Small form factor PCs, or NUCs for those of you who have invested heavily in the Intel ecosystem, have become immensely popular during the pandemic and have grown significantly over the last year.
With a booming gaming industry and creator economy in India, Intel hopes to capitalize on a growing market with the launch of its NUC 13 series, targeting enthusiasts and hardcore power users such as gamers and content creators.
We had a little chat with Faisal Habib, Enthusiast Marketing Director at Intel to get some insights into Indian gamers’ fascination with small form factor PCs, how the enthusiast segment is evolving in India and where the enthusiast gaming industry is headed. Edited excerpts:
Intel’s NUCs started out as very small form factor PCs that offered a very strong punch, but over the years we’ve seen them get bigger. Is it the GPUs?
The growth of the NUC Extreme lineup has been a mix of directions related to increasing CPU capacities and increasing GPU sizes. While we do not comment on unannounced and unreleased products, it is worth noting that we are very familiar with the performance/performance trends in the market.
From NUC 9 Extreme to NUC 13 Extreme and everything in between, each was a pursuit of increasing skill and achievement.
Our strategic direction remains focused on delivering the best performance per litre. We’ve adjusted form factors to accommodate this goal, keeping in mind increased GPU sizes and CPU capabilities.
We continually explore how we can innovate to achieve this goal in each generation, and we continue to see significant opportunities to drive form factor innovation in this space.
The trend across the industry is towards smaller and more efficient components, but GPUs, on the other hand, are getting bigger. Will we see desktop GPUs get smaller as they get more powerful and efficient, or will we continue to see them get even bigger?
It’s hard to say what the future holds for GPU designs, but what we aim to achieve with the design of each NUC is to give consumers what they want.
For example, on the NUC 13 Extreme, we increased the size of the chassis to accommodate a full-size, three-slot GPU to cater to the high-end enthusiast market. As GPUs get more powerful and smaller in the future, we’re sure our products will adapt accordingly.
Most pre-built small form factor systems are all about using soldered components, especially when we talk about RAM and the CPU. Intel relies on socketed CPUs for both the 12th generation NUCs and the Raptor Canyon NUCs. What was the reason for this? Was user upgradability a factor considered?
With our Intel NUC 12 Extreme and latest NUC 13 Extreme, we chose socketed CPUs to meet the needs of some of our most demanding consumers.
For them, peak performance is everything, and this is where our desktop CPUs deliver on that promise. However, this does not mean that we are moving away from traditional soldered components. We have other NUC products such as the NUC 12 Enthusiast which uses a mobile processor that is soldered onto the board.
Regardless of the NUC product, however, user upgradeability is always a consideration and we try to offer this by making RAM and storage upgradeable.
Small form factor PCs have often been victims of louder fan noise, mainly due to thermals. How did Intel manage thermals and fan noise with the chassis of the 13th Gen NUCs?
Thermal designs are always evaluated in terms of noise and performance. At Raptor Canyon, we learned that providing things that can be compared to an outdoor dyno did an amazing job of keeping thermals and noise levels lower than previous designs. And we’ve managed to deliver that while incorporating a mesh into the case to minimize dust.
Southeast Asia, especially India, has a very small enthusiast community and an even smaller DIY community. Is Intel doing something to counteract this and help grow the enthusiast and DIY market?
The gaming market has been growing for the most part, and there has also been steady growth in smaller form factors in general. With this in mind, we plan to keep innovating and bringing new products to market.
Who do you think the Raptor Canyon NUC is best for, what type of PC user or PC enthusiast should consider the Raptor Canyon NUC?
Over the generations, we’ve seen a few use cases for the NUC, including segments like robotics and Edge IoT. Our gaming NUCs are perfect for people looking for small factor gaming PCs that pack a punch.
The portability of a laptop and the performance of a desktop PC. Whether you’re a gamer or a content creator, as long as you’re looking for big performance in a small package, the NUC 13 Extreme is perfect for you.
What was the biggest challenge in designing the 13th Gen NUCs? Were there specific areas that your engineers needed more focus on?
Aiming for a performance limit for the CPU more than double that of the previous generation has really brought us back to the drawing board for system layout and thermal design. Keeping the system modular while pushing the scope as high as we did was a challenge that we think we met head on with a great solution.
We also kept a very simple integration process that can be completed in about 5 minutes and requires no more than 8 screws to install memory, storage and GPU.
If I were to max out my 13th Gen NUC, what kind of top-of-the-line configuration would I be looking at?
The Intel NUC 13 Extreme can be configured with up to an Intel Core i9-13900 processor, 2 x 32GB DDR5-5600 SODIMMs, a 2TB NVMe Gen4 driver per slot, and up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080FE.
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