Mini PCs have a dedicated following. Count me among them! When news came that Intel was handing over the reins of its NUC (Next Unit of Computing) business to Asus, I was definitely intrigued by the possibilities. Consumers aren't the only market for NUCs though, as Asus is courting commercial and enterprise clients with custom NUC devices designed for a wide variety of use cases.
The Register spoke with Asus senior vice president Jacky Hsu, who outlined plans Asus has to develop custom machines for various commercial customers. This includes embedded, industrial and application specific use cases across such diverse roles as digital signage, point-of-sale, cloud, AI or warehouse and factory applications, each of which have their own environmental considerations.
When we think of NUCs, we might think of a cuboid style machine or large book sized form factors. Asus is planning to shake that up a bit, with various form factors designed for different use cases. It'll do this by designing custom solutions with different I/O considerations and motherboards to create NUCs that fit into a specific area.
The custom I/O part is interesting. One can imagine Asus designing NUCs with different Ethernet standards, SFP connections, D-SUB, Serial, DIN or any other type of connection you can think of, depending on what is required. If I wanted 10,000 NUCs with FireWire connections, Asus could probably oblige.
Gaming NUCs have been around for many years—including this one with an Intel i9 13900K and RTX 3080 Ti. Asus hasn't revealed concrete details on its plans for gaming NUCs, but KW Chao, the general manager of Asus's NUC business unit, has said ROG branded NUCs are under consideration.
With the news that Intel's Meteor Lake family won't be coming to the DIY market, but likely is in some form of embedded, AIO or NUC solutions, a Meteor Lake ROG branded NUC sounds very interesting indeed.
Asus could theoretically take one of the higher tier Meteor Lake laptop chips, configure its TDP to better suit the NUC form factor and cook up a gaming NUC with a high performance graphics card and a CPU that's relatively close to the performance of a desktop Raptor Lake chip. That'd give you a very capable tiny gaming rig without the compromises (and noise) needed to cool a 125W+ desktop CPU.
Add some RGB and boom! You've got a very marketable little computer with performance that leaves consoles in the dust, potentially in an even smaller form factor. Asus wouldn't be the first to sell high performance mini-PCs. MSI's Trident PCs spring to mind, but there are few examples of pairing a laptop chip with a desktop class GPU.
It seems like the future of the NUC is in good hands with Asus. If enough big clients jump aboard and the business unit makes some good money, then some ROG NUCs should come soon. I'll be waiting!