Intel NUC DC3217BY Kit - Leading the Downsizing Revolution

Installation & Test Setup


As we’ve mentioned, the Intel NUC Mini-PC requires users to provide and install their own memory (SO-DIMM), storage (mSATA) and wireless Mini-PCIe card. Since there's no LAN port, it's mandatory for you to source a wireless Mini-PCIe card for internet connectivity. Installation was a straightforward process, requiring users only to remove the screws on the bottom panel and then inserting the memory modules, mSATA SSD and wireless card into the appropriate slots.

After undoing the bottom panel, we are presented with the motherboard. To the top are the mSATA slot and Mini-PCIe slot for the wireless card. At the bottom of the picture are the two SO-DIMM memory slots.

Oddly there's a front panel header and an unsoldered USB header. We figure that Intel is also selling this compact motherboard to OEM vendors who would likely put together their own mini chassis depending on the requirements of their partners. Thus the reason these headers are factored into the basic design of the board.

Flipping the motherboard over, we can see the blower type cooler which conceals the soldered on Core i3-3217U processor. The cooler is very quiet.

Users have to provide their own storage (in the form of an mSATA SSD) and wireless connectivity is also optional. In our tests, we're going to load the kit with an Intel SSD 520 Series mSATA SSD and an Intel Advanced Centrino N6235 wireless card.

Here's what the Intel NUC Mini-PC looks like with the components installed, including the SO-DIMM memory.


Test Setup

Here’s the test configuration of Intel NUC DC3127BY.

  • Intel Desktop Board D33217CK
  • Intel Core i3-3127U
  • Strontium 4GB DDR3 SO-DIMM
  • Intel SSD 520 Series mSATA
  • Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit / Windows 8 Pro

To evaluate the Intel NUC PC, we’ll be comparing it against results we garnered from our review of the AMD A10-5800K Trinity APU. Specifically, we are keen to find out how the NUC Mini-PC will fare against the new AMD Trinity APUs and the Intel Core i3-3220 processor. Although it’s not a fair comparison because the NUC Mini-PC has a very basic processor and uses a custom form factor motherboard with limited upgrade options, we want to see how Intel’s Mini-PC solution fares against setups which use the current crop of entry to mid-range processors.

Initially, we wanted to include SYSmark 2007 Preview and 3DMark 11 to the list of benchmarks, but the Intel NUC Mini-PC failed to complete the two benchmarks. Therefore, the list of benchmarks used are as follows:

  • SYSmark 2012
  • FutureMark PCMark 7
  • Far Cry 2
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2

It should be an interesting match-up against the Trinity APUs since these processors do not have the raw computing power of Intel’s processors, but make up for that with more competent integrated GPUs. Given the pedigree of the Ivy Bridge architecture and also the fact that the NUC PC has a very fast mSATA SSD, we fully expect the Intel NUC PC to storm ahead in our computing benchmark setups still using a HDD. However, given its Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU, we think it might struggle on our gaming benchmarks, giving the Trinity APUs a chance to shine. The Intel Core i3-3220 processor is one of the newer entry to mid-range Ivy Bridge processor and on paper, it should blitz the NUC PC’s Intel Core i3-3217U processor (but don't forget the effects of a fast SSD within the NUC system, which could tip the scales in its favor yet).

The Good
Very compact and light
Quiet operation
Decent performance for HTPC use
The Bad
Components such mSATA SSD, Mini PCIe wireless card are hard to source
No dedicated audio jacks & USB 3.0
No power cord provided

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