When it comes to tiny desktop computers, the NUC vs. Dell is a comparison many buyers find themselves making. But for most of the history of desktop PCs, mobility hasn’t been the first thing that comes to mind. It seems like it’s an unavoidable tradeoff of sacrificing mobility for power. Laptops are the go-to for mobile computers, and desktops are relegated to a primarily stationary life, keeping you chained down to wherever your workstation resides.
But as we’ve explored, this doesn’t always have to be the case. Mini PCs are changing our perception of mobile computers thanks to fantastic innovations. Now, you can have all the best that desktop computing offers, with an extreme form factor contributing to supreme portability and some aesthetic benefits.
Today, we’ll be looking at the amazing Intel NUC 13 Pro — which we reviewed extensively here — putting it against the Dell OptiPlex 7050. Don’t let the initial specs of these devices fool you, as there’s a lot to compare between them, and each device has some serious punches to throw at the competitor. Let’s get into it!
Intel NUC vs. Dell OptiPlex 7050: Side by Side
|Intel NUC 13
|Dell OptiPlex 7050
|7.6” x 6.81” x 4.49”
|7.2” x 1.4” x 7”
|Intel i7-1360P E: 3.7GHz , P: 5GHz
|Intel Core i5-6500T 2.5-3.1Ghz
|Cores & Threads
|12 Core (4P+8E) 16 Threads
|4 Core 4 Thread
|32 GB DDR4
|16 GB DDR4
|Intel Iris Xe Graphics 1.5GHz
|Intel HD 530 UMA Graphics
|SATA or PCI SSD
|SATA or PCI SSD
|None / 4.2
|None / 5
|2x Thunderbolt 4, 3x USB 3.2, 1x USB 2, 2x HDMI 2b, 1x Ethernet
|6x USB 3.1, 4x USB 2, 1x HDMI, 1x Displayport, 1x Ethernet, 2x PS/2
Intel NUC vs. Dell OptiPlex 7050: What’s the Difference?
The Intel NUC 13 Pro and Dell OptiPlex 7050 cater to a niche market: micro desktop PC buyers. But both of them boast reputable brand names.
Dell is well known for its workstation PCs, and its mini PCs pack a ton of power. Sure, they make their fair share of massive tower desktops. But they also make plenty of capable compact computers. The Dell OptiPlex 7050 is one of these workhorses. On the surface, this PC is much less powerful than the Intel NUC 13 Pro, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve.
The NUC 13 Pro doesn’t shy away from letting you know it’s powerful, either. Since the NUC is from Intel, they can squeeze as much power out of the CPU as possible — primarily by optimizing the entire PC around the processor. This PC also gets the benefit of Intel’s latest technology.
These small PCs each deserve an article of their own, but let’s look at the most apparent differences and similarities between these models.
Size & Design
The OptiPlex 7050 is available in multiple formats. You’ll commonly see the SFF and the USFF versions come up for sale. USFF, meaning “ultra-small-form-factor,” is the smaller model, and that is the one we’ll be referring to in this article.
The NUC and the OptiPlex are both compact, but the USFF version of the OptiPlex 7050 is the lighter and slimmer option. Coming in at 1.6 pounds lighter and a smaller case, the OptiPlex is slim even compared to the NUC 13 Pro.
Both PCs share similarities in having ample ventilation compared to their size and opt for minimal designs. Each design follows some no-nonsense principles. You can mount them behind your monitor with the included mounting brackets, or just tuck them away somewhere inconspicuous.
Both models have most of their IO ports on the back, with minimal functions on the front. Despite being packed with IO, the OptiPlex and NUC both have a sense of purpose in their IO layouts rather than feeling cramped.
They also look the part as they feature smooth black chassis and just enough flare to make the computers aesthetically pleasing. The Dell looks especially nice while integrating a serious amount of ventilation behind a striking vent cover.
Each design is meant to be added to and modified as well. If you need to expand or repair each device, the cases are made to disassemble and reassemble easily. You’ll also find space to add a few expansions to each device. So, don’t think you’ll be limited to the initial configuration.
Processing and Performance
Even though both devices use Intel CPUs, the NUC 13’s i7-1360P blows the OptiPlex’s i5-6500T out of the water.
Not only is the NUC CPU several generations ahead, but this i7 processor makes use of an entirely new industry paradigm. Rather than having uniform cores, this CPU combines high-performance cores with an array of lower-performance but highly efficient cores.
The reason for this is most tasks you’ll run today don’t need the fastest clock speeds available, so the efficiency cores can process these tasks while your high-performance cores can focus on the tasks you want to get done.
The OptiPlex 7050 uses a much older CPU at eight years old but still offers decent computing. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to upgrade past 7th-generation Intel CPUs either, thanks to board limitations.
Don’t let this difference sway you too much. The i5-6500T works fine for general computing unless you’re doing CPU-intensive work. Do keep in mind, however, that this CPU is a bit underpowered if you’re looking at gaming.
