First launched in 2013, the Intel Next Unit of Computing or NUC is a small form factor PC designed for those who want to use their PC on-the-go.
They’re clever little devices, but how much power do they use? And are their any considerations you need to give to a power supply if you’re thinking of buying one?
Let’s explore everything you need to know about the NUC’s power use.
What Is Intel NUC?
The Intel NUC is a range of small form-factor PCs. They range in size, with some fitting in the palm of your hand. The biggest NUC units are still much smaller than a regular PC tower, measuring around 12” by 8” by 1.5”.
They have a broad aim. They’re good for people who want an everyday PC that they can carry around with them, perfect if you tend to hotdesk or work between the office and home. But as they’re often sold as bare-bones packages, they’re also aimed at the tinkerer market.
Some people consider them to be like a slightly larger and more powerful Raspberry Pi – although because the NUC tends to come with Windows installed, it’s less about development unless you want to wipe the storage clean and install your own dev-friendly operating system.
How Much Power Does An Intel NUC Use?
It’s impossible to say how much an Intel NUC uses as standard because they work just like a regular PC, in that you can get them with various different specs. The most basic Intel NUC units will use around 30 watts of power, but the most powerful can use over 500 watts.
There have been a number of generations of Intel NUC released since they first launched in 2013. It’s not necessarily a case that the newer the NUC, the more power it uses, although over time the design has become more clever to allow for more powerful components to be added.
Today’s NUCs often include graphics cards, designed to allow you to game on the go. It’s these models which use the most power, since a graphics card is normally responsible for around 50% of the power consumption of a typical PC.
Read more: How many watts does a Gaming PC use?
But there are also modern NUCs released that are aimed at a budget market that have a lower-powered spec, and these don’t use anywhere near as much power.
This modern budget option is capable of handling basic Microsoft software, browsing the web and watching videos. It’ll likely use around 120 watts to run.
Intel NUC 11
- 8GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD
- Compatible with various Linux distros
- Windows 10 Pro 64Bit
This Enthusiast model is much more powerful, and capable of playing the latest games, although not at the highest settings. Expect it to draw around 500 watts on average, potentially spiking above 600 watts.
Intel NUC 11 Enthusiast
- 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 Processor @ 2.80GHz
- A dedicated NVI-DIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 graphics card
- 32GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB PCIe SSD
How Many Watts Does An Intel NUC Use Per Hour?
A basic Intel NUC will use around 30 watt-hours per hour, or 0.03 kilowatt-hours per hour. A high-end Enthusiast model will use a lot more, up to around 0.5 kilowatt-hours per hour on average.
So if you were to use the NUC for 10 hours per week, that’s a weekly usage of 0.3 kilowatt-hours for the basic model and 5 kilowatt-hours for the high-end model. At an average utility cost of $0.14 per kilowatt-hour, that’s almost $0.04 per week for the budget model and $0.70 for the Enthusiast.
Because the Intel NUC models vary with the spec so much, the only way to know exactly how much your NUC uses is to pick up a wattmeter, which will measure the exact wattage used by something that is plugged into it.
Also bear in mind that this will only measure the power used by the NUC itself. Your PC’s monitors will also use power, so if you want to get a total of how much electricity you’re using then you’ll need to add those in as well.
Does An Intel NUC Come With A Power Supply?
If you’re buying an Intel NUC PC brand new, then it will come with the power supply. That’s the same regardless of whether you buy a fully assembled model or you buy a basic build-it-yourself pack.
Be aware that this may be the only cable that it comes with – you’ll likely need to also pick up any cables for monitors that you want to plug into it.
If you’re buying a second-hand Intel NUC then you may need to source your own power cable.
There are a lot of different options available offering different power levels, so it’s important that you get one that your NUC needs. Intel has published a list of power supply requirements by NUC model that you can check.
65W Power Supply for Intel NUC
- Output DC 19V 3.42A 65W; Input Volt Range: 110-240V
- Short Circuit & Over Load Protection
- 3 Year Warranty
This low-end power supply will meet the requirements of most budget Intel NUC devices. It’s a 19-volt option that provides 65 watts of power, and it comes with a three-year warranty.
Can A NUC Run On 12V?
Some models of Intel NUC can run on a 12-volt power supply, but it depends on the specification of the individual unit. Those that have more powerful spec will require a higher 19 volt power supply.
Bear in mind that the power supply provided normally includes an AC>DC transformer on the plug so that they can be plugged straight into a typical 110v mains outlet. If you were planning on plugging it into a 12-volt outlet, say in an RV, then it might not work without buying a separate plug without a transformer.
Can You Power An Intel NUC Via USB-C?
While every modern Intel NUC will come with a USB-C/Thunderbolt port, you can’t power the PC this way. It won’t deliver the necessary wattage to keep the PC running, so Intel advises you must always use a proper power supply.
This is a shame since it would make it much easier to be able to power your Intel NUC on the go, but it’s understandable considering the capabilities of these devices.
How Does An Intel NUC Compare To A Regular PC?
The most obvious comparison between an Intel NUC and a regular PC is the form factor – an NUC is always going to be much smaller than a standard PC tower.
In terms of power consumption though, a regular PC is likely to be more efficient. If you have an NUC and a standard tower with the same spec, a regular PC will normally draw less power.
That’s because the smaller you make a PC, the harder it becomes to effectively cool components as they work. A standard PC has space for larger fans and airflow that an NUC can’t replicate.
When components get hotter, their resistance increases, which means they need to draw more power to achieve the same wattage.
An NUC can do everything a regular tower PC can do, but expect it to run a little hotter and to therefore be less power efficient. For that reason, most Intel NUC PCs have a lower spec than you would find on regular tower PC.
An Intel NUC is not designed to be a complete replacement for a standard tower PC. Instead, it’s got a specific use as a portable PC, with most models offering a lower-spec and lower-powered alternative that’s easy to carry around.
You can get high-spec models suitable for gaming though, but again a regular gaming PC will always perform better. When it comes to power consumption though, the less powerful components of an Intel NUC could help you save money on your bills.