Apple's Mac mini has outlasted Intel's NUC

Posted:
in General Discussion

Despite stiff competition, Apple silicon has made it possible for Apple's Mac mini to outlast Intel's tiny computer initiative.

Intel NUC vs Apple Mac mini
Intel NUC vs Apple Mac mini



Intel has been making tiny PCs for a long time now, going on more than a decade, and calling the series NUC along the way. These devices were designed to bring a small form factor to the desktop, while keeping energy draw down, but keeping things zipping along for the end user despite its form factor.

Intel's goals kicked off in 2012, and, since then, the NUC has been a stable, if not super popular, option for folks who need to save space on their desk. It has spawned a variety of different competitive options from the likes of Dell and HP, and even the Mac mini and the new M2 Mac Studio.

But it turns out Intel is ready to call it quits on the first-party NUC project, according to Serve the Home. Mark Walton, Intel's EMEA comms manager of client computing and graphics, who spoke to The Verge, says Intel is stopping "direct investment" into the NUC business.

Moving forward, Intel is going to allow "ecosystem partners" to build upon the NUC initiative:

"We have decided to stop direct investment in the Next Unit of Compute (NUC) Business and pivot our strategy to enable our ecosystem partners to continue NUC innovation and growth. This decision will not impact the remainder of Intel's Client Computing Group (CCG) or Network and Edge Computing (NEX) businesses. Furthermore, we are working with our partners and customers to ensure a smooth transition and fulfillment of all our current commitments - including ongoing support for NUC products currently in market."

NUC and Apple



The first NUC was spawned from the Ultrabook initiative back in the day to combat Apple's new MacBook Air, which launched in 2008. As Apple continued to upgrade its lightweight laptop, the first Ultrabooks launched in 2011.

In that same year, Intel provided its key partners part of a $300 million fund to try and take on Apple in a more direct way.

This fund was meant to help these companies build new, powerful, but still portable devices using low-voltage chips that could still pack a punch for every day usage. Intel wanted its partners to build lightweight devices that weren't painful to use on the experience side of things, but also dropped older features like DVD drives and HDDs.

On Apple's side, the company introduced its first small computer, the Mac mini, in 2005 as the Mac mini G4 running on the PowerPC platform. Apple would transition to using Intel in 2006, and eventually make the leap to Apple Silicon in 2020.

Intel NUC 9 vs Apple's Mac mini
Intel NUC 9 vs Apple's Mac mini



Intel's NUC has seen plenty of positive moments in history, including a time period when it was doing laps around the 2018 Mac mini. And in 2020 a Windows 10-based NUC could give the Mac mini of that year a run for its money, as long as you don't mind using Windows.

And some NUC options have even spurred dreams of a "Mac mini Pro" back in the day. Of course, now we have the M2 Mac Studio, which is bigger than a device that can fit in the palm of your hand, but the roots are there.

The NUC series started off humble enough, but eventually led into bigger and better things, even wrangling in the gaming market as well. Some "Extreme" NUCs could handle full-size graphics cards, and hosted a variety of different input options.

Intel NUC 9
Intel NUC 9



While Intel is moving away from NUC, Apple is not quite following in those same footsteps. The company's transition to Apple silicon means it has all the power packed inside its new chips, while maintaining the ability to keep its devices relatively light and thin.

Which means Intel still needs to chase Apple in this regard, focusing on even faster, more powerful chips that still run hot -- not necessarily great for NUC hardware. On top of that, Intel has seen financial troubles like many other companies following the end to the COVID-19 pandemic PC boom.

It's certainly the end of an era for Intel. But the smaller form-factor effort for computers isn't going anywhere anytime soon, especially if Apple has anything to say about it.

Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    p-dogp-dog Posts: 131member
    Ha ha ha ha ha! Or shall I say, "Nuc nuc nuc nuc nuc!" 
    watto_cobrapulseimagesjony0Alex_V
  • Reply 2 of 17
    bsd228bsd228 Posts: 6member
    The Intel NUC hasn't died.   Like the IBM PC, it has been coopted by legions of OEMs offering original NUC sized compute units for $200-500.   
    $270 got me a hex core AMD with 2.5gb ethernet, 16gbs, and a win 11 license to toss as I please.  Smaller than the Mac Mini of today, and in the same ballpark on power.  Takes an M2 and a 2.5" drive.  

    They won't have the GPU, but that's not what they're used for.   
    dewmewilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 17
    XedXed Posts: 2,460member
    bsd228 said:
    The Intel NUC hasn't died.   Like the IBM PC, it has been coopted by legions of OEMs offering original NUC sized compute units for $200-500.   
    $270 got me a hex core AMD with 2.5gb ethernet, 16gbs, and a win 11 license to toss as I please.  Smaller than the Mac Mini of today, and in the same ballpark on power.  Takes an M2 and a 2.5" drive.  

