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Building the Box

Installed

As we noted on the previous page, we chose a SATA-based M.2 drive (the Samsung 850 Evo), going with a 250GB capacity, which offers an ideal amount of storage for a system like this, along with a very attractive price. Additionally, it offers nearly all the speed of larger models, and much more bang-for-the-buck than smaller 120GB models. We also went with high-speed RAM, which gives the NUC a huge speed boost. Because both the CPU and its build-in video processor use system RAM, boosting RAM speed benefits just about everything you'll do with your NUC. 

As you can see in the photo here, the interior of the NUC leaves little to the imagination. You have to SODIMM RAM slots, an M.2 SSD slot for drives up to the 2280 size, and that's about it. Well, actually, there's that big blue SATA connector, which is a vestige of the motherboard's use in the NUC "H" models, which can fit 2.5" SSDs and hard drives. Our slim model can't use such drives, so that blue connector is just for decoration here! Note that an 802.11ac networking card comes pre-installed, residing under the solid-state drive. This generation of NUCs was the first to include WiFi in the box, and it's a welcome addition.

What all this means is that installation is really a breeze with the NUC, with our RAM sticks snapping in easily, and the M.2 drive fitting easily into its slot, and secured with the included screw. Note that all components are installed with labels facing up. The beauty of the NUC is that there's no internal cabling to worry about - the RAM and SSD draw power and transfer data through their respective slots, so the internal layout is just as neat when you're done with installation as when you started!

The Mount

So that's pretty much it for assembly, but as we noted, we wanted to take this guide to the next level and show you how to install your NUC on a VESA-compatible touchscreen monitor. As we mentioned before, the VESA bracket comes in the NUC box, and it's a great perk. Note that the screws that come in the box are only long enough to go through the braket; if your screen itself is attached to the VESA mount, you'll need to source longer screws, as we did.

Mounted

In the photo here, you can see the bracket affixed to the monitor. We needed to use custom screws, which we picked up at a local hardware store, as the NUC screws weren't long enough to go through the NUC bracket and the monitor bracket. This won't be an issue with monitors that aren't mounted on an articulated arm, such as this free-standing . We, however, wanted the extra versatility of the Planar's adjustable stand. use the VESA mount for the screen itself. We've provided another photo here to show you the NUC dropped into the bracket - about as simple as it gets!

The Corsair memory kit we chose runs at 1866MHz, versus , providing a theoretical 17% speed boost. But that's not all; it also features tighter CAS 10 timings, versus the CAS 11 timings of standard DDR3-1600 kits. That effectively puts it at two speeds bins ahead of DDR3-1600, which we think is well worth the $20 or so extra it costs, given that it's the one and only hop-up you can give your NUC. Note that you want to enter the UEFI BIOS to select the high-speed XMP profile, as all sticks may default to DDR3-1600 (and Core i3-based NUCs will not allow RAM speeds greater than that). The screenshot below illustrates what the correct settings look like with this RAM kit installed.

BIOS

To finish our build, we installed the OS via the Microsoft Windows 10 flash drive, and selected the inexpensive but highly-functional  keyboard/touchpad combo for our input device. We think that the end result is a pretty sleek setup! For that extra-custom touch, we used a 1' HDMI cable for audio and video, plus a 1' USB 3.0 cable for the monitor's built-in USB hub. This made for a much tidier exterior than standard 6' cables would have.

All in all, this was about as easy as you get with anything other than plain old off-the-shelf PCs, and we ended up with something totally unique. It offers the power of a high-end laptop into a palm-sized box, attached to a big, high-quality touchscreen display, with the latest in storage and memory components. Yes, it costs more than a standard desktop PC with the same capabilities, but those PCs won't disappear behind your monitor like this one!

Final Build

We hope this guide has been helpful to you, and perhaps it's even inspired you to build a similar NUC-based PC. For all the latest NUC component picks, see our NUC Buyer's Guide, updated monthly, and feel free to post questions in the forum using the link below! 

Update: After extended testing, we found that the Intel HD graphics adapter available at the time of publication did not work properly under Windows 10, causing the system to hang when waking from sleep. Using the latest driver available from  fixed the issue.

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