Intel aided our review by shipping an evaluation unit with 8GB of DDR3L/1600 memory (two 4GB SO-DIMMs), an internal dual-band Intel Wireless-AC 7260 Wi-Fi/Bluetooth adapter, and a 180GB, Intel 530-series mSATA SSD. The unit also has a gigabit ethernet port if you want the performance only a cable can deliver.
It's not the size of the dog...
Despite its pint-size dimensions, the NUC D54250WYK packs a serious bite (performance will vary, of course, depending on the components you outfit it with). Our evaluation kit posted a Desktop WorldBench 8.1 score of 241. That's much higher than the original NUC (which earned a mark of 156), and it's better all-around performance than what we've gotten from most of the all-in-one PCs we've reviewed lately (with the notable exception of the Dell XPS 27 Touch). On the other hand, most of the tested all-in-ones have had less-powerful integrated graphics and have relied solely on mechanical hard drives for storage. The presence of discrete graphics processors and SSDs—even SSD cache drives—has a big impact on WorldBench scores.
The home remains the best environment for the NUC—not just in the entertainment center, but in the kitchen, bedroom, or even the garage. It's a fantastic system for light productivity. And with support for technologies such as Intel's Quick Sync Video, the revamped rig also delivers media-encoding and file-compression scores that are nearly twice as high as those of its predecessor. And it's four times faster on image-editing tasks.
Small businesses might balk at the prospect of buying a kit and then fleshing it out. And larger businesses won't like that the NUC's Core i5-4250U processor doesn't include Intel's vPro technology. But if you can do without those features, you could stick a NUC on the back of a display, add a mouse and keyboard, and have a superefficient, light workstation.
This likely won't come as a big surprise, but gaming is the one application I wouldn't attempt on the NUC D54250WYK. Intel has come a long way with its integrated graphics hardware, but this machine still couldn't manage to crack 30 frames per second in our tests of Crysis 3 or BioShock Infinite, even running at a resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels with the image-quality bar set low.
Big things from a small package
The NUC D54250WYK kit definitely raises the standard for barely-there PCs, but you'll pay for that engineering prowess, both literally and figuratively. Building out a configuration like the one reviewed here will cost around $700 ($800 if you buy a Windows license). Intel's decision to solder the CPU to the motherboard blocks your most important upgrade path, and the mSATA hard drive limits you to streaming media (unless you drop more cash on an external hard drive). Meanwhile, you could build a basic home-theater PC for about $300 less.
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