What is the Best Intel NUC Mini PC for Summer 2021?

A question we sometimes get at DroiX is: “What is an NUC?”. The short answer is, it’s a PC – a mini PC. The long answer? Read on to find out…

What IS an NUC?

An Intel NUC is a specialized computer with an emphasis on being as small as physically possible.

The term “NUC” was coined by Intel in around 2012-2013. It stands for “Next Unit (of) Computing” and is used to describe a series of extremely small motherboards with a built-in CPU and an an external power supply. Most models also come with some form of built-in fan, and a VESA mount on the case they’re housed in.

How small is a mini PC?
“HTPC” stands for “Home Theatre PC”. It’s another term that NUC’s often go by.

NUCs are far, far smaller than your average desktop with a length/width comparable to that of a mobile phone in most cases (although they’ll understandably be thicker).

In terms of performance, the majority of NUC use laptop processors, and are often devoid of discrete GPUs. With this in mind, their performance is more comparable to that of a laptop. Although there are a few models that make use of desktop processors or even discrete GPUs.

Reccomended NUCs

Universally, the strength of an NUC lies in their ease of setup and small size enabling them to fit comfortably in many environments. This makes them an appealing option for home offices, media centres, or enterprise environments where you require a large number of computers to be running simultaneously (schools, offices, etc.).

A common misconception around NUCs is that, because of the term “Intel NUC”, one might assume that they need to purchase one directly endorsed by Intel.
This is not the case, as there are numerous third parties who manufacture high-quality mini computers/NUCs. Here’s a few that we sell on our store (click the model name in the heading to go to the page). But if you’d like to browse more, click here to check them out!

Specific Models

We’d like to highlight a few NUC’s to get you started on your research into purchasing your first one! These are good starting points if you’re unsure as to what you’re looking for in particular in a PC.

PROTEUS 10 by DroiX - Showing Mini Computer from the Front
The antenna give the Proteus a very distinct appearance when placed alongside it’s contemporaries.

The DroiX Proteus 10 and 10S are upcoming mini PC’s powered by 10th generation Intel processors. The 10 makes use of an i5-10310U, and the 10S makes use of an i7-10510U.

The Proteus is intended to be a successor to our very popular DroiX CK1 mini PC, providing a balance of size and power, as well as having a comparable feature-set as well. With dual monitor support, six USB-A ports, a USB-C port (data transfer only) and a 3.5mm headphone jack, the Proteus is a highly flexible design that excels as a workstation for a home office, or just a general purpose computer in any environment.

The Proteus also features adjustable antennae on the rear, granting the device slightly better wireless connectivity (although as with all devices, we wholeheartedly recommend a direct ethernet connection over Wi-Fi whenever and wherever possible/practical).

MinisForum X35G Windows Intel NUC Mini PC - Shown from the front at angle with Microphone, Power Port, USB Type-C and 2x USB Type-A 3.0
The distribution of ports is pretty even on the X35G, compared to most devices where they’re all pushed to one side.

The Minisforum X35G is a mid-range mini PC powered by an Intel Core i3-1005G1. The X35G is a great option for if you’re looking for something to act as a media centre for the house and home, or if you’re looking for a home office PC but are constrained by a budget.

Uniquely, the X35G comes with an option to include 16GB of Intel Optane RAM. In short, this means that the CPU “plays nicer” with the RAM and thus provides small boost in actual processing power.

Beelink U55 Windows 10 Mini PC - Side View showing Power Button, Headphone Jack, USB Type-C Port, USB 3.0 Ports and MicroSD/TF Card Reader
An unassuming design, the Beelink U55 doesn’t draw the eye, which some might prefer.

The U55 is a more budget-conscious mini PC powered by an older Intel Core i3-5005U CPU. With a standard smattering of USB ports (including an SD-card slot), the U55 makes a great option for those who need a mini PC for online shopping, sending emails, or other low-intensity tasks.

As you would expect of a budget model, there is not a great deal to say here. We at DroiX sell cheaper models than this such as the Beelink T34 and the DroiX T12, however, those are more geared towards consumers on a hyper-strict budget, or those that require a special use case.

Specific Categories

We have also created a collection of handy categories that you can use to browse PCs based on what their recommended use case.

Need a PC for general use in the home? A family PC for streaming, online shopping, sending emails and the like? See here for our list of mini PC’s for casual usage.

Need a PC for work? Perhaps you need a PC for graphic design, or for processing spreadsheets. See here for our list of mini PC’s we consider best for the office, home office, or enterprise environment.

Need a PC for gaming? Maybe you lack the space for a full-sized gaming PC, or perhaps you’re interested in creating a retro gaming emulation hub. See here for a list of our recommended mini PC’s for gaming.

We also have a general overview of mini pc’s that are perfect for casual usage, work, and gaming, in case you’d like to browse a wider selection.

Does an NUC have to use Intel?

Technically… Yes. Practically, no! While a device with an AMD processor technically isn’t an NUC, it can still functionally be the exact same – a small form-factor PC.

While the term “NUC” belongs to Intel. Nowadays it is often broadly used to describe similar kinds of mini PC’s much like how “Google” is used to describe the act of searching something on the web, or how brands can potentially lose their trademark if they become too ubiquitous in a market.

We sell a fair few AMD-powered Mini PC’s. Take a look below if you’re interested!

Conclusion

It’s the combination of price, performance, and overall flexibility that lead us to feel that the DroiX Proteus is the best mini PC for summer 2021. Whether you pick the 10S or the 10, you’ll be getting a mini PC that works perfectly as a daily driver, but can also double as a media centre, enterprise IT solution, retro gaming PC, and more!

We hope you’ve found this short blog post regarding NUC’s helpful. If there’s anything we missed or if there’s anything else you’d like to see us cover, please feel free to leave a comment, or send us an email at support@droix.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help!

In addition, if you didn’t already know, at the time of publishing, the DroiX A To Z Summer Sale is now live! With savings of up to £100 available on selected products (including NUC’s/Mini PC’s)! Check it out here:

Until next time!

benjamin
Mild-mannered support agent by daylight; even milder-mannered tech blogger under cover of night. Fond of gaming, virtual reality, and sleeping; not necessarily in that order.