Intel’s NUC mini PCs have been around for a while, but the barebones aren’t selling all that well for a variety of reasons. First of all they don’t come cheap. Connectivity may be a problem, as most models don’t even feature USB 3.0. In addition, NUCs are limited to mSATA drives. This means you can’t reuse your old 2.5-inch HDD or SSD in a NUC.
However, Intel now appears to be rolling out slightly thicker NUCs that can accommodate 2.5-inch drives. According to Ars, the new NUCs are about 12.5mm taller than the original models. The extra room was put to good use, as the top of the unit now has a standard 9.5mm 2.5-inch bay. This means it can handle big 2.5-inch drives up to 1TB in capacity. You still can’t use huge 15mm drives, but there are relatively few of them on the market anyway.
Since the new 2.5-inch bay was basically added on top of the existing design, the mSATA port is still there. In other words, you can still use a small SSD as a system drive and add a 1TB or 500GB hard drive for storage. This is not the case with most nettops and mini PCs, as they tend to have a single 2.5-inch bay.
The “new” NUC also features Smart Response technology which allows you to use small SSDs as a cache drive for the HDD. Rapid Start is on board, too, and it should help the system wake up from hibernation a bit faster, provided you are using both drives.
The taller NUCs are expected to be about $10 more expensive than standard models. This is a relatively small premium all things considered. Hopefully Intel will add USB 3.0 support to all upcoming models, including entry level SKUs. This has been a problem with Intel rigs for ages and it is rather annoying. AMD added USB 3.0 support ages ago and even the cheapest Brazos-based nettops had it three years ago.