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Intel NUC 12 vs. 13: Which NUC Is the Best Bang for Your Buck?

Intel NUC 13 Pro design

Intel NUC 12 vs. 13: Which NUC Is the Best Bang for Your Buck?

Key Points

  • The NUC 13 is significantly faster than the NUC 12, with upgrades in processor speed, cache, graphics, and thermal design.
  • Both NUC models have a compact design and can support multiple 4K monitors, making them ideal for work or gaming.
  • The NUC line uses Intel’s Core processors, providing reliability and faster performance with each update.
  • Both NUC models offer the same storage capacity, starting at 512GB and upgradable to multiple terabytes.
  • The NUC 13 Pro is more expensive than the NUC 12 Pro, but the differences in performance may not be worth the extra cost.

The pressure to buy the newest model of every tech drop is pressing. So much FOMO surrounds tech drops, leaving most of us to swear we need the latest and greatest without putting much thought into the “why.” Of course, the choice is ultimately yours, but it’s important to really examine different models before deciding that you absolutely must have the newest one.

Intel put a lot of work into both the NUC 12 and 13. You have to give them credit for making consistent improvements, since the mighty but tiny NUC came out almost a decade ago. If you’re looking closely at the specs, you may realize you’d do well with the earlier model, beating the tough pressures of FOMO.

In today’s article, we’re going to take a deep dive into both of these systems and break down if it is really worth getting the newest model, or if you’ll be fine with the last-gen version.

Intel NUC 12 vs. 13: Overview

Right off the bat, the NUC 13 aims to learn from anything the previous model may have missed out on. Intel did a great job at creating a robust, powerful computer with the NUC 12, but there were still a few things that customers felt might have been lacking.

Every time a brand creates a new model of a fan favorite, they try to integrate feedback to the best of their ability — at least the smart brands do. And Intel has made it clear that they are in the big leagues.

You can choose between 3 different CPU options with both computers. The i3, i5, and i7 are available at various price points. These upgrades will cost a bit more as you “level up,” the same way you would expect more storage space to cost significantly more money.

Our Pick
Intel NUC 12 Pro (Intel Core i7-1260P)
$809.00
  • Max Turbo Frequency: 4.70 GHz
  • Intel Smart Cache: 18 MB
  • DDR4 32GB RAM
  • 1 TB SSD
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01/17/2024 02:00 pm GMT

The most palpable difference between the two microdesktop computers is that the NUC 13 is significantly faster than the NUC 12. A major user complaint for the NUC 12 was the desire for a faster computer in general. The NUC 13 certainly delivered. We got a minor bump in processor speed, cache, graphics, and even thermal design.

Otherwise, simple changes were what made the biggest difference between the two models. Upgrading the processor is part of what helped speed up the computer. They still utilize the Intel Core processors that users know and love, but in upgraded formats. You would certainly expect Intel to use its own processors in its homegrown line of desktops. Sorry, AMD fans — the NUC might not be for you.

Intel NUC 12 vs. 13: Side-by-Side Comparison

Feature/ SpecificationNUC 12 ProNUC 13 Pro
Code NameWall Street CanyonArena Canyon
Top Processor IncludedIntel Core i7-1260P (up to 4.70 GHz)Intel Core i7-1360P (up to 5.00 GHz)
Supported Operating SystemsWindows 11 Home/Pro, Windows 10 Home/Pro/IoT Enterprise, Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu 20.04 LTSWindows 11 Home/Pro, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise, Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu
Launch Date20222023
Total Cores & Threads12 Cores, 16 Threads12 Cores, 16 Threads
Max Turbo Frequency4.70 GHz5.00 GHz (P-core Turbo Boost)
Max Memory Size64 GB64 GB
Memory TypesDDR4-3200 1.2V SODIMMsDDR4-3200 1.2V SODIMMs
Internal Drive Form FactorM.2 SSDM.2 SSD
Graphics Output2x HDMI 2.1, 2x DP 1.4a via Type C2x HDMI 2.1, 2x DP 1.4a via Type C
Thunderbolt Ports2x Thunderbolt 42x Thunderbolt 4
USB ConfigurationFront: 2x USB 3.2, Rear: 2x USB 4 (type C), 1x USB 3.2, 1x USB 2.0, Internal: 1x USB 3.2 on m.2 22×42 (pins), 2x USB 2.0 (headers)Same as NUC 12 Pro
Integrated LANIntel Ethernet Controller i225-VIntel Ethernet Controller i226-V
WirelessIntel Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (Gig+)Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (Gig+)
Bluetooth Version5.35.3
Chassis Dimensions117 x 112 x 37 [mm]117 x 112 x 37 [mm]
Security & ReliabilityIntel PTT, Intel ME Firmware Version 16, Intel AESIntel PTT, Intel ME Firmware Version 16.1, Intel AES

