Rapid Review: Intel NUC VR Machine

Image: Intel

Small form factor PCs have traditionally been a story of compromise. In order to fit a full PC into a case the size of a book, they've had to cut back on processing power, storage, and ports for connecting to peripherals. But the advent of fast SSDs, and smaller but powerful processors that don't generate massive levels of heat have changed the equation significantly. Intel has been one of the leaders with their NUC (Next Unit of Computing) range of PCs. The NUC VR Machine is a system that will meet the needs of almost any computer user.

What Is It?

Intel has put together an impressive beast in such a small form factor. Almost the entire front and rear surfaces are covered with ports that allow you to connect pretty much everything and anything you can think of. Intel is calling this iteration of the NUC their "VR machine". It's small enough to be portable, can be hung on the back of a display using its VESA mounting plate, and has enough processing and storage oomph to handle most tasks.

Specifications

Processor 8th Generation Intel® CoreTM i7-8809G
Graphics RadeonTM RX Vega M GH graphics, 1063 MHz – 1190 MHz Unlocked and VR-capable
Memory 4GB DDR3L (up to 8GB)
Connectivity 2x rear ThunderboltTM 3 (40 Gbps) and USB 3.1 Gen2 (10 Gbps) and DisplayPort 1.2 via USB-CTM connector Front USB 3.1 Gen2 via USB-CTM and front USB type-A connector, Front charging USB 3.0, 4x rear USB 3.0, 2x internal USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0 via headers, Front Consumer Infrared port
Video output Front and rear HDMI 2.0a (4K 60Hz, HDR) connectors, DisplayPort 1.3 via 2x rear Mini DisplayPort ports, and 2x rear ThunderboltTM USB-CTM ports All ports support HDCP 2.2
Network Two RJ45 Gigabit LAN ports
Audio Up to 7.1 multichannel digital audio via HDMI or DisplayPort signals 3.5mm front headset jack, 3.5mm rear speaker/TOSLINK combo jack
Dimensions 221 x 142 x 39 mm

Whats Good?

It's not often I use a PC and think it's ticked all the boxes I expect. But this version of the Intel NUC comes close. Performance was excellent. There wasn't a task I could throw at it where it didn't get the job done quickly. Operation is silent. The only reason you'd know it was even on were the activity LEDs on the front and the blue and red logo that lights up on the top surface of the unit.

Image: Intel

If you're trying to connect multiple displays, and other peripherals, there are stacks of ports so you can have lots of different gear connected. And not all the ports are at the back so it's easy to connect accessories to the front and not have to reach around the back of the unit if you're adding and removing things regularly.

What's Bad?

The NUC I tested is hard to criticise but there were a couple of things. Firstly, the blue and red lit logo on the top looks kinda cheesy to me. It doesn't seem to serve any particular purpose.

There was no integrated WiFi either in my test unit but it is available on different variants of the device.

Finally, the power supply is quite large, about the size of a paperback novella. That helps keep the computer's body small but means you'll need a spot to tuck the power brick away.

Should You Buy It

If you're looking for a small form factor computer that can be neatly hidden behind your computer's display then the Intel NUC is a solid choice. It has a stack of ports and enough processing power to handle almost any task. If I was in the market for a new PC, this would be on my shortlist.

You can pick up the Intel NUC VR Machine for $1139.53.


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