 Express



·         Intel HD Graphics,

·         Supports two independent monitors via two HDMI ports



·         Integrated Gigabit network controller,

·         Three USB2.0 ports (one in the front and two in the back)


Expansion capabilities

·         One full-sized mini-PCIe slot with mSATA support,

·         One half-sized mini-PCIe slot with two USB2.0 ports connected to it



·         Two slots for dual-channel DDR3-1600/1333/1066 SDRAM in SO-DIMM form factor

·         Monitoring

·         Adjustable rotation speed of the CPU cooling fan,

·         Temperature and voltage monitoring



·         HD Audio via two HDMI 1.4a ports supporting 8-channel audio systems

·         Buttons and indicators


Power and drive status LEDs,

·         Power On/Off button



·         Case size: 11.6x112.0x39.0mm

·         Mainboard size: 101.6x101.6mm



·         Direct current, 19V, 65W max TDP

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