Intel NUC 12 vs. 13: What’s the Difference?

There are more similarities than differences between these compact computers. The cool thing about the NUC line, generally, is that it is reliable each time a new model comes out. People can expect the same high-quality craftsmanship while still anticipating a few helpful upgrades to their already-beloved mini PC.

This time, the biggest differences will be more internal than external. Intel didn’t make many aesthetic changes between the 12 and 13. Sometimes, this isn’t the case; we see their competitor, Apple, make drastic aesthetic changes every generation with their iPhone, for example. But Intel stayed within the same vicinity for these recent NUC models.

Our Pick
Intel NUC 12 Pro (Intel Core i5-1240P)
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • 512GB M.2 SSD
  • 4K @ 60Hz HD display via DP1.4 and HDMI 2.0
  • Windows 11 Pro OS
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You get a lot of bang for your buck with these Intel mini PCs. Whether you buy the 12 or 13, you’ll find yourself surprised by how much they can do despite their small sizing. Within recent years, smaller tech designs have made big moves in the industry.

Intel NUC 13 Pro
The Intel NUC is an unassuming little desktop.

You can expect more big-name brands to follow Intel’s lead, using their NUC line as the blueprint or gold standard for their own micro desktops–because they’re just that good! You could say the Mac Mini started the trend, but even smaller brands like Geekom are getting involved in the mini PC trend. So, it is safe to say the NUC is about to see a lot of competition.

Design

The models look nearly identical. They are tiny cubes that can fit effortlessly on any desk or shelf without much hassle. Previously, tower desktops were most commonly found in household or business settings. Now, presumably, after the success of Apple’s Mac Mini, brands have recognized the value of “tiny but mighty” computers.

Gamers love the small design because they can focus more on their screen size. If you are an apartment gamer, this is even better. You can tuck your NUC away in a corner, and stick two large monitors on your desk surface while still getting decent results.

You might not be loading up the most demanding games on these systems — they only have integrated graphics. But if you like to enjoy a little World of Warcraft, Old School RuneScape, or other lightweight games, a NUC is a champion.

Processor

The NUC line famously uses Intel’s Core processors. The brand made an amazing choice using their popular (and powerful) computer processors for the NUC because they are reliable and faster with each update. You would expect Intel to use its own CPUs, and the NUC lineup makes an excellent testing ground for the latest iterations. Since Intel makes both the processor and the computer, they have more control over the entire design to ensure everything works flawlessly.

You’ll notice that the NUC 13 Pro is vastly faster than the NUC 12 Pro. This is, of course, largely due to the upgraded processor that it uses. A lot of the features of the NUC 13 Pro make it seem like it’s saying, “I’m you, but stronger” to its younger sibling.

Intel NUC 13 Pro ports
The NUC 12 and 13 Pro offer the same port configuration. You can plug them up to four 4K monitors simultaneously for a sprawling display setup.

You can choose between 3 variations of the Intel Core Processor for your NUC desktop. These upgrades can cost a pretty penny, but if you need a tiny computer for specialized use, you could seriously benefit from spending the extra cash. Remember, your computer processor should be as strong as possible if you’re asking it to run complicated applications.

Graphics

The NUC 12 and 13 Pro both rely on integrated Intel Iris graphics, which rely on the processor for their graphical computing capabilities. Unlike dedicated graphics cards, which have their own separate memory and processing units, integrated graphics share resources with the main CPU.

