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Intel’s NUC Compute Element is an internal variant of discontinued Compute Card

May 30, 2019 — by Eric Brown 1,855 views

Intel previewed a “NUC Compute Element” with Y- or U-series Core chips, RAM, and storage that can be embedded in laptops and other devices via a proprietary connector. It also showed off several new technologies including a Honeycomb Glacier laptop with a secondary screen on the keyboard.

Intel, which went to the Computex show in Taiwan to unveil its 10th Gen “Ice Lake” Core processors, also showed off a new compute module form factor. Due to ship in the first half of 2020, the NUC Compute Element replaces the short-lived Intel Compute Card, which will be discontinued at the end of the year. The new compute module was one of several upcoming technologies previewed by Intel, including a Honeycomb Glacier laptop with a second screen (see farther below).

NUC Compute Element plugging into internal connector (left) and earlier Intel Compute Card
(click images to enlarge)

The NUC Compute Element will integrate “Intel CPU, memory, connectivity and other components and is capable of powering solutions like laptops, kiosks, smart TVs, appliances and more,” says Intel. The main difference between the module and the 95 x 55 x 5mm Intel Compute Card is that instead of connecting externally to a laptop, gateway, or signage system via a USB Type-C port, it will be embedded within the computer using a proprietary Intel connector for easier removal than is possible with a traditional computer-on-module such as a COM Express.

As with the Intel Compute Card, the NUC Compute Element is designed to enable modular computing. Intel will provide a variety of configurations with different CPU, RAM, flash, and possibly WiFi types and mixtures so OEMs and system integrators can add a upgrade without requiring an entirely new system.


While the Compute Card was designed for end-user replacement, the Compute Element requires more technical skill, and is principally aimed at OEMs that want to spin off a variety of configurations using the same hardware design. The concept also enables easier servicing of core computer elements.

NUC Compute Element showing unshielded side
Source: PCMag
(click image to enlarge)

According to several sources, including this hands-on Computex report by PCMag, the NUC Compute Element supports U-series Intel Core processors as well as the lower-powered Y-series supported by the Compute Card. Intel says it will also support secure Intel vPro Core processors.

The NUC Compute Element based laptop shown at Computex is a prototype from JP aimed at the education market. Despite the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) branding, there is no indication this will be used by a future Intel NUC mini-PC.

Unlike the Compute Card, only one side of the new device is sealed and protected. Because the NUC Compute Element is designed for internal deployment, it does not require the dual-sided shielding and extra durability found on the NUC Compute Card. PCMag quotes Intel as saying this should reduce the price by about $50. High pricing was said to be an obstacle to the Compute Card’s success.

More future Intel tech: Honeycomb Glacier, Ambient Compute, and Optane M15

The NUC Compute Element was previewed along with several other future-looking Intel technologies unveiled at Computex. The lead item was a prototype of a Honeycomb Glacier laptop “for gamers and creators” with a flip-up companion display built into the top half of the keyboard.

Honeycomb Glacier concept laptop
(click image to enlarge)

The secondary display can facilitate simultaneous gaming and streaming or display level maps, inventories, status, and other information with blocking the game view. Creators such as video editors can gain more real estate without requiring a secondary monitor, which is considered definitely not cool at your typical workspace café.

The Honeycomb Glacier concept will debut in the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo with ScreenPad Plus laptop with a 4K UHD Asus ScreenPad Plus display as the companion display. The laptop will run on an Intel 9th Gen “Coffee Lake Refresh” Core processor.

Intel’s Honeycomb Glacier concept laptop

Intel also showed off an Ambient Compute Concept PC prototype called Mohawk River with proactive, context-aware software. The Ambient laptop draws cues from “human presence sensors, 180-degree cameras, exterior secondary displays and Intel local voice ID.”

In addition, Intel demonstrated a Windows-based AI on PC Development Kit produced with Microsoft and Asus that adds an Intel Movidius Myriad X VPU to an Asus ZenBook Pro 14 laptop packed with AI software laptop. Finally, Intel announced a new Optane variant called Optane M15 designed to work with its 9th Gen CPUs. Optane 15 offers higher performance, lower power consumption, and shorter boot times than earlier Optane designs, says Intel.

Further information

The NUC Compute Element will ship in the first half of 2020. More information, including details on Honeycomb Glacier and other new technologies may be found in Intel’s announcement, called “Computex 2019: Top five Intel platform innovations driving the next wave of computing.”


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