How-to Guide The NUC based home lab

The Intel NUC is a very popular platform for home labs. The small Intel NUCs are intended to be HTPCs, business PCs and similar productivity tools. Many of the Intel NUCs (and similar NUC-like machines) can be used as virtualization hosts (ESXi, VirtualBox, KVM, Hyper-V), Docker Swarm nodes, video encoding nodes or even as shared storage.

Intel NUC Pros
  • Low cost and integrated
  • Usually have Wi-Fi built-in or it can be added easily
  • Intel NICs
  • vPro on many Core i5 and Core i7 models
  • Very small - you can have a dozen nodes in the same space as many mini ITX cube systems
  • They look nice even on a desktop
Intel NUC Cons
  • No IPMI management
  • Need to buy $100 RealVNC license to use server-like vPro features
  • Limited core counts on embedded CPUs
  • Limited memory and drive expansion (only some models support a 2.5" drive)
  • Use external power bricks which can add up when you have a cluster
  • Not rack mountable without a shelf.
  • Only 1 wired NIC which isn't enough for most server applications
  • Only 1 gigabit Ethernet
For these reasons, the Intel NUCs will often be used alongside other infrastructure such as a shared NAS unit.

Which NUCs to get
Recommended 5th generation Intel NUCs for a home lab:
The 6th gen ones are coming out but I have not seen them online. This guide will be updated once they come out. The non-vPro version is about $60 cheaper so you are paying $60 per machine and $100 for the RealVNC license to use remote management on them.

What else to get with them:
I would budget about $410 for the vPro i5 NUC, $67 for the RAM, $90 for a m.2 SSD. So each NUC node costs around $567. Add $67 for the 1TB WD Red or more if you get a fancy 2.5" SSD.

I'm just outlining this to get people's reactions. I plan to update this as I get more time.
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Great effort to make a reference for NUC based home labs.