The Best $500 Ultra-Compact NUC PC Build – June 2024

By Ari Altman | Published June 1, 2024 | Updated June 1, 2024

UM790The 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 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 June 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 money in the process. Instead, we turn to MinisForum, which produces a system featuring AMD’s stellar Ryzen 9 6900HX 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 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and support for up to four 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.

Final Thoughts

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 UM690 Pro

    $432
    Take everything you want in a modern PC and then scale it down, and you get the UM690 Pro. Despite the sleek design and slim profile (it’s 5″ square and 1.9″ thick), it packs in a lot of power. It’s equipped with the AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX 8-core, 16-thread CPU, Radeon 680M graphics, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB solid-state drive, and built-in WiFi 6E. It has 6 USB ports in total (including dual USB 4 Type-C), and it can simultaneously support four monitors, at up to 4K/60Hz on the HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.4 outputs, or 8K/60Hz on the USB4 outputs. Best of all: Windows 11 is pre-installed and included in the price!

    The Guru’s Tip

    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!

Optional Products

  • Solid-State Drive

    Silicon Power 2TB SATA

    $96
    Silicon Power’s 2TB SATA solid-state drive puts hard drives to shame, offering 5-10x the speed (up to 550MB/s), despite coming in around the same price. For years, people dreamed of price parity between hard drives and SSDs – now they can have it!

    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!

  • Monitor

    Asus BE24ECSBT 24″ Touchscreen Monitor

    $310
    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 Asus offers a big 23.8″ 1920×1080 IPS panel, a smooth 75Hz refresh rate, built-in speakers, and of course full 10-point touch functionality. And don’t forget to pick up the slick Asus MKT02 VESA mounting stand to attach a NUC-style PC for the ultimate all-in-one setup!

    The Guru’s Tip

    This screen with a mini PC installed on the back will make for the perfect kitchen or living room PC!

  • The Basic Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Combo

    Logitech MK270 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Combo

    $23
    While you may have an old keyboard and mouse sitting in your desk, treat yourself to a new wireless setup from Logitech, the MK270!

    The Guru’s Tip

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

  • Webcam

    Logitech C920x Pro HD Webcam

    $59
    Need to use your PC for video conferencing? No problem! Just add this high-quality 1080p webcam from Logitech, which includes a built-in microphone. Just remember that if your monitor doesn’t have built-in speakers, you’ll also need stand-alone speakers for web conferencing to work. We’re amazed at the number of people who use headphones for video conferencing when it’s so much more professional to use gear attached to your PC, rather than your head!

    The Guru’s Tip

    Pair this with the monitor we recommend, which has built-in speakers, for an awesome streamlined audio-visual setup.

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