Next Gen NUCs Will Need Next Gen Lids

I’ve written in the past about removable lids on the Intel NUC. Back when the idea was first being thrown around, I admit I wasn’t a true believer. But after seeing what GoRite has done with their NUC lids, I’m fully on board. They offer new functionality and features, and look great doing it. I could go on about all the cool lids they have (that TV tuner one is still my favorite), but the point is they’re a neat way to add stuff to your NUC.

Intel is in the process of rolling out its latest generation of NUCs now…I recently completed a review of the Arches Canyon (NUC6CAYS) model, and it was my first look at the relocated power button and LED.  Intel has moved them to the front of the unit, and personally I think it’s a great design choice. It puts the LED in a position to be more easily visible, especially for home theater users, who will likely have it positioned face out in a console of some sort. No more openings for the power button and LED means the lid is entirely blank, with nothing to break the glossy finish. It also means lids from the previous generation won’t fit on the newest units.

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There’s a difference…it’s subtle, but it’s there.

If you’re the current owner of a functional lid from GoRite, you might be thinking you could just move it to the new unit and live with the holes. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. A comparison of the underside of the new and old lids reveals a re-positioning of one of the plastic posts, so the older lid will not fit:

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Of course you could always shave that post off to force the lid on, but even if you were willing to put up with that, there’s another design change that might put the brakes on.

One of the new features in the next generation NUCs is dual, front-facing microphones.  In my review, I tried them out with Cortana and they work remarkably well.  The issue for lid-owners is that since the mics are on the front of the unit, one of them is mounted right where your lid cables would ordinarily go.

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The mic is mounted right above the USB headers on the main board, which is where your cables need to be. That means the cable you have for your existing lid isn’t going to fit through the opening.

GoRite is well aware of the situation with the new design, and they’ve already got lid designs to match the new “button-less” top.

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Sexier than ever!

They’ve also come up with a practical solution to the lack of cable space where the mic is mounted. They provided me a sample of one of the new lids, and it includes a longer split cable. The lid they sent is the dual USB port model, which means two separate connectors to attach to the USB headers. One of the cables will fit in the usual spot, but both won’t. So they recommend running the second end of the cable through the smaller hole on the side of the NUC.  The supplied cable is easily long enough to run through that opening and all the way back to the USB header.

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I walked through the installation (video below) and found it to be easy enough. I had no issues getting the cables routed through the two openings, and everything fit just as it should. It’s a tight fit through both openings, so I used a pair of needle nose pliers to gently pull the cable connectors through. I will caution anyone installing one of the new lids to take extra care when running the cable through the smaller opening. The cable will come out right next to the WiFi card, and is precariously close to the antenna connectors. If not enough care is taken, one or both of the antenna cables could be accidentally pulled off. Not a tragedy, but if you’ve ever had to connect those tiny antenna connectors to your WiFi card, you know it’s not something you want to do often.

Here’s the walk through of the lid installation on an Arches Canyon:

It’s too bad the older lids won’t fit, but I can’t fault Intel for redesigning the NUC in this way when they’re adding great new features. Anyway, we’ve seen this in most of the previous generations too.  Often your existing parts (like memory and SSDs) just aren’t transferable, and it’s usually because Intel is pushing the technology forward.

So the bad news is if you already have a GoRite lid for your old NUC, you won’t be able to use it with your new one; you’re going to need a new lid. The good news is GoRite’s got you covered when you’re ready to get that new lid.

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