Review: NUC vs Raspberry Pi

I like small, cheap, quiet computers… perhaps a little too much. For a long time I have used a Raspberry Pi V2 (QuadCore@900MHz and 1GB RAM) as a workstation. To be honest, I have not used it for web browsing, that is just too painful. But I have used it for programming and running multiple Node.js services, and a few other things.

Despite there are so many single board computers it is hard to find really good alternatives to the Raspberry Pi. And when I look into it, I find that Intel NUCs are very good options. So, I just decided to replace my RPi2 workstation with the cheapest NUC that money can currently buy: the NUC6CAY with a Celeron J3455 CPU. It sounds cheap, particularly for something server like. The interesting thing with the J3455 CPU is that it is actually Quad Core, with no hyper threading. To me it sounds amazing!

I also have an older NUC, a 54250WYKH with an i5 CPU.

Raspberry Pi V2:   ARMv7    4 Cores      900MHz                  1GB RAM
NUC                Celeron  4 Cores      1500MHz (2300 burst)    8GB RAM
NUC                i5       2 Cores (HT) 1300MHz (2600 burst)   16GB RAM

I/O is obviously superior for the NUCs (both using SSD) versus the RPI v2 having a rotating disk connected to USB. But for my purposes I think I/O and (amount of) RAM makes little difference. I think it is more about raw CPU power.

Node.js / JavaScript
When it comes to different Node.js applications, it seems the older i5 is about twice as fast as the newer Celeron (for one Core and one thread). I would say this is slightly disappointing (for the Celeron). On the other hand the Celeron is about 10x faster than the RPi V2 when it comes to Node.js code, and that is a very good reason to use a NUC rather than a Raspberry PI.

Update 2018-02-11: after a few months
I came back to my RPi2 from my cheap NUC. The difference is… everything. I really like Raspberry PIs. I have built cases for them, bought cases for them, worked on them, made servers of them. But I really must say that a NUC makes more sense: it contains everything nicely and it is so much more powerful.

You can get a Celeron NUC with 2GB RAM and a 2.5′ disk for quite little money. And from there you can go to Core i7, 32GB RAM and two hard drives: M.2 + 2.5′. And check out the Hades Canyon NUC.

I feel sorry there is basically nothing in the market like a NUC with ARM, AMD, PowerPC or Mips. The only competition is the 4 year old MacMini, which is completely an Intel machine. If you find something cool, NUC-like, not Intel, feel free to post below.

Update 2018-02-28
I ran into a new problem on my RPi. It could be anything. My guess, that I will never be able to prove, is that it is a glitch made possible by using an SD-card as root device (and possibly questionable drivers/hardware for SD on the RPi).

Update 2018-04-09
Premier Farnell has introduced a Desktop Pi. Especially promising is that together with a recent RPi you can get rid of the SD-card entirely, and only use SSD/HDD or even mSATA (over USB i presume).

  1. My Raspberry Pi Zero, with wifi, is hanging nearly every night. So I’m moving to NUC. I need something to run reliability, day after day!

  2. run a raspi 2 as server for dns,very light mysql ( the odd game using it), runs and runs and runs no problems at all , using rapbian. Also used to use it as a vpn end pint with openvpn bridge. run awesomely

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