NUC

Want the most powerful palm-sized PC on the market today? Then you want Intel's 8th-Generation Next Unit of Computing (NUC, pronounced "nuck"). Intel created the NUC line of ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) kits to allow enthusiasts to build desktop PCs that could rival desktop towers in a fraction of the space. The NUC harnesses a high-performance laptop CPU and a custom 10cm x 10cm motherboard to give you the smallest high-end desktop on the market. Just add a pair of laptop-style RAM sticks, an M.2-based solid-state drive, and an operating system, and you've got yourself a tremendously-powerful PC that you can slip into your pocket! 

For May 2019, this build is better than ever, but you may have to backorder it to get your hands on one. Intel's continued manufacturing shortages mean that most NUC  models are out of stock. As of our most recent update, our personal favorite model, the slim Core i5 model pictured above is available for order, so grab it while you can. Demand will definitely exceed supply! This model uses a quad-core with Turbo speeds of 3.8GHz, along with Intel's Iris Graphics chip with 128MB of eDRAM. Packing in this power does produce some serious heat, and as can be seen in the image above, Intel has carved out a lot more ventilation into the venerable NUC chassis to make sure thermals stay under control. All in all, this is most definitely a wolf in sheep's clothing and a true hot-rod PC! Of course, it's still a "barebones" kit, which means you need to add your own RAM, solid-state drive, and operating system, and we recommend 16GB of high-speed DDR4-2400 RAM, and new this month, a blisteringly-fast 1TB PCIe solid-state drive. To complete the build, we recommend you pick up a copy of Windows 10 Home on USB.

Skull

Need extra help setting up your NUC? See our hands-on PC Builder's Guide, which will show you not only how to put together your NUC, but also how to attach it to a touchscreen monitor for the ultimate NUC PC experience! And if you have a real need for speed, we also list the scary-fast "Hades Canyon" NUC, shown here, which adds in AMD's wicked-fast Vega graphics! Of course, if you decide you want extreme power but don't need something quite this small, check out the other options in our Small Form Factor Build Guides, which leverage the power of midrange and high-end desktop-class processors. Another option if you just want to get up and running quick is to go with a compact pre-built system, a number of which are featured in our Desktop Buyer's Guide. While manufacturers haven't fully embraced the compact PC market, there are thankfully a good number of options to choose from at this point.

Note that all Amazon prices below are shown in real-time. We also provide links to Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, and Amazon Germany for our readers in those countries. If you decide to purchase any of the products we list, please use the links provided, which helps support continued development of these guides. 

The $750 Intel NUC Ultra-Compact PC - May 2019

    Case:

    Intel BOXNUC8i5BEK1 Bean Canyon NUC

    The latest 8th-generation NUC is a true pocket powerhouse. Replacing the humble dual-core CPU in previous models is the the mind-blowing Core i5-8259U 2.3GHz quad-core CPU with Turbo to 3.8GHz, along with Intel's Iris Plus 655 graphics chip with 128MB of eDRAM.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Intel's ongoing production shortages are hitting the NUC line hard, meaning you might have to backorder this model to get your hands on one. Unfortunately, we're seeing a lot of our readers get desperate and order the older NUC7i7BNH, which is a terrible choice. It's not only far more expensive at $450, it's also no faster than the 8th-gen Core i3 model, which is what we recommend in our $500 Mini PC Guide - that's $500 for the entire system!

    Memory:

    HyperX 2x8GB Impact DDR4-2400 CL14 SODIMM

    The NUC format has always required the use of laptop-style memory modules, and the 8th-generation NUC supports DDR4 laptop memory with speeds up to 2400MHz (an improvement over the 7th-gen's limit of 2133MHz). So we go with this ultra-high-end kit from HyperX, which is the only DDR4-2400 kit to feature ultra-tight CL14 timings. All other kits use CL16 timings.

    The Guru's Tip:

    At this point, any system you intend to keep for the long-haul should have 16GB of RAM, especially systems like the NUC with just two RAM slots (which limits upgrades). Luckily, it now makes sense to invest in 16GB of memory, as price have been dropping monthly for over a year!

    Solid-State Drive:

    XPG SX8200 Pro 1TB NVMe

    To make the most of this tiny system, you want to run it off of a speedy SSD. And thanks to a ferocious price war in the SSD market, we no longer have to trade off capacity here to get a really fast drive in your system. The ultra-fast SX8200 Pro is the best SSD you can buy for under $200, offering up 1TB of capacity, advanced TLC 3D NAND, and a PCIe x4 interface for just a bit more than its 500GB competitors!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Seriously, this drive is turning the SSD market on its head - just a few months ago, PCIe drives cost twice as much per gigabyte!

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    Windows 10 is the best Windows yet, and Microsoft keeps making it better with major updates every spring and fall.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This USB 3.0 flash drive will load Windows in under 5 minutes!

Optional Components

    Case (Optional):

    Intel NUC8i7HVK "Hades Canyon"

    Intel went all-out to provide enthusiasts a truly capable pocket gaming PC with its Hades Canyon NUC. It packs in an ultra-high-end quad-core CPU that runs at 3.1GHz with turbo to 4.2GHz, making it truly desktop-class. But given that Intel still doesn't have a competitive gaming GPU in its stable, it recruited its arch-rival AMD to contribute a Vega GPU for this tiny system, which is on par with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, a $200 full-size gaming GPU. It also has amazing connectivity, supporting up to 6 displays, using front and rear HDMI ports, two mini DisplayPorts, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. It also has 7 USB ports, and while it can't fit 2.5" drives, it includes two PCIe x4 slots for M.2-based SSDs. 

    The Guru's Tip:

    Like the Bean Canyon NUC, this NUC can support up to DDR4-2400 RAM, so feel free to pick up the 2x8GB kit listed earlier in this guide (or even better the 2x16GB kit!).

    The Deluxe Home Theater Keyboard:

    Corsair K83 Wireless Keyboard

    Want to use your NUC from the couch? Then pick up the best media keyboard on the market, Corsair's new K83. Featuring wireless connectivity (via 2.4GHz wireless or Bluetooth), white backlighting, and a sleek aluminum finish, it's a truly premium pick. And of course it includes a trackpad, allowing you to use your PC without a traditional mouse.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This lapboard even includes a joystick, allowing it to control nearly every smart TV or streaming stick on the market!