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Intel bakes palm-sized Core i5 NUC to rival Raspberry Pi

A $35 ARM board has Chipzilla rattled or amused?

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Pictures and details of a stripped-back ultra-compact desktop computer from Intel have hit the web.

Packing a Core i3 or Core i5 processor socket on a 10cm-by-10cm board, the hand-sized Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) doesn't feature a touchscreen nor a keyboard, although it is one of the smallest complete x86-compatible computers on the market. It's more like an Apple TV in terms of form factor, it's smaller than Mini-ITX boards and yet larger than the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi.

The NUC is destined for kiosks and digital signs, rather than mass sale to the schoolchildren targeted by the UK-designed Pi, but it could find a corner under tellies or in classrooms.

According to Fred Birang, a senior product marketing engineer at Intel, in an interview with Just Press Start, the gear will hit the market in the second half of the year.

The NUC has two SO-DIMM laptop memory slots, and two mini PCIe headers allowing the motherboard to be expanded. There are a series of sockets for Thunderbolt, HDMI and USB 3.0. Naturally it needs a heatsink and fan assembly. Anyone who has used or seen a development board or played with Mini-ITX kit will be forgiven for their bemusement at the ripple of excitement caused by this hunk of silicon.

Powered by the Sandy Bridge i5 chip with an Intel HD 3000 GPU, the NUC is still going to be a whole load more powerful than the ARM-compatible 700MHz Broadcom SoC in the Raspberry Pi - and will support the gigantic Microsoft Windows platform. Consequently it's going to chug a lot more energy and be more expensive.

The price is not yet decided, but the smart boxes are likely to cost significantly more than the $35 Raspberry Pi. Birang said the price wouldn't be in the "hundreds or thousands" and blog Extreme Tech suggested a $100 price tag. But then, the Pi is not for profit, and Intel obviously wants to make money off their boxes. ®

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