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Intel introduces $400 mini PC


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$400 mini PC sporting Ivy Bridge to launch in third quarter of this year.

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Intel's NUC prototype and motherboard pictured next to an iPhone.

Not content to leave the "extremely tiny computer" market to the likes of the Raspberry Pi, the Cotton Candy, and the Pocket TV, Intel has also been showing off its own diminutive motherboard at expos and trade shows since April. At last week's Computex, the company talked a little more about its so-called Next Unit of Computing (NUC), including price targets and future plans for the form factor.

According to TechReport, a $400 computer using the 4" by 4" motherboard will begin shipping in the third quarter of this year, and will include a third-generation Ivy Bridge Core i3 processor paired with a last-generation HM65 chipset, 4GB of RAM, a 40GB SSD, and WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. In a computer this small, the biggest implication of the older chipset is that there will be no USB 3.0 support included, just USB 2.0 and dual HDMI ports. The NUC form factor calls for the same 17 watt CPUs used in MacBook Airs and UltraBooks, which should tell you what kind of performance to expect: speedy for most uses, but not a replacement for a quad-core workstation.

Two slots for laptop-sized RAM modules and one slot each for Mini PCI Express and mSATA devices (intended for wireless support and tiny SSDs, respectively) help keep the board's physical size small while retaining some flexibility for later upgrades (though not much; as of this writing mSATA SSDs are both rarer and more expensive than their larger counterparts).

Though pricing for the NUC is much higher than some of the mini-Linux systems we've covered, the two serve distinctly different functions: the small, cheap Linux computers are for tinkerers and people who need to do a few tasks well, while the NUC will let you do just about everything you can do with a traditional PC in a very small form factor. Future versions with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt support are being planned for the fourth quarter of the year, while a cheaper model using a Celeron processor (much like the one used Samsung's recent Chromebox) is also being considered.

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