Intel plans Core i7 bare bones mini-PCs
'Guts of an ultrabook' inside 'Next Unit of Computing' machines
Intel has launched the first unit in a range of bare bones mini-PCs it says will first appeal to system integrators creating digital signage solutions and then eventually excite businesses of almost any size.
The new device is part of Chipzilla's Next Unit of Computing (NUC) range. Intel currently plans three NUC devices, each intended to reside in a 10cmx10cmx5cm chassis. Sold as kits or just as a bare board, the NUCs all support the Core i3 processor and offer the QS77 Express chipset. Power comes from an external DC supply.
Kamil Gurgen, Intel Australia's distribution business & technical manager. Described the NUC as containing “the guts of an ultrabook”.
The first model, the DC3217BY (PDF), sports a core i3 i3-3217U CPU, three USB 2.0 ports, one HDMI connector and Thunderbolt. A VESA mounting bracket is included in the case, because Chipzilla expects the device will be bolted to the back of monitors deployed in digital signage rigs according to Kamil Gurgen, Intel Australia's distribution business & technical manager.
“In emerging countries like Malaysia and Thailand, digital signage is going through the roof,” Gurgen told The Reg. “They need a small and simple computer that is fast enough to handle it.”
Gurgen expects system integrators – the NUCs will be channel-only unless a PC-maker adopts the devices – will populate the NUCs' pair of mini-PCIe slots with solid state storage (a full-length slot is mSATA-ready) and use the other half-length slot for a WiFi or Bluetooth module to connect digital signs to a source of new content.
A NUC DC3217BY
System builders will need to come aboard as the devices lack memory, storage and an operating system.
Gurgen said he understands roadmaps for the NUC range suggest it will adopt Intel's “good better best” motto, adding Celeron processors for low end devices and then reaching all the way up to the Core i7.
Other applications Gurgen envisions for the machine include point of sale, as the computer is easily hidden, or as a way to bring Windows 8 to business by bolting the device behind a touch screen. He also feels that in developing countries the ability to daisy-chain the machines using Thunderbolt could see that protocol become a handy LAN alternative under some circumstances. In mainstream businesses and/or developed countries, Gurgen said he can envisage NUCs in desktop virtualisation rigs.
Intel is not new to providing bare bones computers – its has offered servers to the channel for some time. Bare-bones PCs could raise eyebrows among more established PC-makers, but Gurgen said he feels such companies will understand the situation.
“The channel play has always been about re-branding,” he said. “The NUCs allow configurability and segmentation of the product.”
The first NUC, the DC3217BY, will go on sale in November, with a twin-HDMI-and-HD-graphics-4000-equipped model DC3217IYE due in December before a third device arrives in the New Year.
Gurgen said Intel has already conducted a roadshow to demonstrate the device, generating great enthusiasm along the way. “We are in the process of go to market readiness at the moment, he said. “We need to make sure people are up on the mSATA solid state disks and WiFi modules.”
One market Gurgen did not mention is hobbyists, a significant omission given early reports of the NUC range portrayed it as a Raspberry Pi-eater. Given the cost of the units, the need for extra components and the fact Intel offers very few downloads for operating systems other than Windows, the NUCs seem destined not to have mass appeal in the Pi's slice of the market. ®
A Raspberry Pi is more than cable of running digital signage. The Videocore IV GPU in the Raspberry Pi is at least as capable as that in the Intel, and the Raspberry Pi is already being targeted at the digital signage segment as the hardware is cheap, cool running, and more than up to the job. Also, there are now several operating systems already available (or under development, including bare metal).
This bare-bones device from Intel is expected to cost between $300-$320, so about the price of 10x Raspberry Pi ($35 each). Then you need to add memory (at $40-$80, another 2-3x Raspberry Pi), plus mSATA storage (say another $150, or 4x more Raspberry Pi).
Where are we up to? Lets call it the cost of 20 Raspberry Pi for one Intel PC, not to mention electricity running costs that will dwarf those of the Raspberry Pi. Just so it can do the same job as a Raspberry Pi.
This Intel product is a joke, a total, absolute joke.
Sure, in terms of pure compute it is a more capable product than the Raspberry Pi, but for the suggested market - digital signage - it's complete overkill and bested all ends up by the Raspberry Pi.
This "Next Unit of Computing" smacks of desperation from Intel before the onslaught of ultra cheap, ultra small, ARM powered computers. The real "Next Units of Computing". :)
Has a big advantage over a Pi
My local bus station has a blue screen of death display terminal. You cannot get anything like that with a Pi. For a proper authentic BSoD you need Intel and Microsoft. Surely that is worth an extra $300.
Once again Intel set off on the wrong path.
The power supply should be internal, especially if they are targeting markets like digital signage. Apple manage to get a PSU inside their mini and they still have enough room for two hard drives.
I3 for signage?
I game on a c2d!
An ultrabook is overpowered for the application. Apart from anything else you want passive cooling and cool-running in a hot climate.
Intel NUC: 65W, active cooling
Raspberry Pi: 3.5W passive cooling.
To be fair, I think that 65W includes power for 2 mini-PCIe cards and full power out of the USB connectors. It is not a in any way competitor with a Pi. If you really need PCIe and Windows 8 then a Pi wont fit, but Intel have a long way to go to get near Pi price, power and silence.