Chillblast Fusion NUC review

The Fusion NUC is Chillblast’s take on Intel’s unusual movement into complete PCs, called the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) platform. This tiny square-shaped PC incorporates a fast, low-power processor, 8GB of memory and 128GB of solid-state storage. See Group test: What's the mid-range desktop PC?

It’s a very cute-looking device, constructed from plastic but never feeling cheap – as well it shouldn’t for the £549 price. The outer packaging consists of an Intel-branded box which plays the cheesey Intel tune whenever the box is opened. See all mid-range PCs.

A single USB 2.0 port graces the front of the PC, while the rear adds a further pair along with HDMI and Thunderbolt and a Kensington security slot.

The 1.8GHz Intel Core i3-3217U processor helps the Fusion NUC to deliver some surprisingly high performance results. Its PCMark 7 sore of 3993 points exceeds that of any other mini PC reviewed here – even quad-core systems running at higher clock speeds, such as the Mac mini. It also makes for some impressive power consumption figures, with the PC requiring only 9W to idle and 19.5W at full tilt. Internally, it’s fan-cooled but it remains very quiet indeed as only minimal cooling is required.

However, the true key to this performance lies in the blisteringly fast 128GB Intel 525 Series mSATA SSD which delivers storage performance in a different league to any other mini PC in the group. This isn’t a large amount of storage though, so you’ll almost certainly have to supplement this with an external drive or NAS. At which point much of the SSD advantage will evaporate.

We appreciate the small size of the Fusion NUC, but there are some key features missing. Where are the USB 3.0 ports? Built in 802.11n Wi-Fi is great, but why no ethernet? What about a card reader? Zotac’s even smaller Zbox Nano XS AD13 Plus shows that size is no excuse for omitting these near-essential features.

Chillblast Fusion NUC: Specs

  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Intel Core i3-3217U (2 cores / 4 threads)
  • CPU Cooler: Custom Intel semi-active cooler
  • Installed memory: 8GB DDR3 1333MHz
  • Storage: 128GB Intel 525 Series SSD
  • Power supply: External
  • Motherboard: Intel QS77 Express Chipset
  • External USB ports: 3x USB 2.0
  • Graphics processor: Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • Sound: on-board
  • Networking: 802.11b/g/n
  • Audio outputs: HDMI Audio, Thunderbolt Audio
  • Audio inputs: N/A
  • Video outputs: 1 x HDMI 1.4a, 1x Thunderbolt
  • Other ports: None
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Case dimensions: 117 × 112 × 39 mm
  • Total weight: 1kg
  • Case construction materials: Plastic
  • Operating system: Windows 8 64-bit
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Intel Core i3-3217U (2 cores / 4 threads)
  • CPU Cooler: Custom Intel semi-active cooler
  • Installed memory: 8GB DDR3 1333MHz
  • Storage: 128GB Intel 525 Series SSD
  • Power supply: External
  • Motherboard: Intel QS77 Express Chipset
  • External USB ports: 3x USB 2.0
  • Graphics processor: Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • Sound: on-board
  • Networking: 802.11b/g/n
  • Audio outputs: HDMI Audio, Thunderbolt Audio
  • Audio inputs: N/A
  • Video outputs: 1 x HDMI 1.4a, 1x Thunderbolt
  • Other ports: None
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Case dimensions: 117 × 112 × 39 mm
  • Total weight: 1kg
  • Case construction materials: Plastic
  • Operating system: Windows 8 64-bit

OUR VERDICT

Cute, but crippled. Powerful, but pricey. The Fusion NUC is very fast and incredibly power-efficient. It’s very quick thanks to that 128GB Intel SSD, but this will be too small for many. And no USB 3.0 ports make it more Last Decade's Unit Computing. You’ll have to find a Thunderbolt drive or dock for decent speeds from any external drive.

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