The NUC 13 Pro is a bit better than the NUC 12 Pro in terms of graphics, but only marginally. There are a few minor upgrades that were made to the newer model, which show through. But your experience will also depend on which monitor you choose.

The good news is that both of these desktops can support multiple 4K monitors. Now, before you get too excited, you won’t be doing any 4K gaming on either of these. But if you use multiple monitors for work, crunching spreadsheets, trading stocks, or doing graphic design, you will love these.

RAM And Storage

Surprisingly, the two NUC models offer the exact same storage capacity. You can upgrade either one to fit your needs, but they both come at the same starting point. Depending on which configuration you pick, you will get a system with 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB of solid-state storage.

Best Performance
Intel NUC 13 Pro (Intel Core i7-1360P)
$799.00
  • 32 GB RAM
  • Memory storage capacity: 1 TB
  • Windows 11 Pro OS
  • Wi-Fi 6E AX211, Bluetooth 5.3
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01/17/2024 12:20 pm GMT

512 GB of SSD storage is a good starting point for any computer, but almost monumental for a micro desktop. You may be inclined to believe that its small size equates to minimal storage, but you would be mistaken.

What is even more impressive is that you can upgrade these to have multiple terabytes of storage. As for RAM, your base model typically comes with 32GB of DDR4. Upgrading is quite easy, and you can max both of these systems out at a whopping 64GB.

RAM and storage Intel NUC 13 Pro
The RAM and SSD are easily upgradeable on the Intel Nuc Pro.

Software

These computers both use Windows 11 Pro, which is the current version of Windows. You get the same user experience with both desktops, and it will only change if Windows updates its OS drastically. Windows tends to do major updates every six months, but older models of desktop computers can last for years beyond their initial version of the OS.

It’s not a major concern to buy the model prior to the most recent one, in terms of fearing your computer becoming obsolete over time. Even if you aren’t too fond of Windows, you can always opt for Linux. The Intel NUC 12 and 13 come with excellent support for a ton of different Linux distros. So whether you prefer Ubuntu, Mint, or even Arch Linux, your NUC will be able to support it just fine.

Price

This is, again, one of the few major differences between the NUC 12 Pro and the NUC 13 Pro. Most of the time, you’ll save money buying the older model, especially if it’s been a few years since its initial release. The NUC 12 Pro is relatively new, but the NUC 13 Pro was released earlier this year, making it a hot commodity for Intel’s diehard fans.

Our Pick
Intel NUC 13 Pro (Intel Core i5-1340P)
$679.00
  • Maximum Clock Frequency: 4.6 GHz
  • Support for 4K@60 Ghz, 8K@60 GHz, and 4K@120 GHz
  • 16GB of Dual-Channel SO-DIMM DDR4 RAM
  • 512GB M.2 SSD
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 02:05 pm GMT

If you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck, the NUC 12 Pro is worth the investment. Sometimes, Amazon will feature both models on an amazing deal. However, the NUC 12 Pro will always come out the victor regarding price and cost value. Still, if you want the latest and greatest, then the NUC 13 might be worth the price.

Intel NUC 12 vs. 13: 8 Must-Know Facts

NUC 12 Pro:

  • Released in 2022
  • Was codenamed “Wall Street Canyon”
  • Intended for business and personal use
  • Good for data entry and multimedia editing

NUC 13 Pro:

  • Was codenamed “Arena Canyon”
  • Great for everyday computing or light gaming
  • Faster than the NUC 12 Pro
  • More expensive than the NUC 12 Pro

Intel NUC 12 vs. 13: Which One Is Better? Which Should You Use?

The price of the NUC 13 Pro is going to be one of the biggest deterrents for most buyers. While a great improvement on previous models, the most basic iteration of an Intel NUC 13 Pro kit is hundreds of dollars more expensive than its predecessors, with little to do in terms of major changes to the product itself.

