Linux on the NUC: Using Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, and the SteamOS beta

Intel’s NUC: not just for Windows.
Andrew Cunningham / Aurich Lawson

Specs at a glance: Intel NUC D54250WYK1 (as reviewed)
OS Ubuntu 13.10, Linux Mint 16, Fedora 20, and SteamOS Beta
CPU 1.3GHz Core i5-4250U (Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz)
RAM 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 (supports up to 16GB)
GPU Intel HD Graphics 5000 (integrated)
HDD 128GB Crucial M500 mSATA SSD
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet
Ports 4x USB 3.0, 1x mini DisplayPort 1.2, 1x mini HDMI 1.4a, DisplayPort, audio
Size 4.6” x 4.4” x 1.4” (116.8 x 111.8 x 35.6 mm)
Other perks Kensington lock
Warranty 3 years
Price $389.99 (barebones), $602.99 with selected components and software

One of the drawbacks of buying a barebones PC like Intel’s NUC—at least if you’re a Windows user—is that it comes with no operating system. The big PC OEMs get Windows at a steep discount compared to end users, and you’ll have to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 for a full OEM Windows license (and more if you want a retail version with tech support).

The other side of that coin is that barebones PCs can be good for people who aren’t planning on paying for an OS. You can use your favorite Linux distribution on a barebones PC without paying the added cost for some Windows license you have no intention of using.

As a follow-up to our original review, we’ve installed four different Linux distributions to the Haswell NUC to get an idea of what open source enthusiasts can expect to experience when they load up Linux on the hardware. We tried Ubuntu 13.10, Linux Mint 16, and Fedora 20 because of their popularity, and then we loaded up SteamOS to test out its recently acquired Intel graphics support.

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