On the other hand, both systems have more than enough RAM, but the NUC wins again here with double the available RAM. If you’re looking at the price, though, this RAM difference might not make up for it.
Both use DDR4, so there won’t be a large difference in speed, and you can always add some RAM to your OptiPlex if 16 GB isn’t enough. But you can expand the NUC 13 Pro’s RAM as well. So, it really comes down to price-to-performance here. If you want to save a few bucks, the OptiPlex will give you similar performance in the RAM department.
Because of the small size, neither of these products uses discrete graphics cards. Despite being integrated, both of these devices are capable of tasks like 4k video playback and streaming.
Intel provides graphics here entirely, but they use two different product lines. The Dell OptiPlex goes for the simpler solution of Intel’s HD UMA graphics, while the Intel NUC has Iris Xe graphics.
The difference here is mostly in architecture as well. Intel HD is known for being much less costly than Iris Xe, and Iris Xe is much faster than Intel HD. This comes down to Iris Xe being a new architecture for integrated graphics solutions.
If you’re looking to do things like CAD or 3D modeling, neither of these solutions will work, but if you’re looking to game, then the OptiPlex won’t be doing much, whereas the NUC 13 Pro will have light gaming capabilities. I can’t really say either of them is a full-fledged gaming computer, though. So, look elsewhere if you are really into gaming.
Out of the box, this is another win for the NUC 13, but storage is an even playing field for both devices. Yes, the NUC has the advantage of using the latest SSD technology, but both can be expanded to include as much storage as needed.
The OptiPlex can fit up to four separate drives: two 2.5” hard drives, one 2.5” SSD, and one M.2 SSD. This is enough to have several terabytes of data, and you can get the best of what HDDs and SSDs offer.
The NUC 13 Pro can support two M.2 drives and one SATA drive, but you can also add an expansion card for additional storage options. While you may not have a lot of extra storage available, you have more than enough unless you’re filling several terabytes of data.
The NUC 13 Pro sets itself ahead once again, thanks to it being a much newer device. Wi-Fi 6 capabilities mean it can move up to 9.6 Gbps. Wi-Fi 6 also improved connection stability, so the NUC will perform great whether you’ve wired it into a network or not.
The NUC also has excellent Bluetooth capabilities for connecting wireless peripherals. The OptiPlex, on the other hand, isn’t as great. Wireless and Bluetooth capabilities aren’t guaranteed out of the box, so be sure to buy one that includes these if necessary.
You’ll also still be on an older generation of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This won’t be a dealbreaker for any Bluetooth devices you’re trying to connect, but the Wi-Fi speeds will be significantly slower.
An upgrade might be possible, but check the installed board’s PCIe lanes compared to whatever card you buy. And, of course, you can always pick up a USB WiFi or Bluetooth module without much hassle.
IO & Displays
These are workstation devices, so multiple monitors are a must. Both devices have several video outputs, but the NUC features support for up to four displays compared to the OptiPlex’s two. And the best thing? These can all be 4k displays.
The OptiPlex also promises 4k displays but requires each monitor to use a different connection. Couple this with the older CPU and underpowered graphics, and the Dell likely won’t have you at the same level as the NUC.
These computers also have an impressive array of ports and connections, but the difference isn’t significant unless you’re looking for Thunderbolt support. USB, Ethernet, headphones, and HDMI are all standards here.
Intel NUC vs. Dell OptiPlex 7050: Must-Know Facts
Intel NUC 13 Pro:
- Much newer system
- Comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support
- Uses Windows 11 Pro
- Extremely versatile
Dell OptiPlex 7050:
- Not recommended for gaming
- Older technologies
- Still workstation capable
- May not come with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
Intel NUC vs. Dell OptiPlex 7050: Which is Better? Which Should I Use?
Comparing which is better is a bit unfair — mainly due to the age and the price. But if I had to pick one personally, and money was no issue, the NUC 13 Pro is the winner. If nothing else, then because of its raw power. This is mostly due to it using a lot of the cutting edge of what’s available. This performance also comes at a price. This device is listed at around $1000 for the skew we’re looking at today.
The Dell Optiplex 7050, on the other hand, is an 8-year-old model. No matter how you look at it, it’s going to be punching up compared to a modern device.
If you’re looking for a general-use computer, go for the OptiPlex, as it will still do most general computing tasks without any hangups. The OptiPlex line is designed to last for years and years. Don’t expect to be running the next Call of Duty at max resolution or even most AAA games.
The NUC 13 Pro isn’t necessarily designed with gaming in mind either, but thanks to the innovations packed into it, it’ll handle most tasks thrown at it. Due to the price, it’s a bit hard to recommend the NUC 13 Pro over the OptiPlex in all cases, but if you can justify the use case, then it’s not a bad choice.
Otherwise, if you want a general-use PC, the OptiPlex is an amazing deal at current listing prices, especially if you plan on upgrading. If you’re hoping for a gaming computer, we reviewed several great contenders under $1500, under $800, and even under $300.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©History-Computer.com/Tyler Von Harz.