Truthfully, you can get almost the same exact experience from both computers. If you’re really nitpicking at details, you could argue that the speed of the NUC 13 Pro adds to cost-effectiveness. Though it’s more expensive, you would save time, and therefore money, doing daily tasks.

If you’re using the mini PC for business, upgrade to the NUC 13 Pro (especially if your company is paying for it). The updates to the computer’s overall speed are an investment in and of itself. Otherwise, practically any other use could do well with the NUC 12 Pro.

Assess your needs to determine which is a better fit for you. Since these computers are so closely comparable, it’s important to pinpoint your general predicted use. Minor changes found in the NUC 13 Pro might not be worth the extra several hundred dollars.

If you want something with a little more graphics oomph, a mini desktop might not be able to satisfy you. Sure, they are good for basic graphics use. But if you need something for high-end gaming or computer-assisted design, a full-size desktop and beefy graphics are necessary.

Intel NUC 12 vs. 13: Deciding Factors

Ultimately, your biggest deciding factor is going to be your budget. If you can splurge a grand on a basic 13 Pro starter kit, go for it. Over time, you may find that the investment is worth it for your business or personal endeavors.

There are always inherent perks to buying the latest and greatest PC models, including and especially the predictive shelf-life period of the unit. Otherwise, the differences between the PCs are so slim that you might be better off just getting a 12 Pro. You’d save enough on your initial purchase, leaving the extra hundred dollars for potential upgrades. 

NUC 13 ProNUC 12 Pro
What It IsPCPC
Primary UseMultimedia/Business/PersonalMultimedia/Business/Personal
NameNUC 13 ProNUC 12 Pro
Release20232022
BrandNUCNUC
SizeCompactCompact
Operating SystemWindowsWindows
ManufacturerIntelIntel
  1. Intel NUC 12 Pro (Intel Core i7-1260P)
    $809.00
    • Max Turbo Frequency: 4.70 GHz
    • Intel Smart Cache: 18 MB
    • DDR4 32GB RAM
    • 1 TB SSD
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 02:00 pm GMT
  2. Intel NUC 12 Pro (Intel Core i5-1240P)
    • 16GB DDR4 RAM
    • 512GB M.2 SSD
    • 4K @ 60Hz HD display via DP1.4 and HDMI 2.0
    • Windows 11 Pro OS
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  3. Intel NUC 13 Pro (Intel Core i7-1360P)
    $799.00
    • 32 GB RAM
    • Memory storage capacity: 1 TB
    • Windows 11 Pro OS
    • Wi-Fi 6E AX211, Bluetooth 5.3
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 12:20 pm GMT
  4. Intel NUC 13 Pro (Intel Core i5-1340P)
    $679.00
    • Maximum Clock Frequency: 4.6 GHz
    • Support for 4K@60 Ghz, 8K@60 GHz, and 4K@120 GHz
    • 16GB of Dual-Channel SO-DIMM DDR4 RAM
    • 512GB M.2 SSD
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/17/2024 02:05 pm GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is Better, NUC 12 Pro or NUC 13 Pro?

Both computers are so similar that your individual needs will determine which PC is the better buy. Overall, the NUC 12 Pro promotes cost-effectiveness, while the NUC 13 Pro features improved speeds. If time is of the essence, upgrade to the NUC 13 Pro.

Is the NUC 13 Pro worth it?

It’s almost always worth it to upgrade your computer. Operating systems are rendered outdated after a few years. Windows does major updates every six months, but their overall OS interface changes less frequently.

Your NUC 12 Pro could last for years, just the same as your NUC 13 Pro. Still, the NUC 13 Pro improves in many areas where the previous model was lacking. In many cases, it is worth it to shell out the extra cash to receive the benefits of the latest and greatest technology.

What does NUC stand for?

NUC means “Next Unit of Computing.” Intel introduced this innovative line of mini PCs back in 2012, wowing their customer base with their innovative design.

Is Intel discontinuing NUC?

As of August 2023, Intel has announced that they are discontinuing NUC. But fear not, NUC enthusiasts! Asus is taking over the production of further NUC models. So, you’ll get a NUC 14 Pro, just not one by Intel!

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