The Best $800 Ultra-Compact NUC PC Build – May 2023

By Ari Altman | Published April 30, 2023 | Updated April 30, 2023

The 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 NUC PC, which uses a 4.5″ square case. If that doesn’t translate for you immediately, let’s just say it’s really small!

The funny thing is that Intel supports the NUC platform in fits and starts, sometimes going nearly two years without issuing an update, which leads well-known partners like Gigabyte, Asrock, and Asus to step in. And that’s where we find ourselves again, with AsRock first out of the gate with a 13th-Gen model.

This Month’s Build, Featuring Intel’s 13th-Gen Platform!

For May 2023, we recommend a new model featuring the incredible Core i5-1340P. This CPU is a 12-core, 16-thread powerhouse, despite being rated at just 28 Watts. It also has the excellent Intel Iris Xe G7 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, a fast 1TB PCIe Gen 4 solid-state drive, along with Windows 11. By the way, this system also has WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and support for up to four monitors thank to its array of HDMI and Thunderbolt outputs. Want to turn your NUC into an all-in-one, interactive workstation? Then pick up the awesome touchscreen monitor in our optional products section later in this guide, which has a rear mount to attach the NUC and truly streamline your desktop!

Want your PC ready to go out of the box? We list an incredible pre-built PC in this guide that is honestly an unbeatable deal. For less than our Intel-based build, you get the top-of-the-line AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX, an eight-core, 16-thread laptop CPU, along with 32GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD included. Anyone serious about extreme computing in an ultra-compact form factor ought to check it out.

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.

The Pre-Built Option

  • The Ultra-Compact Small Office PC

    MinisForum UM690

    Take everything you want in a modern PC and then scale it down, and you get the UM690. Despite the slim profile (it’s 5″ square and just 2″ thick), it packs in a lot of power. It’s equipped with the AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX 8-core, 16-thread CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, and built-in WiFi. It has 6 USB ports in total (including a USB4 Type-C and a USB 3.2 Type-C), and it can simultaneously support three monitors with resolutions up to 4K using its dual HDMI 4K outputs and USB4 8K output. Best of all: Windows 11 Pro is pre-installed and included in the price!

    The Guru’s Tip

    The CPU in this system performs on par with the Intel model in our NUC build below, and thanks to the almost constant coupon discounts offered by MinisForum on Amazon, this system is typically a lot cheaper!

The Barebones Build

  • Barebones Mini PC

    ASRock NUC BOX-1340P @Newegg

    The tiny but powerful NUC from Asrock is the perfect embodiment of Intel’s original NUC design. It uses the classic 4″ x 4″ layout, but packs in the modern, ultra-fast Intel Core i5-1340P, which features 4 multi-threaded “performance cores”, along with 8 efficiency cores, for a total of 16 task-stomping threads! It has built-in Wi-Fi 6E, dual 2.5Gbps LAN ports, a slot for an M.2 drive, another for a 2.5″ drive, and an amazing four UHD video outputs (one HDMI 2.0, one DisplayPort 1.4, and two DisplayPort 1.4 over USB Type-C).

    The Guru’s Tip

    Remember, as a barebones system, this box need RAM, storage, and an OS!

  • Memory

    G.Skill 2x8GB Ripjaws DDR4-3200 C22 SODIMM

    This compact SODIMM kits uses the laptop standard, allowing it to pack 16GB of capacity into a tiny footprint. It offers great performance thanks to its 3200 frequency.

    The Guru’s Tip

    We think 16GB is plenty of capacity for the kind of uses this system will be tasked with.

  • Solid-State Drive

    Samsung 980 Pro 1TB

    For storage, head straight for the 980 Pro 1TB drive from Samsung. It uses the PCIe 4.0 interface provided on this system’s motherboard to massively accelerate I/O operations.

    The Guru’s Tip

    The barebones system we're recommending supports PCIe Gen4 speeds, so yeah, we're going there... this drive is fast!

  • Operating System

    Windows 11 Home (USB)

    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! This version ships on a convenient USB stick, allowing it to be easily installed by just plugging it in.

    The Guru’s Tip

    Win11 is the OS you want on your new PC!

Optional Products

  • Monitor

    Acer UT241Y 24″ Touchscreen Monitor

    Nothing makes the computing experience more immersive and interactive than a touchscreen. Why keep your PC in the dark ages when your tablet and smartphone have had touchscreens for years? This exceptional model from Acer offers a big 23.8″ 1920×1080 IPS panel, a dual-hinge stand for both upright and desk surface use, built-in speakers, and of course full touch functionality.

    The Guru’s Tip

    Acer thought of everything with this monitor - it has a built-in mount to allow attaching a NUC PC directly to the back of the monitor!

  • The Deluxe Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Combo

    Logitech MK545 Keyboard/Mouse Combo

    This combo includes two great Logitech products at one great price: a slimline keyboard and a contoured mouse. Both peripherals connect to your PC with a single tiny, Logitech Unifying USB receiver, and will run for years without battery changes!

    The Guru’s Tip

    Needing just one USB connector for both peripherals is priceless on a tiny system with just a handful of ports!

  • The Budget Wireless PC Headset

    ‎SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless

    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.

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