Asus is the new, non-exclusive steward of Intel’s teeny-tiny NUC (Next Unit of Computing) designs, following the former owner’s exit from the market last year. And, while Asus still wants to sell tiny, high-powered desktops to gamers with more money than space, the celebrated NUC Extreme has been permanently KO’d. That means NUC fans who want to pair the tiny hardware with full desktop-powered GPUs are out of luck.
The ROG NUC shown off at CES is Asus’ NUC play for gamers, packing high-powered laptop components up to a Core Ultra 9 CPU and an RTX 4060 or 4070 mobile GPU into a diminutive barebones desktop. But an Asus representative told Fudzilla that the company has no plans to bring back the NUC Extreme line.
Starting with the ninth generation based on Coffee Lake, the Extreme variants of the NUC design paired a removable, upgradable NUC Compute Element (housing the processor, I/O panel, and empty RAM and M.2 storage slots) with PCIe slots for a full-sized desktop GPU. This allowed gamers to build a super-tiny machine without losing access to high-power discrete graphics cards. That’s especially true on the 11th and 12th-gen NUC Extreme, which expanded the case and allowed for the same full-length cards as an ATX desktop.
Alas, this might have been what killed the NUC Extreme. With the larger 7.5-liter body, the NUC Extreme 12 is only a bit smaller than the smallest Mini-ITX case, which also allows for full-sized graphics cards. The Fractal Design Terra, for example, is only 10.4 liters in volume. The NUC Extreme 13 announced in 2022 is 13.9 liters, barely smaller than the popular Cooler Master NR200P Mini-ITX case. Without Intel putting in the engineering to create a new 14th-gen NUC Computing Element, it’s not surprising that Asus decided to stick with laptop parts for its ultra-small designs.
If you’re looking to cram the absolute maximum amount of PC gaming power into a tiny footprint and you don’t want to lose access to CPU and GPU upgrade options, an ITX build seems to be your best bet at the moment. Pour one out for the NUC Extreme, a very cool series of little computers that seems to have outlived its relevance.
Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.