As the cost of Intel's NUC kits keeps inching lower, putting a custom mini-PC in the living room is looking a lot more tempting.
The latest NUC kits (short for Next Unit of Computing) pack low-power Braswell processors, the successor to Intel's Bay Trail chips built on a 14-nanometer manufacturing process. While performance will certainly be entry-level, the price should be right at $140 to $180 in U.S. dollars, according to a couple of Canadian online retail listings. That's at least $120 cheaper than Intel's more powerful Broadwell-based NUCs.
With NUC kits, that's not the final cost of the machine. You still have to supply your own RAM, storage, operating system, and input devices. But assuming you already have a TV, mouse, and keyboard, you could build a lightweight, ultra-tiny Windows media streamer for under $400 (or less if you opt for Linux).
The Braswell models seem well-suited for the task as well, with TOSLINK optical audio for connecting to external speakers or sound bars. The kits will also come with four USB 3.0 ports (two in front, two in back), an SD card slot, HDMI output, an Ethernet port, and a headphone jack.
Reports conflict on whether these devices will use cooling fans. Fanless Tech (ironically) reports that they'll definitely have fans, but Ars Technica has spotted some pre-built Braswell PCs from ASRock that are fanless with a USB-C port, but are otherwise similar to the NUC kits. Either way, they'll be quieter than your average desktop.
Why this matters: While Microsoft seems to have given up on living room PCs (having announced the demise of Windows Media Center in Windows 10), you can still make Windows TV-friendly with third-party programs such as Kodi, or using the modern interface and Windows Store apps. As for hardware, Braswell NUCs could offer more flexibility than cheap ready-made boxes like the HP Stream Mini while costing less than more powerful desktops.