Installing Windows & How Does It Perform?
I decided to install Windows 7 onto the NUC from a USB flash drive, which was a surprisingly quick process. I expected it to be quick, with the 16GB of RAM and an SSD, and I was right. Installing Windows 7 from a USB flash drive took a shave over 10 minutes, which was very impressive for a unit of this size.
Once installed, I configured the NUC to how I would my desktop or notebook system - installing the usual applications and software I use everyday. This includes Google's Chrome browser, Spotify, and the various drivers required to get the NUC up and running.
Once Windows 7 was installed, I noticed that my Samsung S27A950D was running at 120Hz without installing any drivers. This is impressive. My desktop rig can't even do that without the installation of some fresh drivers from AMD or NVIDIA. Not that this is a selling point, but it was a nice surprise.
After the OS installation, I went to Intel's website and downloaded all of the latest drivers for each component installed - chipset, GPU, Wi-Fi, etc. After this was finished, I rebooted the system as I would on a usual system and this is when I ran into my first issue.
I came back to the NUC the next day, and what do you know? It works. I have no idea what it needed, but I had rebooted multiple times before hand and it didn't work - maybe it needed a sleep. Well, this wasn't the only issue I had experienced, unfortunately. After I had wireless working, I began updating Windows 7 through Windows Update - this is when I experienced all sorts of issues. While having Windows Update in the background, I began doing other tasks I'm used to doing on a computer, you know, multi-tasking.
I began installing Google Chrome, Spotify, and some other apps I use on daily - and the NUC locked up. Reboot - doesn't detect the SSD - great. The only way to get it to detect the SSD was to unplug the power cord, and plug it back in. I shouldn't have to do that, and neither should a consumer. This is ridiculous.
So, I continued this method - to fault find what was triggering the lock up - and it seems stress on the SSD is what causes it. Right now, as I type this on my functioning MacBook Air, Windows is updating perfectly - as it is the only thing I'm doing on the NUC.
Just before this test, I was streaming music through Spotify, updating Windows and tried to copy over my TechNet .iso file of Office 2010, and it locked up. It just doesn't like load. I even went as far as taking the back cover off, flipping the NUC on its ass, and letting it get some air - still, nothing. Locks up as soon as the Wi-Fi card begins getting stressed.
Before, and after these issues - I did some general use on the NUC and just loved it. Without audio, it does have its downsides, but luckily I had a Plantronics USB to mic/audio-in adapter, which I plugged into the NUC and it worked instantly - detected, installed drivers automatically and away I went.
General use on the NUC was slick - it felt like a full-fledged, fast desktop PC. The speedy Core i3, 16GB of RAM and fast SSD all combine their respective powers to give the user a fresh, smooth experience. I loved it. It was truly refreshing to look down on my desk and see this tiny unit, look up to my monitor and realize that this tiny thing was a true little powerhouse of a PC.
Sure, it's not going to break any world records in terms of benchmarks or speed - but these days, for general use, you don't need that insane speed. If you're just surfing the web, using social networks, watching YouTube videos and streaming or listening to music, the NUC is an ideal choice.
We snuck a quick benchmark in for the mSATA SSD running HD Tune Pro, with the it capable of delivering an average of 313.2MB/sec - mighty impressive for something so small. It reached a maximum of 362.1MB/sec and a low of 'just' 218.6MB/sec.
Power consumption was just impressive - there are no other words. I'm used to 100W+ of idle power consumption (or around there) on my Core i7-based systems, but this just sets a new record for power consumption.
Under Prime95 load, it uses just ~27W of power, as shown above.
At idle, it uses just ~14W of power. Incredible.
These figures do vary by around 1-2W at any stage, just like any PC would vary in power consumption.