Intel Bean Canyon NUC

Intel’s newest NUC calls to your inner do-it-yourself geek. Intel’s NUC is tiny in size and price, but not in performance.

Most people still think of a tower PC when they buy a desktop. Yet there is another option. Smaller desktops have existed for years now, and Intel’s Next Unit of Computing commonly abbreviated as NUC – has led the way.

Intel uses NUC to prove what its hardware can do in a small footprint, but Intel also sells the NUC to home users. It’s even consistent with updates. The “Bean Canyon” NUCs, as they’re called internally, are the newest mainstream option.

It’s a Box, But a small one!

While the internals of Intel’s NUC have changed drastically over the years, the basic footprint remains the same. Our review unit was a tiny box, about five inches on a side and two inches tall. The entry-level models, with less powerful processors, are about half as thick. It’s clad in dark gray metal not unlike a Mac Mini, but the top is glossy plastic. The design puts function over form. It’s simply a box. It’s good, then, that the NUC is small enough to hide in a drawer or behind a monitor.

You might think the NUC’s size prevents upgrades. Think again. This is a kit PC, so easy access to the guts is essential. That means you can open the NUC by unscrewing the four feet on its bottom. With those removed, you detach two cable-in cables and slide out the bottom. You then have immediate access to two RAM DIMM slots and the M.2 solid state drive slot. Our model also supported a SATA hard drive, located in the top of the NUC, though we did not choose to install one for our tests.

Upgrading a desktop doesn’t get easier than this. The fact you can easily change RAM in a system that’s half the size of a Mac Mini makes the NUC’s easy access even more remarkable.

The i7-8559U is a mobile chip at heart, but it lives its best life in the NUC.

Connectivity is solid, too. You’ll find four USB-A 3.0 ports (two front and two rear), joined by HDMI 2.0, Thunderbolt 3, an Ethernet jack, a microSD card reader, and a front-mounted 3.5mm audio jack. It’s a solid array of options for a small system and offers support for both current and future peripherals.

It’s a Mobile Processor, but a quick one!

The NUC 8i7BEH1 model we reviewed came with a Core i7-8559U processor. That’s a quad-core chip with a maximum Turbo clock speed of 4.5GHz. Since the NUC we received was a kit, it didn’t have a RAM or hard drive. We installed 16GB of Timetec DDR4-2400MHz memory (in 2x8GB configuration) and a Samsung 860 Evo 1TB M.2 solid state drive.