    They won't have the GPU, but that's not what they're used for.   
    If they are in the ballpark on power usage of the Mac mini then their performance has to be awful in comparison if they are x86.
    watto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 17
    Intel's goals kicked off in 2012, and, since then, the NUC has been a stable, if not super popular, option.
    I changed careers nearly a decade ago after more than two decades in information technology, mostly doing end-user support of Windows PCs (though Mac always was and is my personal choice). Even though I've been away from most things Microsoft & Windows for that long (thankfully!), I still read various technology-based websites daily. But in all that time, I had quite honestly never heard of the Intel NUC until this story.

    Despite countless "Intel inside" ads during the last decade, did Intel ever throw any marketing support behind the product? That the NUC even existed was apparently a well-kept secret.
    watto_cobrasconosciutomac daddy zeepscooter63bloggerblogAlex_V
  • Reply 5 of 17
    riverkoriverko Posts: 218member
    I bought one of those ‘NetTops’ back in the day. To replace that huge loud PC… it was a huge mistake with Intel Atom… slow CPU, veeery slow HDD… it was happy to start Windows. Than you had to wait to load all the background apps/system features… never again…
    Japheywatto_cobrawilliamlondonbloggerblogAlex_V
  • Reply 6 of 17
    michelb76michelb76 Posts: 583member
    Xed said:
    bsd228 said:
    The Intel NUC hasn't died.   Like the IBM PC, it has been coopted by legions of OEMs offering original NUC sized compute units for $200-500.   
    $270 got me a hex core AMD with 2.5gb ethernet, 16gbs, and a win 11 license to toss as I please.  Smaller than the Mac Mini of today, and in the same ballpark on power.  Takes an M2 and a 2.5" drive.  

    They won't have the GPU, but that's not what they're used for.   
    If they are in the ballpark on power usage of the Mac mini then their performance has to be awful in comparison if they are x86.
    Well, it's not. The Intel vPro ones handily beat out the M1 for example, and the new ones are about the same as the M2, except hey use more power on max perf. These NUC's are great for installations, video displays, home control systems, etc. They run a ton of apps that have no equivalent on MacOSX, so depending on use-case these are still very good computers.
    ArianneFeldrywilliamlondonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 7 of 17
    das_odas_o Posts: 1member
    your article contains an error.

    Intel's NUC has seen plenty of positive moments in history, including a time period when it was doing laps around the 2018 Mac mini.

    The article you referenced was first published months before and updated again a month before the 2018 Mac Minis were announced, and were written in reference to the 2014 models (which sucked). The 2018 Mac Mini was a very worthwhile upgrade for those machines and have some longevity considering Apple only stopped selling the high-end model when the M2 Pro Mac MIni shipped. 
    tenthousandthingswatto_cobramuthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondonbandits1
  • Reply 8 of 17
    XedXed Posts: 2,460member
    michelb76 said:
    Xed said:
    bsd228 said:
    The Intel NUC hasn't died.   Like the IBM PC, it has been coopted by legions of OEMs offering original NUC sized compute units for $200-500.   
    $270 got me a hex core AMD with 2.5gb ethernet, 16gbs, and a win 11 license to toss as I please.  Smaller than the Mac Mini of today, and in the same ballpark on power.  Takes an M2 and a 2.5" drive.  

    They won't have the GPU, but that's not what they're used for.   
    If they are in the ballpark on power usage of the Mac mini then their performance has to be awful in comparison if they are x86.
    Well, it's not. The Intel vPro ones handily beat out the M1 for example, and the new ones are about the same as the M2, except hey use more power on max perf. These NUC's are great for installations, video displays, home control systems, etc. They run a ton of apps that have no equivalent on MacOSX, so depending on use-case these are still very good computers.
    Do you have any links showing that the Intel CPUs in this NUCs use less power than the M-series SoCs with similar performance?
    watto_cobrawilliamlondonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 9 of 17
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,259member
    My NUC has been a great sidekick for integrating a full PC into what is otherwise a Mac environment using the second HDMI monitor input. The draw for me was being able to get a completely bloatware free PC and have it totally configured to my liking. Not cheap but very well built and reliable, unlike many of the cheap plasticky NUC knockoffs.
    tenthousandthingsmuthuk_vanalingampscooter63
  • Reply 10 of 17
    doggonedoggone Posts: 372member
    Apple is never going to compete with PCs on the low end.  And they should never try to either.  Let others make small margins on these low price products.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 17
    I have a M1 Mac mini and ASUS Vivo 
    attached to my Atyme 65”4K TV in my Living Room and love them both.

    I also have 2012 Intel Mac mini in my bedroom attached to my 32” Vizio 1080P TV. 

    williamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 17
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,086member
    bsd228 said:
    The Intel NUC hasn't died.   Like the IBM PC, it has been coopted by legions of OEMs offering original NUC sized compute units for $200-500.   
    $270 got me a hex core AMD with 2.5gb ethernet, 16gbs, and a win 11 license to toss as I please.  Smaller than the Mac Mini of today, and in the same ballpark on power.  Takes an M2 and a 2.5" drive.  

