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Fanless Whiskey Lake mini-PCs include a model based on Intel NUC Elements

Mar 25, 2020 — by Eric Brown 2,287 views

Bleujour has launched a $836 and up “Kubb Passive” NUC system and is prepping an even smaller NUC Elements based Meta U mini-PC, both of which run Linux Mint on Intel’s Whiskey Lake.

If you’re spending more time than usual on your computer in these days of quarantine, you may ask yourself: Why does my computer have to be so ugly? French embedded vendor Bleujour, which is known for its cutting-edge enclosure designs, would answer “C’est absurde!” In other words, your computer need not be ugly so long as you’re willing to pay a bit more for style.

Bleujour, which has built its signature Kube case for Sapphire’s Ryzen Embedded V1000 based FS-FP5V SBC, has launched an Intel NUC based Kubb Passive computer. It will soon launch a smaller Meta U mini-PC based on the same Intel 8th Gen Whiskey Lake chips with 15W TDPs that instead builds on Intel’s new NUC Elements platform. Both products ship with Linux Mint as a default, and with Windows 10 Pro as an extra-cost option.

Kube Passive in Chrome finish (left) and Meta U
(click images to enlarge)

As noted by the Tom’s Hardware report that alerted us to the products, and which refers to the Kubb Passive as the Kubb NUC, the product fills a niche caused by Intel’s surprising discontinuation of its Whiskey Lake based NUC products. Last year, ASRock launched its own iBox-8365U mini-PC based on a NUC-8365U mainboard, and there have been other NUC-like, Whiskey Lake mini-PCs like Purism’s recent Librem Mini. You can also still order an original Whiskey Lake NUC before April 30, and the Core i3 models will hang on a bit longer.

Wood Kubb Surrealist (left) and Meta 5
(click images to enlarge)

The Kube Passive is a Whiskey Lake variation on Bleujour’s line of 8th Gen Coffee Lake based Kubb NUC systems, which come in variety of colors and styles, including Kubb Essentielle, Kubb Haute Couture, Wood Kubb, and Wood Kubb Surrealist. Bleujour also sells mini-PCs including the 8th Gen Coffee Lake based Octo, the Intel Gemini Lake based Octo N4000, and the Ryzen V1000 powered Octo 5. There’s also a larger, boxier Meta 5 based on the V1000 and a larger, but thin-profile Meta system with Kaby Lake Refresh, which unlike the others, lacks a shopping page for individual sales. All these systems default to Linux Mint.

Octo (left) and Octo 5
(click images to enlarge)


Kubb Passive

Built around a Whiskey Lake Intel NUC mainboard, the Kubb Passive Edition is available in finishes including Graphite, Edition Bleu, and Chrome. With the basic package equipped with a dual-core, 3.0GHz/3.6GHz Core i3-8109U, 8GB of 2400MHz DDR4 RAM, and an M.2-based 256GB NVMe SSD, the system costs 795 ($858), 945 (1,020), and 1,045 ($1,128) Euros, respectively. The Kubb Passive can be configured on the high end with a quad-core, 2.7GHz/4.5GHz Core i7-8559U, 32GB RAM, and a 2TB SSD for 1,383.50 Euros ($1,494) in Graphite with Linux Mint.

Measuring 120mm on each side, the aluminum-constructed Kubb Passive ships with Intel’s Iris Plus Graphics 655 card with support for triple simultaneous 4K displays. The system, however, appears to have only two display interfaces: an HDMI 2.0a port and a USB 3.1 Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port with DP output.

Kubb Passive in Graphite (left) and Bleu
(click images to enlarge)

The Kubb Passive is further equipped with 4x USB 3.1 ports, a GbE port, and Intel Wireless-AC 9560 WiFi module and Bluetooth 5.0. There’s also an audio jack and 2x mics. The Kubb Passive weighs 2.7 kg and has a DC input and AC-DC 100-240 19V power supply.

Meta U

While the Kubb Passive is more of a desktop computer, the unpriced Meta U is designed for IoT, embedded computing, industrial computing, and digital signage. Like the Kubb Passive, it is fanless, and according to a Tom’s Hardware report from earlier this month, the mini-PC casing is “milled out of a single big slab of aluminum and acts as the unit’s heatsink for ultra-quiet operation.” The 220 x 148 x 38mm system is wider than the Kubb cubes, but much shorter in height.

Meta U, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The Meta U adopts the modular Intel NUC 8 Elements concept and product line. NUC Elements starts with a large compute module — the NUC Compute Element — equipped with various 8th Gen processor options and integrated I/O circuitry. The NUC Compute Element plugs into a choice of carrier boards (Intel NUC Board Elements), which then fit inside of a selection of Intel NUC Chassis Elements.

Intel’s NUC Compute Element (left) and NUC Board Elements
(click images to enlarge)

Unlike the earlier, short-lived, Intel Compute Card, the NUC Compute Element plugs into carrier boards, laptops, and other equipment using a proprietary Intel connector instead of a USB Type-C port. The connector enables easier removal than is possible with a COM Express module, thereby enabling easier upgrades to different processors.

The Meta U lets you choose from a variety of 8th Gen Whiskey Lake options up to a Core i7-8665U paired with 4GB to 8GB of LPDDR3, depending on the processor. The lower-end Celeron 4305U and Pentium Gold 5405U ship with 64GB eMMC while the Core-based models instead offer dual M.2 sockets with PCIe x4 and NVMe support for SSDs.

The Meta U is further equipped with GbE, HDMI 2.0a, USB 2.0, 3x USB 3.1, and 2x COM ports. It has the same Intel wireless radios as the Kubb Passive along with 2x antennas.

Further information

The Kube Passive is available now starting at 795 Euros ($858), with other pricing listed above. No pricing or availability information was provided for the Meta U. More information may be found on the Kubb Passive shopping page and the Meta U product page.



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