Intel and Asus reach a deal that ensures the future of NUC mini-PCs, while opening up some intriguing gaming possibilities

About a week back, Intel announced it was exiting the NUC (Next Unit of Computing) business. I was disappointed to hear that, as I’ve long held a soft spot for small form factor PCs. I was fortunate to spend time with several Steam Machines back in 2016. They had their flaws, but they served to demonstrate that you really could cram a powerful gaming PC into a form factor the size of a shoebox. 

In the years since, Intel showed what was possible with its NUC Extreme mini-PCs, including this one that packs in an i9 13900K and RTX 3080 Ti. A few companies have jumped on the NUC bandwagon but for various reasons they’ve never been marketed at enthusiasts in the way a laptop or gaming PC would be.

But there’s good news! The NUC is far from dead. Intel sent out a press release announcing that Intel and Asus have agreed to a term sheet, whereby Asus will sell and support 10th to 13th Gen NUC product lines while giving Asus a non-exclusive license to design future NUC systems. Asus will create a new business unit called Asus NUC BU.

That’s great news. There will always be a market for mini PCs. I can think of a dozen use cases. Point of sale, digital signage, crypto currency nodes, office machines, and so on. But what really excites me is what Asus could do with a gaming NUC. After all, it knows how to build small form factor PCs, and really small ones at that. I’m talking about you, ROG Ally.

Gaming and NUCs are a bit like oil and water. The TDP and cooling requirements of powerful GPUs means they’re not conducive to inclusion in truly mini PCs. A system with a 13900K and RTX 4090 sounds good, but keeping temps under 100 degrees Celsius is another matter.

But we’re talking about Asus. It knows a thing or two about PC components. Just imagine if Asus was to develop a bespoke graphics card, let’s say an RTX 4070 Ti with a TDP of around 285W. Not a little, but by modern standards, not a lot either. Asus has the engineering expertise to make such a card with a completely oddball PCB and cooler. I’m thinking of some kind of tower cooler for it, perhaps in combination with the CPU cooler and a 14cm fan on the side of the PC. 

It could sell it as some kind of Asus ROG NUC gaming PC. Heck, it could market the crap out of it and boom! It’s got a console competitor and and a million or two potential buyers lined up. Maybe I’m reaching, but the possibilities are really intriguing. 

With a company like Asus behind it, the NUC line should be in good hands for many years to come. All of the existing NUC use cases remain, and I just hope it doesn’t forget there are gamers that want NUCs too.

Godspeed Asus.

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