Intel NUC

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Generation 5 NUCs

NUCipedia Introduction

The Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing - typically pronounced "nook") is an ultra small form factor desktop computer produced by Intel, available as either:

  • Kit with motherboard installed in a case, with included power supply
  • Motherboard only SKU, where you supply your own case

At a basic level, you then only need to supply your own RAM, storage, screen, keyboard and mouse for a fully working solution.

Homelabs built from Intel NUCs are sometimes referred to as Nanolabs.

Pros and Cons

The key benefits of the NUC all centre around its massive WAF, due to its tiny size and minimal noise unless under high load. This means that you can locate them just about anywhere without risk of irritation from noise, such as in your home office, or even your living room!

The biggest drawbacks with the NUC were historically the limit of 16GB per node and the lack of a second NIC port. The former has now been resolved as of the 6th generation model, which now supports up to 32GB per node, and there are now multiple methods as detailed below, to provide a second or even a third ethernet adapter.

Newer models come with two chassis options, one of which supports a second 2.5" drive bay. These are typically a better buy as the additional case space allows more airflow, and keeps them cooler, even if you plan not to populate the bay.

Native headless access is only available via vPro on a handful of models, including the DC53427HYE and NUC5i5MYHE, typically only for i5 processors. Beyond that you would need to use some form of remote KVM solution if you need this level of remote management.

Lastly for maximum geek factor, Intel provide you with the ability to print your own custom NUC lids using your 3D printer! One of the organisations mentioned by Intel also provide a number of other NUC products, including a custom lid with built in USB ports, and an additional ethernet port, though details on the driver version are not yet released.

NUC Costs

NUCs are not a budget option, but are reasonably inexpensive considering their size, power, and long warranty from Intel.

  • A new model is typically priced at around £200-£300 ($250-$400).
  • You then need to simply add RAM and storage, which varies by model and generation.
  • M.2 SSDs are supported in all models, and the larger chassis models support standard 2.5" SATA drives.
  • RAM for Gen 5 and older models is based on older DDR3L SODIMMs which have come down in price significantly in the last couple of years. Newer models take DDR4 which is still relatively highly priced.
  • Older models came with a notebook-style brick power supply, but no C5 kettle lead, so watch out for that!
  • It is typically possible to boot from USB into your favourite hypervisor, but these can usually be picked up for free at trade shows, or for a few pounds/dollars online.
  • If you wish to add a single or dual port USB 3.0 NIC to your NUC, you can expect to pay £20-£40 ($25-60).

As the range have been available for some time, they now typically come up second hand on Ebay on a regular basis for as much as 50%+ off for a Gen3/4 model. These are a great investment if you want to build out your NUCfrastructure on a budget!

Use Cases

The primary use case for Intel NUCs are when you need a very small, silent homelab, which can fit into just about any space and any room, be it your office, your living room, or even your bedroom!

In addition, due to the very low power consumption, they are ideal from a "green" perspective, as well as keeping your electricity bill low.

Beyond that of course, there is a certain nerdy coolness to running a very powerful and fully featured lab in just a few inches of compute, especially if you combine it with some of the NUC Racks! :)

The main time you should avoid using Intel NUCs is if you plan to run their CPUs constantly at a high utilisation. In this case their cooling will need to kick in, which can generate a very irritating high pitched noise. If you want something which is permanently running at high CPU utilisation but stays quiet, your best bet is probably a whitebox solution in a tower case, utilising silent fans and a silent, "gold" rated PSU, though you can expect your power bill to go up in this instance.

Adding a Second NIC to your NUC

USB-NIC.jpg
For many people, the lack of a second ethernet NIC is an irritation at best, and a deal breaker at worst. For Windows bare metal installs this is less of an issue, but for vSphere it is a significant challenge.

A number of people have written about how to hack up a second NIC, and more recently William Lam has managed to get a USB NIC working in his lab with vSphere 5.5 and 6.0!

WARNING: We take no responsibility if you brick you NUC or void its warranty by following any of the articles below!

