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Seven Small (But Powerful) Mini-PCs, Reviewed

Intel NUC D54250WYK (Haswell)

While the previous-gen NUC was limited to a 1.8 GHz Core i3, the Haswell-based models can be quite a bit quicker. The D54250WYK comes with a Core i5-4250U operating at 1.3 GHz. It spins up to 2.6 GHz under the right thermal conditions thanks to Turbo Boost, though. More important, it features Intel's HD Graphics 5000, yielding a big step up in mainstream gaming potential.

Newegg has the model listed for $375, though it's currently not in stock. Amazon does have the NUC available, albeit priced in excess of $400. And again, this is a barebones kit, so you still need memory, a Wi-Fi module, and an mSATA-based SSD. Adding Windows 8.1 Professional, Intel's SSD 525 180 GB, and 8 GB of DDR3 from Corair raises the total to $833.97, which is more than twice what you pay for the kit.

Bundle And First Impression

You would think that Intel received enough feedback from its NUC launch a year ago to start bundling a power cable. We talked to the company at CES 2014, and it does in fact plan to start including a cable. But the Haswell-based unit we have for review still doesn't come with one. For now, that cable you see in the picture above has to be purchased separately. The barebones kit comes with an AC adapter, a VESA mounting plate, documentation and, of course, the NUC, though.

I can't imagine anyone complaining about the size of Intel's first effort. It immediately impressed us with compact dimensions and very capable internals. However, Intel took about 15% of the D54250WYK's height compared to the Ivy Bridge-based models. At 4.6" x 4.4" x 1.4" and 1.05 lbs, the weight is down a bit as well. The metal sides are no longer the same color as the top; now they're silver. But the basic design remains the same. At the end of the day, it looks like Intel took a bit of direction from Zotac's Zbox Nano.

The front of the newer NUC sports more connectivity than last generation's. It offers two USB 3.0 ports, a combo input/output audio jack, and an IR sensor for your media center remote (purchased separately).

Around back you find the power connection, mini-DP output, a mini-HDMI interface, GbE networking, and two more USB 3.0 ports.

The interior looks a lot like the previous-gen NUC, except for the addition of SATA and the same as the original NUC with the addition of a SATA port that can't really be used anyway due to this unit's enclosure. By building it onto the motherboard, though, Intel paves the way for slightly taller configurations with room for a 2.5" hard drive or SSD. You still get two SO-DIMM memory slots on one side of the board and two mini-PCIe interfaces (one with mSATA drive support) on the other.

Once again, we know that Haswell-based mobile processors don't work with 1.5 V DDR3 memory. You need to make sure you seek out 1.35 V DDR3L to use with this platform.

Special Features And Livability

The D54250WYK is an evolved NUC. It's smaller than its predecessor with more functionality. Intel's prior effort lacked audio I/O, so that was added. The IR sensor is new too. We find a lot more ports to accommodate external peripherals. Without question, the new NUC is much more desirable than the Ivy Bridge-based version.

Intel NUC D54250WYK (Haswell)
ChipsetIntel QS77 Express
CPUIntel Core i5-4250U, Dual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 1.3 GHz (2.6 GHz Peak Turbo Boost), 3 MB L3 Cache
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 5000, 200 MHz - 1 GHz
Graphics MemoryShared with system memory
System MemoryNot Included
Hard DriveNot Included
Optical DriveN/A
Operating SystemNot Included
Included PeripheralsNot Included
Internal Interfaces
Memory SupportDual-Channel, 2 x DDR3L SO-DIMM slots, 1.35 V, 1333/1600 MT/s, 16 GB Max
Mini-PCIeOne slot
mSATAOne slot
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA1 x SATA 3Gb/s (no space for 2.5" hard drive)1 x mSATA 6Gb/s
I/O Panel Connectors
DVINot Included
VGANot Included
HDMI1 (mini-HDMI)
DisplayPort1 (mini-DP)
ThunderboltNot Included
MHSL InputNot Included
USB (2.0, 3.0, 2.0/eSATA combo)4 x USB 3.0
Memory Card ReaderNot Included
eSATANot Included
Digital Audio outHDMI
Analog AudioOne front
IR SensorYes
Ethernet & Wireless
LANIntegrated Gigabit
Wi-FiNot Included
BluetoothNot Included
HD Audio CodecAnalog: Realtek ALC283HDMI: Intel Display Audio
Audio Channelsunavailable
Physical Specifications
Size116.6 x 112 x 34.5 mm (4.59" x 4.41" x 1.36")
Weight478 g (1.05 lbs)
As tested: $833.97 (with added Windows 8.1 Pro x64, Intel SSD 525 180 GB GB SSD, Intel 7260 Wireless AC card, and 2 x 4 GB Crucial DDR3 SO-DIMMs)Barebone: $375 (Newegg)