Monday, January 13, 2014

A look around (and inside) the i3 NUC D34010WYK

Allright, the NUC is finally here! My NUC is a D34010WYK ($289 / £252 / €279 at the time of writing, Amazon), which is equipped with an Intel Core i3 Haswell processor including the HD Graphics 4400 graphics adapter. That makes it powerful enough for almost any HTPC usage these days. When 4k video will come, this might not be (or might be) enough, but we're still too far from 4k for me to worry about it.

So, let's have a look at the thing. When you open the package, it will play the Intel tune (seriously) and reveal a power cord, power brick, some quick start guides and warranty papers and the NUC itself. I had seen all the pictures online before, but it's still hard to comprehend how small the thing is before you actually see it live. For perspective I placed a PS3 controller next to the thing.

D34010WYK NUC next to a PS3 controller

So let's have a look at the chassis. The glossy black top looks rather nice with aluminum chassis, even if I would have preferred a full aluminum chassis. The front side houses 2 USB 3.0 connectors, combined heaphone/microphone jack and the IR receiver. The power button sits on the top.

The front side

In the rear we have a 19-volt DC connector, mini DisplayPort 1.2a connector, mini HDMI 1.4a connector, RJ45 Ethernet connector and 2 USB 3.0 ports. It's worth noting that all external USB ports are of the latest 3.0 type. There's an internal USB 2.0 header on the mainboard, that's currently unused in my setup.

Connectivity on the back side

There are 4 regular Phillips-head screws on the bottom, one inside each rubber foot. After popping off the bottom cover the mainboard is exposed. As you probably already know, you will need to install at least a single DDR3L (1.35V) memory module in the NUC, but you can install another one to enable dual channel memory mode, which is a bit faster as well as an mSATA SSD disk and a WiFi card. Or you could think of something else to put in the full and half size mini PCIe slots.

The mainboard with the components
I've annotated the picture above to show you what's on the bottom side of the board. Note that while you do have a SATA connector that does support 6Gb/s speed, there is no space in the chassis for a drive. Intel is later on releasing models that do have a bit more space inside the case. DN2820FYKH is the Celeron model, D34010WYKH is the Core i3 model (with the same mainboard as the one here) and D54250WYKH is the Core i5 model. The letter H at the end of the model name denotes a bit higher case with a space for a single 2.5" SSD or HDD drive.

My WiFi card and mSATA SSD drive had not arrived yet, so I only had to install my memory at this point. Installing the memory is easy, just insert it in a slight angle and push down until it clicks down. There's a good pictured quick start guide with the NUC that will explain you all this in details. Even if you've never built a PC yourself, it's fairly simple to build the NUC.

On the top side of the board you have the CPU and the fan assembly as well as a custom solutions header, which will give you additional possibilities if you're building a system in a custom casing instead of the Intel provided one. I did not have any use for it, so I did not take off the board to see the other side.

Single DDR3L 1.35V SODIMM module installed
I'll need to add the SSD and the WiFi card later, but now it's time to replace the screws and boot up the thing! I hooked it up with my TV using the mini DisplayPort connector because that's the only cable I had lying around the house. Will use the HDMI connector later on. Intel NUC logo popped up on the screen and I quickly pressed F2 on the keyboard to enter the visual BIOS. The fan is barely audible and can be made even quieter by adjusting the BIOS settings.

Allright, that's it for now, I'll have a look at the BIOS settings later on and talk about installing the OpenELEC operating system which is the soul of my future home theater machine. My first impressions of the latest OpenELEC nightly are very positive - after a bit of tweaking almost everything works as I want.

3 comments:

  1. Very promising. I've had my eye on one of these. As an FYI in Windows 8 with a Core i5 and HD Graphics 4000 it plays 4k (http://bbb3d.renderfarming.net/download.html) just fine. Also the Intel Quicksync transcoder in those chips is amazing with beta Handbrake (http://handbrake.fr).

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    1. Thanks for the tips Andy! The Linux drivers seem to be a work in progress still, but there seems to be rather active development currently. It seems nightly builds have a lot of improvements over the stable releases, especially when it comes to deinterlacing, which is necessary for live TV. I'm running an i5 desktop machine with Win 8.1 and have been rather satisfied with the performance, just wanted something smaller and less power hungry for the living room.

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