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The Intel® NUC (Next Unit of Computing) is a Mini PC with a customizable board that accepts a wide variety of memory, storage, and operating systems. Built around Intel® Core™ processors, Intel® NUC Mini PCs with Windows 10 Pro deliver responsive performance for office applications, high-speed connections for data transfer, and powerful graphics for 4K displays, all in a 4 by 4 inch package.

Intel NUC

Intel® NUC's can be purchased as a kit, allowing the user to customize the mini-PC with memory, storage, and operating systems of choice. One of the tech developments making this movement possible is the demise of optical media in favor of streaming services. The space needed to house CD and DVD drives is no longer needed.

TechRepublic staff technology writer James Sanders believes the NUC signifies the beginning of the end of the traditional desktop computer. As evidence, he points out that AMD is planning its own "Small Form Factor" computer to compete with Intel. "Consumers have been adopting notebooks as their primary computer for well over a decade," Sanders writes, "bringing economies of scale to notebook-class parts such as SODIMM RAM modules and SSDs used in SFF PCs." The notebook, however, forces a choice between a small screen and a less-than-elegant connection to an external monitor.

Gartner is noticing a softening of full-size desktop PC sales, reporting a slight, 0.3% decline in year-over-year U.S. sales — coupled with a whopping 5.3% decrease in Asian Pacific sales, typically the product's strongest market — in the recently ended Q3 2019. Though SFF PCs have been around since 2013, Intel has been regularly improving speed, memory, and storage capacity, making them a reasonable alternative to the traditional desktop tower.

Can Apple be far behind?

With AMD announcing its plans to compete with Intel in the growing SFF world, naturally there has to be a Mac in that form factor. The "Mac Mini" with comparable size and performance features to the NUC boasts customizable memory, storage, and a choice of Intel CPU processors. Users bring their own keyboard and monitor but the price starts at $799. Compared to the $5,999 2019 Mac Pro, the new Mini is clearly aimed at PC users previously unable to play in the thin air of Apple pricing. Apple initially marketed it as BYODKM (Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard, and Mouse). It uses many laptop components to achieve its small size.

Sanders asserts that there will be two use cases that will keep full-size desktop computers alive, both for intensive graphics applications: hardcore gaming battle stations and professional video editing.

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©2019 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only.