Intel 'Broadwell'-Based NUCs Reportedly Coming at Year's End

A leaked roadmap shows two new small desktop PC systems with the 14-nm chips launching in the fourth quarter.

The next generation of Intel's NUC mini desktop PC, which will be powered by the company's 14-nanometer "Broadwell" processor, reportedly will be launched in the fourth quarter.

The company later this year will roll out two models of the NUC (Next Unit of Computing) systems running on Intel's Core i3 or i5 chips based on the Broadwell architecture. According to leaked road maps published by the tech site FanlessTech, a mainstream consumer model, dubbed "Rock Canyon," will come with either the Core i3 or i5, and offer a range of capabilities, including M.2 solid-state disk (SSD) drives or 2.5-inch SSD or hard-disk drive storage options, USB 3.0 ports, built-in wireless capabilities through WiFi and Bluetooth, and support for up to three displays.

The professional model—dubbed "Maple Canyon"—will contain many of the same features, but also will offer enterprise-class technologies such as Intel's vPro and Trusted Platform Module for greater reliability and security.

The systems will follow the "Wilson Canyon" NUC systems that were released last year and based on the Haswell chip architecture.

According to the leaked road maps, Intel this quarter will launch "Forest Canyon," a consumer system running on a Celeron Bay Trail processor.

Intel reportedly has declined media requests for comment on the road map.

Intel first introduced the barebones NUCs—which measure 4 inches by 4 inches—last year, with the initial system powered by a Sandy Bridge chip. That was quickly followed by models running on low-power Ivy Bridge- and then Haswell-based CPUs. The systems initially were seen as a way to answer Apple's Mac mini and to show what low-power Intel chips can do in small PC systems.

However, the NUCs have proven popular enough that Intel has pushed forward with new systems, and have been highlighted by CEO Brian Krzanich as one of the new form factors—which also include all-in-ones and two-in-one systems, which can be used as both a notebook and a tablet—that has helped boost the financial numbers of the chip maker's PC business. According to figures released last month, the desktop PC business saw revenue grow 11 percent in the fourth quarter, with record shipments of PCs powered by Core i5 and i7 chips.

"That really … has to do with a lot of great form factors that are coming in the all-in-ones, the great innovation that's coming in there," Krzanich said during a conference call at the time. "We saw some of the highest units of i5 and i7 in the enthusiast area. I think those are some great gaming platforms. So we think there is a lot more to the desktop growth. We also introduced the Haswell-based NUC, which is the smallest form-factor desktop machine that you can have. So it's those kinds of innovations that are driving this desktop growth as much and more than the software transition."

PC sales have shrunk over the past two years as consumers and business users have gravitated to smartphones and tablets. Shipments fell another 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter and 10.1 percent for all of 2013, according to Gartner analysts. However, they said sales have begun to bottom out in such markets as the United States, though buyers in emerging markets continue to choose tablets over PCs.

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, in announcing her company's quarterly financial numbers Feb. 20, noted that HP's PC revenues grew 4 percent from the same period in 2012. It was the first time in seven quarters that PC revenue had increased.

"Overall, the PC market contraction is slowing, and we see signs of stabilization, particularly in the commercial segment," Whitman said.