Caching drives are still alive and well in the NUC form factor thanks to Optane

Intel NUC with Optane drive
Intel/Extremetech
Intel is looking to bolster the uptake of its Optane-caching technology by integrating it into the new lineup of its next-unit-computing (NUC) range. A trio of the new micro-systems supports Optane at various price points, offering seventh-generation processors in the barebones systems alongside the caching technology.

The new NUC kit systems are called the NUC7i3BNHX1NUC7i5BNHX1, and NUC7i7BNHX1 and come with Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs respectively. Each is built on the same BGA platform, with a 4-inch by 4-inch form factor. They each support only a single internal storage drive of the 2.5-inch size. With support for Intel Optane though, you could make that an older hard drive and still have decent performance.

The purpose of Optane is to act as a caching drive, effectively speeding up your access to the most popular files and folders you use. Optane makes use of the M.2 socket and can offer decent performance increases for older drives, especially mechanical ones. As ExtremeTech points out, it is not going to make a decent solid-state drive (SSD) operate much faster, but hard drives can see a real benefit.

Each of the systems comes with a 16GB Optane module pre-installed, so you can take advantage of its caching abilities right from the get-go. You will need to provide your own storage, though.

While your mileage may vary with such a feature depending on which storage drive you choose, for general performance, the i7 system is going to be the quickest of the bunch. It comes with an  i7-7567U and supports up to 32GB of DDR4 memory. Priced at $530 though, it’s not a cheap way to get yourself a micro-desktop for your living room.

The Core i5 version is a little more affordable at $415 and has a power draw of just 15w to go along with it. That is thanks to its clock reduction, but that model still has the same number of cores and threads as its bigger brother. The Core i3 model comes with just two cores in comparison, but it still supports hyper threading. Its price tag is the most affordable at $325.

None of these systems are world beaters in any respect but with the addition of Optane technology, it should enable those with older, slower storage drives the chance to build a pretty speedy little system while enjoying some of the performance improvements of modern solid-state storage.

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