The Best $500 Ultra-Compact NUC PC Build – February 2024
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!
While Intel created the NUC standard back in 2013, it dropped a bombshell on the industry ten years later, when it announced in July 2023 that it was abandoning further development of NUC models. That does not, however, mean the end of the NUC form factor. In fact, Asus has taken over Intel’s NUC production line, and many manufacturers had already jumped on the NUC bandwagon in recent years to with Intel’s blessing. That may be one of the main reasons Intel left the market – others had figured out how to do it better, and cheaper too.
This Month’s Build, Featuring AMD!
For February 2024, we recommend a pre-built model that is honestly such a fantastic deal that there’s no reason to build your own NUC using a barebones chassis, which would require that you also buy the memory, solid-state drive, and operating system, and spend a whole lot more in the process. Instead, we turn to MinisForum, which produces a system featuring AMD’s stellar Ryzen 7 7735HS 8-core, 16-thread CPU with built-in Radeon 680M graphics . This system includes 32GB of DDR5-4800 RAM and a 1TB PCIe Gen 4 solid-state drive, which comes pre-loaded with Windows 11 Pro. By the way, this system also has WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and support for up to three monitors thanks to its array of HDMI and USB4 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! 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.
Note that we provide links to Amazon 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 UM773 Lite$470Take everything you want in a modern PC and then scale it down, and you get the UM773 Lite. Despite the slim profile (it’s 5″ square and just 2″ tall), it packs in a lot of power. It’s equipped with the AMD Ryzen 7 7735HS 8-core, 16-thread CPU, 32GB of DDR5 RAM, a 1TB PCIe Gen 4 solid-state drive, and built-in WiFi 6. 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, two with resolutions up to 4K using its dual HDMI 4K outputs, plus an 8K monitor on its USB4 output. Best of all: Windows 11 Pro is pre-installed and included in the price!
Here's the honest truth: we liked this system so much after we bought one for ourselves that we convinced multiple family members to buy one too. So you know we mean it when we recommend it to you!
Asus BE24ECSBT 24″ Touchscreen Monitor$360 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!
Solid-State Drive –
Silicon Power 2TB SATA$103 The Guru’s Tip
The system we recommend above can fit a 2.5" drive in addition to its main M.2-based solid-state drive. So if you need extra storage at a great price, this is the perfect upgrade!
The Deluxe Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Combo –
Logitech MK545 Keyboard/Mouse Combo$55 The Guru’s Tip
Needing just one USB connector for both peripherals is priceless on a tiny system with just a handful of ports!
Logitech C920x Pro HD Webcam$70 The Guru’s Tip
Pair this with the monitor we recommend, which has built-in speakers, for an awesome streamlined audio-visual setup.