Seven months ago we took a first look at Intel's NUC when we put the Core i3-based D33217CK through its paces. It was clear that performance was somewhat lacking, but the platform had some potential as a low-power, ultra-small PC that is Windows-compatible and generally a much more substantial offering than Raspberry Pi.
However, the performance really would be an issue for anything other than very light photo editing and basic office tasks, although it would still make for a compelling mini HTPC. Nonetheless, the fact we're seeing plenty of third party Intel NUC case manufacturers are geared towards digital signage says a lot about its performance.
Thankfully there are now new versions of the NUC doing the rounds and we've finally got our mitts on the DC53427RKE. This new model not only boasts a much more substantial Core i5-3427U hyper-threaded CPU but also adds a USB 3.0 port to the mix too. This board is the one found in the barebones Intel DC53427HYE system - which is actually far more readily available than the board alone - thus why we've included the name in this review.
The CPU is still an Ivy Bridge model based on a 22nm manufacturing process and still sports Intel HD Graphics 4000 as well. In fact, the only major difference between the Core i3 model and this one is the presence of Turbo Boost, allowing the CPU to get to the giddy heights of 2.8GHz and the dynamic GPU speed can clock 100MHz higher. In contrast the Core i3 CPU was limited to 1.8GHz. Cache and power consumption remain the same.
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All told, it feels like a much smaller difference than we're used to seeing in desktop CPUs when moving between tiers, but an extra gigahertz on the CPU frequency at this level is certainly very welcome, amounting to an over 50% increase. For reference, the Core i5-3427U is pretty much identical in terms of specification to CPUs included with most £600 Ultrabooks.
Price-wise, it's not a hideous jump from the older Core-i3 model, with USB 3.0 and a beefier CPU setting you back another £80 or so for the bare motherboard, which retails at just over £300 and a little more if you opt for the DC53427HYE barebones nearly-ready-to-run system, which includes a case and PSU. Of course with the DC53427RKE we're looking at here, you'll need to source those yourself, but there are plenty of good NUC cases around such as Akasa's Newton V, which also does away with the cooling fan on the DC53427RKE and acts as passive radiator allowing you to create a silent system.
Chipset Intel QS77 Express
CPU support Core i5-3427U 2.8GHz (Embedded)
Memory support 2 SODIMM slots: max 32GB DDR3 (1,600MHz)
Expansion slots Two mini PCI-E (one full-length, one half-length)
Sound Intel HD Audio via HDMI
Networking Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Ports 1 x USB 3 4 x USB 2 (2 via internal header), HDMI, 2 x mini-DisplayPort