The Best $700 Ultra-Compact NUC PC Build – May 2022

By Ari Altman | Published May 2, 2022 | Updated May 2, 2022

Asus PN51The Ultra-Compact PC, Defined

Need a powerful PC for work-for-home or small business use, but can’t stand the thought of a big, bulky desktop tower on your desk? Then go for an ultra-compact PC, which uses a 10cm x 10cm motherboard. In case that doesn’t translate for you immediately, it’s really small!

Today, the most powerful palm-sized PCs on the market leverage AMD Ryzen CPUs. While Intel defined the ultra-compact PC category with its trend-setting Next Unit of Computing (NUC, pronounced “nuck”), Intel has fallen seriously behind with its 11th-Gen NUC kits. They pale in comparison to the six- and eight-core AMD-powered systems that have been on the market much longer. Perhaps with the 12th-Gen NUCs, Intel will get back out in front, but for now, it’s AMD all the way!

This Month’s “Intel NUC” Build, Featuring AMD Again!

For May 2022, we recommend the stylish Asus PN50 kit, which features the AMD Ryzen 5 4500U six-core processor. It also has the excellent AMD Radeon Vega graphics solution on board. Because this is a “barebones” kit, you need to add your own RAM, solid-state drive, and operating system. We suggest 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, plus a fast 500GB PCIe solid-state drive, although you can certainly go with higher-capacity components if you’d like. By the way, this system also has WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5, and both front- and rear-mounted USB Type-C ports.

Need even more power? No problem! We list an incredible pre-built PC in the optional products section of this guide that is honestly an unbeatable deal. For just slightly more money than our Asus-based build, you get the top-of-the-line AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, an eight-core, 16-thread CPU, along with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD included. The only drawback is a slightly larger size (7.5″ x 7.5″ x 2.3″), but anyone serious about extreme computing in an ultra-compact form factor ought to check it out. Depending on the task, it runs 50-100% faster than the Asus thanks to the exceptional 5900HX processor, and again, it’s about the same price!

With all that said, 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.

Final Thoughts

Note that we provide links to Amazon or Newegg for our US readers, and our Amazon links will auto-convert for our readers in Canada, the UK, and parts of the EU, with regional substitutions made where necessary. If you decide to purchase any of the products we list, please use the links provided, which helps support continued development of these guides.

Required Components

  • Barebones Mini PC

    Asus PN50 4500U

    $430

    While the NUC class of PCs has primarily been defined by actual Intel-branded NUCs, AMD-based systems have seen explosive growth over the past few years. This amazing little machine from Asus sports an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U six-core processor with built-in Vega GPU. It has 5 USB ports (two being advanced Type-C ports with DisplayPort capability), and along with its full-size HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, it can support up to four monitors with resolutions up to 4K! In terms of storage, it can be equipped with dual SODIMM memory sticks, an M.2 solid-state drive, and a 2.5″ drive for extra capacity. It also has built-in WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

    The Guru’s Tip

    This system gives you performance on par with Intel's Core i7-equipped NUC 11, but at a much lower price!

  • Memory

    Mushkin 2x8GB Redline DDR4-3200 C16 SODIMM

    $63

    The ultra-compact PC format has always required the use of laptop-style memory modules, and the latest systems support memory with speeds up to 3200MHz (well above the more typical 2133 and 2666 speeds). That’s what we recommend here, in a 2x8GB configuration. But these sticks have an added benefit: very tight timings (CL16), making them far faster than most other 3200 kits.

    The Guru’s Tip

    Any system you intend to keep for the long-haul should have 16GB of RAM, especially systems like this one with just two RAM slots (which limits upgrades). You might even consider picking up the 2x16GB kit or even 2x32GB kit, available on the same product page!

  • Solid-State Drive

    WD Blue SN570 500GB NVMe

    $50

    WD knocked it out of the park with its high-performance yet bargain-priced SN570. Optimized for excellent real-world performance thanks to WD’s years of SSD development, it easily keeps up with much more expensive drives. This 500GB model can provide sequential read speeds of 3500MB/s and write speeds of 2300MB/s.

    The Guru’s Tip

    Need more capacity? Then jump up to the 1TB or 2TB version of this drive, listed on the same product page.

  • Operating System

    Windows 11 Home USB

    $139

    Windows 11 take everything people loved about Windows 10, and then takes it to 11! It adds significant under-the-hood changes to make it faster and more secure, and of course, the interface is sleek too!

    The Guru’s Tip

    Originally released only as an update for existing Win10 users, Win11 is the OS you want on your new PC!

Optional Products

  • The Ultra-Compact Small Office PC

    MinisForum EliteMini HX90

    $715

    Take everything you want in a modern PC and then scale it down, and you get the EliteMini HX90. Despite the slim profile (it’s 7.5″ square and 2.3″ thick), it packs in a lot of power. It’s equipped with the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX 8-core, 16-thread CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, and built-in WiFi. It has 6 USB ports in total (including a Type-C), and it can simultaneously support four monitors with resolutions up to 4K using its dual HDMI and dual DisplayPort output. It’s basically the perfect small office PC!

    The Guru’s Tip

    While this is slightly larger than the NUC format, the power it offers is simply amazing, and we think anyone considering an ultra-compact PC should take a look given the exceptional price!

  • Hard Drive

    WD Blue 2TB 2.5″

    $68
    Want to add a bunch of storage to your system at low cost, and without taking up much space? No problem – just add this high-capacity 2TB hard drive to your build! Not only is it a good value, but it’s also very quiet and energy efficient.
    The Guru’s Tip

    This is a great way to expand the storage capacity of an ultra-compact PC, as you'll already have a quick SSD in the system for the OS and apps.

  • The Budget Wireless PC Headset

    ‎SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless

    $97

    SteelSeries has made a name for itself in the gaming headset world with its no-nonsense focus on performance. The Arctis 1 follows in this tradition with high-end drivers, lossless 2.4 GHz wireless for ultra-low latency wireless connectivity on both PC and PS4/PS5, a detachable bidirectional microphone, and 20 hours of battery life.

    The Guru’s Tip

    This headset will also work with your smartphone, thanks to its Bluetooth capability.

  • The Deluxe Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Combo

    Logitech MK875 Keyboard/Mouse Combo

    $100

    This combo includes two great Logitech products at one great price. The keyboard has a curved profile and a built-in wrist rest for unbeatable comfort. And the mouse is among our favorites ever, the MX Anywhere 2S, with a great ergonomic grip and the Darkfield laser sensor, which allows it to track on anything, even glass! Both peripherals connect to your PC with a single tiny, Logitech Unifying USB receiver, or via Bluetooth.

    The Guru’s Tip

    We suggest using the Bluetooth functionality of these peripherals, meaning you won't need to use any of the USB ports on your mini PC!

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