Racking NUCs

VSANLegoRack.png
Much like Pringles, you will quickly find that you can't have just one NUC, so the question then becomes how to manage the devices and cabling. Some very innovative solutions have been created by members of the community, including:

Known Issues and Solutions

The following is a list of known issues with the Intel NUC as a homelab:

NUC-Gen2.jpg

Intel NUC Models

The following table lists all NUC models with local GigE ports, which are compatible with running VMware vSphere. All other models are excluded.

Gen Intel kit Intel board Processor TDP CPU
Bench
GPU Max
RAM
External
Ports
Networking &
Driver Model
Internal
SATA
Internal M.2
SSD/NVMe
1st Sandy Bridge DCCP847DYE DCP847SKE Celeron 847 17 W 952 HD Graphics 2000 16 GB USB 2.0 (×3) GigE (×1) No
2nd Ivy Bridge DC3217IYE D33217GK Core i3-3217U 17 W 2291 HD Graphics 4000 16 GB USB 2.0 (×3) Intel 82579V GigE (×1) No
2nd Ivy Bridge DC53427HYE D53427RKE Core i5-3427U 17 W 3530 HD Graphics 4000 16 GB USB 2.0 (×2)
USB 3.0 (×1)
Intel 82579LM GigE (×1) No
3rd Bay Trail DN2820FYKH DN2820FYB Celeron N2820 /
Celeron N2830
7.5 W 983 /
993
HD Graphics 8 GB USB 2.0 (×2)
USB 3.0 (×1)
Intel 82579V (TBC!) GigE (×1)
802.11bgn & Bluetooth 4.0
Yes (×1)
4th Haswell D34010WYK D34010WYB Core i3-4010U 15 W 2435 HD Graphics 4400 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) No
4th Haswell D34010WYKH D34010WYB Core i3-4010U 15 W 2435 HD Graphics 4400 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
4th Haswell D54250WYK D54250WYB Core i5-4250U 15 W 3454 HD Graphics 5000 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) No
4th Haswell D54250WYKH D54250WYB Core i5-4250U 15 W 3454 HD Graphics 5000 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
5th Broadwell NUC5i7RYH NUC5i7RYB Core i7-5557U 28 W 4967 HD Graphics 5000 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
5th Broadwell NUC5i5RYH NUC5i5RYB Core i5-5250U 15 W 3628 HD Graphics 5000 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
5th Broadwell NUC5i5RYK NUC5i5RYB Core i5-5250U 15 W 3628 HD Graphics 5000 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
5th Broadwell NUC5i3RYH NUC5i3RYB Core i3-5010U 15 W 3069 HD Graphics 5000 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
5th Broadwell NUC5i3RYK NUC5i3RYB Core i3-5010U 15 W 3069 HD Graphics 5000 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
5th Broadwell NUC5i3MYHE NUC5i3MYBE Core i3-5010U 15 W 3069 HD Graphics 5000 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
5th Broadwell NUC5i5MYHE NUC5i5MYBE Core i5-5300U vPro 15 W 3787 HD Graphics 5000 16 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I218V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
6th Skylake NUC6i3SYK Core i3-6100U 15 W 3529 HD Graphics 520 32 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I219V GigE (×1) No
6th Skylake NUC6i3SYH Core i3-6100U 15 W 3529 HD Graphics 520 32 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I219V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
6th Skylake NUC6i5SYK Core i5-6260U 15 W 4345 Iris Graphics 540 32 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I219V GigE (×1) No
6th Skylake NUC6i5SYH Core i5-6260U 15 W 4345 Iris Graphics 540 32 GB USB 3.0 (×4) Intel I219V GigE (×1) Yes (×1)
6th Skylake NUC6i7KYK NUC6i7KYK Features Core i7-6770HQ 45 W 9478 Iris Graphics Pro 580 32 GB USB 3.0 (×4)
Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) (x1)
Intel I219LM GigE (×1) No PCIe x4 Gen3 NVMe or AHCI SSD (x2)
2242/2280

Further Reading