The Intel NUC is a mini PC for those who need portability over performance. With its four inches by four inches dimensions, this computer is so tiny that it can fit on your palm.
Unfortunately, in July 2023, Intel announced it was discontinuing the Intel NUC. With that, many users will lose an ultra-portable Intel-powered computer.
So, what options do you have if you need a small PC? What are the best alternatives to the Intel NUC?
1. Third-Party Mini PCs
Although Intel made the NUC mini PCs, it had competitors in the same space. This includes ASUS, one of the biggest computer manufacturers in 2023. In fact, Intel and ASUS announced an agreement that the latter would take over the NUC line.
But aside from that, other manufacturers, like Zotac, also make mini PCs, so you can consider them. In fact, Zotac was the first manufacturer to create a mini PC prototype that featured active cooling using the Frore AirJet.
But whether you're looking for a small computer to attach to your living room TV or want a PC you can put inside your pocket and bring around with you, you should check out these things to consider before buying a mini PC.
If you're not necessarily into Windows and want a small portable computer that can run the apps you need, why not consider the Asus Chromebox 4? This tiny Chrome OS-powered device lets you access the Google Play Store, allowing you to use many popular apps.
For example, you can download Google Suite, Microsoft 365 apps, and other work apps for professional use. At the same time, you can also install Netflix, several other streaming apps, and thousands of games for your enjoyment.
Although the Chromebox 4 is only powered by a 10th-Gen Intel Core processor, it should be more than enough for most applications. It also has five USB ports, a USB-C port, two HDMI ports, a LAN port, and a combo headphone jack.
So, if you're looking for a cheaper desktop alternative to a Chromebook, you should look at the Asus Chromebox 4.
3. Raspberry Pi SBC
If you're into tinkering and Linux operating systems, you might want to consider a Raspberry PI SBC. An SBC, or single-board computer, is similar to the NUC in that its components are all on a single board. However, it's usually cheaper and more flexible than the latter.
But its advantages also make it disadvantageous for some users—it requires more DIY and know-how to use and customize. Furthermore, since it usually runs a Linux OS, you need to know your way around it.
But if you're still considering a Raspberry Pi SBC as an Intel NUC replacement, check out our NUC vs. SBC comparison to know what you're getting into.
4. Mac mini
If you're an Apple user and can spare more space, consider buying the Mac mini instead. It's more potent than the most powerful Intel NUCs, especially as Apple silicon chips power newer models.
Although the Mac mini might not feature as many ports as a Chromebox, its active cooling solution will allow you to push it further. You can also spec it so you can use it as your primary PC, as long as you have the budget.
5. Small Form Factor PCs
Although Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs are half the size (or less) of the more common mid-tower computers we see, it's still the largest alternative to the Intel NUC. Although calling an SFF PC an Intel NUC alternative is pushing it in terms of size, it has several advantages that a NUC can never have.
For example, SFF PCs usually use desktop-grade RAM and processors. But, most importantly, many SFF PCs can accommodate a full-size GPU—something that a NUC will never do. So, if you plan to play high-end games in your living room and want a computer that can serve as your home theater PC, consider getting an SFF PC instead.
But if you have more than enough space and have a huge TV cabinet, why not go for other PC sizes? Check out our PC case size guide to see how the different PC sizes can affect your build.
Get Your Small PC Fix
Tiny computers may not be as powerful as massive full-size tower PCs, but they still have their place in computing. Whether you need it to attach to the back of your home theater TV or as a controller for an industrial machine, you can find a viable Intel NUC alternative.
And, if you're adventurous, why not try a Linux build instead of a Windows PC for your next home theater PC?