We’re big fans of Intel’s NUC products, and it’s easy to see why: these tiny motherboards can be used to build tempting low-power machines that can be used as desktops, media centres and much more, and they are so small they can fit on the back of monitors or even inside touchscreen-enabled point-of-sale systems. That’s not the only reason we like them, either. Their tiny size and low cooling requirements make them perfect as a my-first-scratchbuild project - as out recent Intel NUC competition provde - plus numerous companies sell their own excellent cases, including many passive ones.
We’ve criticised certain NUC boards in the past, though, for their lack of performance, which is no surprise when older boards used Core i3 and Celeron processors that could barely handle basic office tasks and balked at the sight of even low-end games.
Intel’s recently released DC53427RKE/HYE included an Ivy Bridge-based Core i5 chip that helped address this issue, and the new D54250WYK/WYB looks looks like it’ll go one step further thanks to its Haswell silicon.
The new board has a Core i5-4250U processor that uses one of Intel’s new HD Graphics 5000 GPU cores. The CPU portion of the 22nm chip is clocked to 1.3GHz, and uses Turbo Boost to hit a peak of 2.6GHz. There’s 256KB of L2 cache per core, 3MB of universal L3 cache, and Hyper-Threading that allows each core to concurrently address two threads. The new chip is built with the improved Haswell architecture, although its raw clock speeds can’t match the 1.8GHz stock and 2.8GHz Turbo figures of the i5-3427U from the most recent Ivy Bridge board.
The HD Graphics 5000 core is much improved from the HD Graphics 4000 chipset used in the older Core i5. It’s constructed from 40 stream processors, which easily outstrips the 16 cores found in the older GPU, and Intel has improved their architecture. In this chip they’re clocked between 200MHz and 1,000MHz, which is a little slower than the 350MHz – 1,150MHz range from last year’s core, but we’re not concerned, as the massive increase in stream processors should make for a significant improvement.
The Haswell chip has an impressive specification, and Intel has made progress while cutting the power consumption: the new chip has a TDP of 15W, which is two Watts fewer than the Ivy Bridge part required.
The latest NUC is also a little cheaper than its predecessor. The Haswell-based kit costs £295, and the board on its own is around £170. Meanwhile the Ivy Bridge kit is priced at £311, and the last-generation board is now disappearing from sale, soon to be replaced by the new PCB.