Trying out the Intel NUC

I was thinking about buying a Mac Mini, but the Apple Store in Malaysia has over-priced it, due to the crazy Malaysian Ringgit (prices don’t reflect current realities; custom Mac Mini with all things thrown in is USD$1,499 vs RM6,899, today’s rate being RM6,435).

So I decided to buy an Intel NUC and go the Linux route. I picked up the Intel NUC NUC5i5RYH from CZone for RM1,643 which has an Intel Core i5-5250U processor, WiFi, Ethernet but requires you to provide some RAM, storage and you’re good to go. This is the model that allows an M.2 SSD and another regular 2.5” disk, so I chose to get the Transcend M.2 256GB SATA III 6Gb/s MTS800 to be the disk I’ll used to install an OS on for RM477 and decided that I’ll get another disk for storage/Dropbox purposes — HGST 7000rpm 2.5-Inch 1TB SATA III. RAM was easy – just make sure to get low power DDR3 RAM (DDR3L), and its easy enough to pick up 2*8GB sticks for a total of 16GB of RAM.

All in, I paid RM2,713 for this, and I provided by own MiniDisplayPort to VGA adapter. I see this as a huge savings over the Mac Mini. Sure, I can get a 2TB spinning disk on the Mac Mini (it seems that OEM folk can’t get these fusion drives at that size), but if I really wanted to go all out, I could have gotten a larger M.2 SSD and also went all in with SSD instead of spinning disk. Maybe when the 6th generation NUC comes out.

Configuring Ubuntu was relatively easy. Ubuntu 15.10 did require me to boot with the nomodeset option (so immediately after the visual BIOS splash screen, hit the Shift key, press e to edit the displayed kernel, and when it says ro quiet splash, edit it to say ro nomodeset quiet splash. You install Ubuntu via a USB thumb drive as well.

This is basically a server with X for me. It’s doing tasks like syncing Dropbox, backing up with CrashPlan, and it will allow me to use Docker containers, compile software, etc. while I’m sitting at my desk. It makes for a pretty mean desktop, all packed in a tiny little package. 

Why didn’t I go with the current i7? Seems like there wasn’t too much of a performance boost (good reading: Intel NUC Mini PC Review: Core i5 and i7 Benchmarked). The 6th Gen is also coming, so it will be a much more interesting platform for me (see the NUC6i5SYH; here’s hoping they also have i7 versions).