    They won't have the GPU, but that's not what they're used for.   
    Smaller?  Does it have a brick for an AC adapter?
    williamlondonbloggerblogFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 13 of 17
    First time I heard of a NUC.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    techconctechconc Posts: 275member
    michelb76 said:
    Xed said:
    bsd228 said:
    The Intel NUC hasn't died.   Like the IBM PC, it has been coopted by legions of OEMs offering original NUC sized compute units for $200-500.   
    $270 got me a hex core AMD with 2.5gb ethernet, 16gbs, and a win 11 license to toss as I please.  Smaller than the Mac Mini of today, and in the same ballpark on power.  Takes an M2 and a 2.5" drive.  

    They won't have the GPU, but that's not what they're used for.   
    If they are in the ballpark on power usage of the Mac mini then their performance has to be awful in comparison if they are x86.
    Well, it's not. The Intel vPro ones handily beat out the M1 for example, and the new ones are about the same as the M2, except hey use more power on max perf. These NUC's are great for installations, video displays, home control systems, etc. They run a ton of apps that have no equivalent on MacOSX, so depending on use-case these are still very good computers.
    Nope.  Your comment is not even remotely true.  The latest NUC 12 pro gets crushed by the M2 Mac Mini.
    https://www.tomsguide.com/reviews/intel-nuc-12#

    stompypscooter63FileMakerFellerpulseimages
  • Reply 15 of 17
    bsd228bsd228 Posts: 6member
    sflocal said:
    bsd228 said:
    The Intel NUC hasn't died.   Like the IBM PC, it has been coopted by legions of OEMs offering original NUC sized compute units for $200-500.   
    $270 got me a hex core AMD with 2.5gb ethernet, 16gbs, and a win 11 license to toss as I please.  Smaller than the Mac Mini of today, and in the same ballpark on power.  Takes an M2 and a 2.5" drive.  

    They won't have the GPU, but that's not what they're used for.   
    Smaller?  Does it have a brick for an AC adapter?
    it comes with a charger that is marginally thicker than the one that came with my 2022 MBP14.  So still considerably smaller.      

    The 5625U is a 15 watt cpu (M2 marked as 20).   6 cores/ 12 threads, none of the efficiency core madness with the Ms or the last 2 intel gens that mucks up virtualization products.   The AMD 5900s and the more recent 7xxx series stuff will amp up the perf for more watts, but the goal of the NUC for me is running background jobs where low draw is more efficient.  And sorry to say, virtualization on arm is still a work in progress.   

    From cpu benchmarking perspectives
    M2 8 core- 15350/3988 on Passmark, 9989/2670 on Geek Bench 6
    5225U - 15130/2906 on Passmark, 5931/1816 on GB6.   

    The M2's strength is of course single core, and they rarely want to talk about any other sort of perf metric.  But I'm just not seeing enough of a gain here to overlook the size, price, slower ethernet, lesser memory, lesser storage options....

    To the cited review of the latest Intel NUC - it said the obvious - the intel NUCs are a bad value.  That's why they're getting out of the market, and why these little OEMs are the market now.    If you're looking for a desktop, that's really not what the NUC is about, though for simple consumption users, it would probably be fine.   

    The Mini is a better call for a typical desktop user that isn't 3d gaming.   


    williamlondonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 16 of 17
    Serve The Home does an excellent job comparing all of these machines and measures power draw and noise at various levels of operation - their YouTube channel gives you a visual comprehension of the space these things take up.

    Intel called their concept the "Next Unit of Computing" (NUC) but unlike the Mac Mini they never included the power adapter into the main unit. My casual research of these things is that they all have an external power brick, although no doubt there's an exception I simply haven't come across. There are still fans of the concept, but every time I look for such a machine I'm reminded that for low power projects there's the cheaper Raspberry Pi and for high power projects you get better bang for your buck with a larger PC or a Mac Mini. And a lot of the stuff I look to do these days is better off on a cloud server somewhere - 100Mbps WAN is fast enough for a lot of things where latency isn't critical.

    That said, I keep looking at them as a possible network router solution - you can get some of these "Ultra Small Form Factor" (USFF) PCs with dual 2.5Gb Ethernet ports now, which has some appeal.
    pscooter63
  • Reply 17 of 17
    kofsterkofster Posts: 1member
    Help me understand this: “ It has spawned a variety of different competitive options from the likes of Dell and HP, and even the Mac mini and the new M2 Mac Studio.” When did intel first make the NUC product? In 2012? When was the first Mac mini made? Not a full 7 years before NUC’s existence? So how could the Mac mini, which came before, be a competitive result of a product which came after? And if the Mac Studio is part of the evolution of the a Mac mini, how can that too be spawned from intel’s product?
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