You’ve probably figured out by now I’m a fan of the Intel NUC. Tiny footprint, plenty of power, tons of cool features; what’s not to love? But if you’re like me, when you heard that Intel NUCs had “replaceable lids” your reaction was probably something like “huh?”.
I have to admit, back when I first heard they were adding replaceable lids to the NUCs, I didn’t get it. I mean, I sort of got it, but not really. The folks on the NUC team walked me through the concept, which was simple enough to understand; the lids were designed so that you could pop them off and replace them with…other lids. There were grand plans for NUC lids.”You’ll be able to add extra ports!” they told me. “Someday even things like TV tuners!” they said. I could feel the excitement from the team, but for me it was kind of…well…meh. The NUCs I had never got a special lid. In fact, I don’t think I ever had occasion to even try taking the lid off. I mean, what was the point?
Well, today things are different. I just got a care package from GoRite…and they have changed my mind about lids. If you’re not familiar, GoRite is an Intel partner. They’re part of the same company behind Micro SATA Cables, which is the go-to site if you need any internal cables for your NUC. If you’re ever planning to use the internal headers on your NUC, bookmark microsatacables.com. You can thank me later.
But let’s get back to the lids. GoRite is all-in on the lid concept, and it shows. They sent me samples of their current models, which are for 5th and 6th generation NUCs, and I have to say I am impressed. They’ve got some solid options available, with more cool stuff on the way. Their lids fall into two categories: replacement lids and feature lids.
Color it up!
Replacement lids are exactly that, replacements; no extra ports or features. They just replace what you’ve got. Good news: they’re cheap too (as of this writing, $8.75 USD). There are a couple of reasons to replace your lid. If you want to add a splash of personality, they’re great for making a NUC your own, and it’s surprising how much of a difference a new lid makes. I can see people color-coordinating their NUC with their decor. I’ve always loved the black lid on the NUC; silver and black is a great combination.
But I never had a choice before, and it’s cool knowing I can customize.
Of all the colors they sent me, I have to say the one I like best is white. I dunno…there’s just something clean and modern about it.
Make it new again!
The other use is one that hits closer to home for me; replacing a scratched or damaged lid. Take a look at my trusty 34010wykh:
I made the mistake of removing the protective plastic from the lid. Since then she’s spent a lot of time upside-down with me working on her insides. Tons of use has taken its toll. She’s been a reliable computer, and she’s still going strong, but she bears the scars of a full life. If only there were a removable lid out there to make her look shiny and new again. But she’s from a time before replaceable lids. (Seriously…tugs at the heart strings).
Replacement lids are great, but they’re also pretty easy. No big deal, right? Let’s talk about big deals: feature lids.
NUCs are already pretty full-featured for such a tiny box, but sometimes you just need more, and GoRite has got you covered. Their feature lids share a sleek, stylish look…kind of like the hood on a classic muscle car. I didn’t expect the lids to look this cool; I was expecting something boxy, with square corners…these ain’t that:
Here’s a breakdown of their current offerings:
- Dual USB 2.0: The first add-on that comes to mind for me is extra USB ports. There’s a lid for that. The USB lid connects to the internal USB 2.0 header in the the NUC to give you two extra ports on the back. That’s pretty awesome if you have a USB dongle for your keyboard/mouse combo, an external hard drive, a DVD drive, a printer, etc. Leave the front ports for your flash drive and charging your phone…you know, the fun stuff. This lid moves the boring stuff to the back, where it belongs.
- USB 2.0, with a twist: Shhhhh….this lid has a secret; at first it looks like it only adds one USB port to the back. But on closer inspection you’ll find it actually has a hidden USB port inside the lid. This port is so small and tucked in, it can only fit one thing: a tiny USB flash drive. Seriously, it’s the only thing that could possibly fit there.
- I’m going to be having some fun with this lid on my next how-to (shhhhh…it’s a secret too.), so I’ll have a chance to put it through its paces. My only concern with this one is heat. I’m not sure a tiny flash drive in such a cramped space will work out so well. But we’ll see.
- Development lid: This one offers a single USB port on the back, but also “allows designers to access a USB 2.0 signal pad layout on the top side of the PCB under the Expansion LID.” I quoted directly from the GoRite website for that because, not being a developer, I can’t really try this one out. Seriously, I’d break something…or electrocute myself.
- HDMI-CEC, an HTPC dream: Now we’re talking. This lid comes with a single USB port on the back, but the big deal is that it adds an HDMI-CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) adapter. I’ve only recently become acquainted with CEC, and this lid is my first hands-on with the technology, so you can expect to see this lid pop up in an upcoming post. From what I can see, it’s pretty danged cool. If you use your NUC for home theater, this might be the lid for you. If you’ve never heard of CEC, I suggest this awesome post from How-to Geek to learn more.
Installation, Fit and Durability
All of the lids fit snugly and securely, just like the original. Once the lid is on, you wouldn’t know your NUC didn’t come from the factory with it already installed. I did notice the feature lids (unlike the replacement lids) don’t have the small notches on the back for removal. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it does make the feature lids a little trickier to remove once they’re on. It’s doable, just not as quick and easy as the others.
They seem to be pretty durable too. I installed and removed several of the lids multiple times and never got a hint that any of the tabs were failing or cracking. They snapped in tight and came off quickly.
As much as I like these lids, and as useful as I think they’re going to be, what’s really got me intrigued is what GoRite has listed as “Coming Soon”:
- VGA with USB 2.0 Port: This one has me wondering if it would handle triple display via 1 HDMI, 1 DP, and 1 VGA.
- Additional Dual Mini DP Ports: I once saw a three monitor setup on a NUC in the lab. It was beautiful. I’d do the same, but I only have HDMI monitors. Multiple DP ports = TRIPLE DISPLAY baybee!
- RJ45 and USB 2.0 Port: Can you say “smart router”? Two NIC ports in one NUC = a ton of possibilities.
- TV Tuner: I would buy it today. My old Hauppauge USB tuner has served me well, but the idea of having a built-in tuner on my HTPC is too good to pass up. This one’s not coming soon enough.
The folks at GoRite have done their homework. They’ve created a line of NUC lids that are durable, stylish, and functional. Their prices are even reasonable, which is refreshing. Best of all, they’ve got new ideas coming all the time.
My lid’s off to them. (Sorry, couldn’t help it)