Mini PCs have garnered a devoted fan base, and I proudly count myself among them! When I learned about Intel's decision to entrust its NUC (Next Unit of Computing) business to Asus, I became genuinely intrigued by the potential outcomes. However, it's worth noting that NUCs are not solely targeted towards consumers. Asus is actively pursuing commercial and enterprise clients by offering customized NUC devices tailored for a diverse range of applications and scenarios.
The Register interviewed Jacky Hsu, the Senior Vice President of Asus, who elaborated on the company's intentions to create customized machines for different commercial clients. These tailored solutions encompass a wide array of applications, including embedded systems, industrial environments, and specific use cases such as digital signage, point-of-sale systems, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and warehouse/factory applications. Each of these domains presents unique environmental factors to be taken into account during the development process.
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When NUCs come to mind, we often envision compact cuboid-shaped devices or larger book-sized form factors. However, Asus intends to disrupt this perception by introducing a range of form factors specifically tailored for diverse use cases. This will be achieved through the design of custom solutions that incorporate unique considerations for input/output (I/O) capabilities and motherboards, resulting in NUCs that seamlessly fit within specific environments or areas of application.
The aspect of custom I/O is indeed intriguing. It is conceivable that Asus could design NUCs with various Ethernet standards, SFP connections, D-SUB, Serial, DIN, or any other type of connection based on specific requirements. If, for instance, a demand arose for 10,000 NUCs equipped with FireWire connections, Asus would likely be capable of accommodating such a request.
Gaming-oriented NUCs have been present in the market for quite a while, and this includes models featuring powerful components like the Intel i9 13900K processor and RTX 3080 Ti graphics card. While Asus has not yet disclosed specific details regarding its gaming NUC plans, KW Chao, the general manager of Asus's NUC business unit, has expressed that the possibility of ROG branded NUCs is being contemplated.
Considering the recent announcement that Intel's Meteor Lake family won't be available in the DIY market but is expected to be incorporated into embedded systems, all-in-one (AIO) devices, or NUC solutions, the prospect of a Meteor Lake ROG branded NUC becomes exceptionally intriguing.
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In theory, Asus could potentially utilize one of the more advanced Meteor Lake laptop chips, adjust its thermal design power (TDP) to better align with the NUC form factor, and create a gaming-focused NUC featuring a high-performance graphics card and a CPU that offers comparable performance to a desktop Raptor Lake chip. This would result in an impressively capable compact gaming setup without the inherent compromises and noise associated with cooling a desktop CPU rated at 125W or higher.
Incorporate some RGB lighting, and voila! You'll have an incredibly appealing mini-computer with performance that surpasses consoles and potentially in an even more compact size. While Asus wouldn't be the first to offer high-performance mini-PCs (MSI's Trident PCs come to mind), there are only a few instances of combining a laptop chip with a desktop-class GPU.
Asus appears to hold a promising future for the NUC. With the potential involvement of significant clients and the business unit's financial success, the prospect of ROG NUCs becoming available in the near future seems likely. I eagerly await their arrival!