The NUC (for 'Next Unit of Computing') family is Intel's range of mini-PCs that competes directly with the Apple Mac Mini. Equipped with laptop components, the D54250WYK is a sort of cherry-picked compilation of the tech used in the rest of the family. Let's see how it tests out...
This new generation of the NUC Kit has a nicely built body. It's a good deal smaller than the Mac Mini (11.3 x 11.3 x 3.8 cm compared to 19.7 x 19.7 x 3.6 cm), the sides are made of aluminium and the top is glossy black.
On the back are two USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet/RJ45, a mini-HDMI output and a DisplayPort, and there are two extra USB ports and a headphone/microphone combo jack on the front. That's one advantage the NUC has over the Mac Mini: on the Mac Mini all the ports are on the back, which might be more aesthetic, but it isn't the most practical location. The biggest thing missing here is an SD card reader, so you may have to invest in an external reader to go with this model.
Don't forget, the NUC doesn't come with a keyboard or mouse! It does, however, have a VESA mounting bracket so you can set it up behind a TV or monitor that's fixed to the wall. That's very cool.
The D54120WYK comes without any RAM or storage, but it has slots to support them, so you have to buy your own RAM (there are two SO-DIMM slots for up to 16 GB) and mSATA solid-state drive. There's also a SATA III port, but it doesn't look very practical—we don't see how you could conveniently fit an HDD or SDD in there without making major adjustments. The D54120WYK is sold without an operating system.
Configuration:The NUC D54120WYK is sold without pre-installed memory. For this review we used a 128 GB SSD and 4 GB of RAM. We performed all of our tests running Windows 8.
The Intel NUC Kit D54120WYK has a Core i5-4250U processor, the same chip used in the 2013 MacBook Air 13", although it performs better in the NUC. In our in-house rating system, the Core i5-4250U got a score of 127 in the NUC and a surprisingly low 94 on the MacBook Air. This is a processor that will handle any type of software at more than sufficient speeds.
The Intel HD Graphics 5000 chipset clearly doesn't perform as well here as it does in the 13" MacBook Air. It even rates lower when installed in the NUC than the HD Graphics 4400 does in the Sony Vaio Pro 13. This PC is not for serious gaming, but it can be used for games like FIFA 13 that require less graphics power.
The sound through the combo jack is clean, dynamic and has good enough volume. It will do for most stereo systems and headphones.
Power Use and Heat:On idle, the NUC consumes 0.3 W of power (same as the Mac Mini), just 6 W on the Windows desktop (18 W for the Mac Mini) and 15 W when reading 720p HD video.
Despite the NUC's small size, it manages its heat quite well, never exceeding 42°C when stressed, and the fan never goes over 35 dB(A).