In a bizarre twist of the company’s product strategy, they have decided to go with Intel and start to sell customized NUCs. That’s right, you can now buy a fully customized NUC (they add the SSD, RAM and OS) from Xi3 Corporation and they’ll send it to you. Don’t mind the fact that almost ANYONE can build a NUC PC by simply following the instructions and essentially requires 10 minutes to build. Or don’t mind the fact that Xi3 has been building NUC competitors for years and wasn’t really getting much traction, so I guess if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em?
Xi3 was originally painted as one of the innovative companies in the industry and was pushing the industry towards a smaller and smaller form factor, even selling us all on the idea that their Piston ‘console’ was possibly the next best thing. There were even hints, legitimate or not, that the Piston could be the Steam Box, which we now know isn’t true. And in fact, the Piston isn’t even considered a ‘steam machine’. The Piston’s disappointment doesn’t quite stop there because Xi3′s Piston console actually sells for $999 (more than if you bought an Xbox One and PS4 together and a game and year subscription).
In the end, Xi3 is making themselves more of a one stop shop for small form factor computing, but the real sad part is that there isn’t that much demand for a system integrator to do that. Most of these systems are already so simple and preconfigured they just don’t make sense to buy configured. The NUC they are selling, comes in three flavors with the NUC Leon being the fastest sporting a zippy Intel Core i5 4250U Dual Core 1.3 GHz Processor (turbo boosts to 2.6 GHz). And by zippy, I mean incredibly weak when you consider the laptop I’m typing this on has a Core i7 4500U. Sure, they’re limited by what Intel will make, but they’re charging $650 for a NUC with a measly 80 GB SSD and 4GB of RAM. That very same NUC, without Xi3 branding or customization costs $365 on Newegg. For that extra $300 you could buy yourself a 16 GB kit of 1600 MHz SODIMM (the max it supports) and a 240 GB Crucial mSATA SSD. You’ll have a bit left over to put basically any wireless card you want, but you get the point, its a huge rip off since you’re getting quadruple the RAM and quadruple the storage for the same money.
I don’t know how Xi3 can continue to release these products, maybe they do have some serious business customers, and I’m sure it’ll be easier to sell the NUC to business customers than the $999 Piston, but it still seems odd that they continue to push small form factor PCs when the market has shown they’re not that popular. Not to mention, most SFF systems end up being DIY unless they’re thin clients, but thin clients are not SFF PCs.