Ok, let’s get this out of the way: I am 100% biased about the product I’m about to talk about. I have little objectivity, and more than a little hope it catches on.
Years ago I had an idea for a line of stackable NUC accessories. The idea was that you could set your NUC on top of one and it would look right at home. You could stack several of them and they would look pretty darned cool. I had ideas for a TV tuner, a USB hub, A network switch, an external hard drive enclosure. I even built some prototypes. Amazingly, the video is still floating around on the interwebs.
One of my crazier ideas was a DVD/Bluray drive where the disk stuck out while it was spinning, like the Sony Discman mini CD player from the 90’s:
Fast forward to last year. I’d been reviewing products for GoRite for a while and loved some of the things they’d come up with. I’d developed a good relationship with them too, making suggestions for product changes, features, etc. Not every product was a home run, but all of them showed a strong innovative spirit. GoRite and I started talking about the possibilities for new accessories, and the stackable concept came up. I sent them videos of me tearing my prototypes apart, explaining how I’d put them together. They liked the concept, and to my endless amazement, they actually went out and made one.
And here it is, sitting on my workbench. This unit (which I hope to be the first of many) houses dual m.2 slots, creating an external storage device. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t expecting much. But looking at it now, I’m amazed at just how much they got right. Let’s take a look.
The unit’s shape perfectly matches all of the 4″ X 4″ NUCs.
In my original concept, the stackable unit had circular indentations on the top that matched up with the rubber feet of the NUC. I did this by using a spare bottom plate, flipped over, as the lid. This made the stack nice and stable. This unit has a smooth lid.
At first I was disappointed by that, but then I realized it actually works in the products’ favor. It means you can set it next to a NUC and still have it look really nice. So you have the option of stacking it, but it’s not a requirement. With my original design, sitting by itself it looked…incomplete.
About the lid: it’s removable! It uses a standard replaceable NUC lid. That means you can swap them out just as easily as on the NUC. Change the color in a snap. GoRite accomplished this with some internal catches molded as part of the frame. They “catch” the tabs on the NUC lids and hold them firmly in place.
I even pulled the (ultra-sexy) matte lid off of my Dawson Canyon and tried it on for size. LOVED it.
On the outside, it doesn’t get any simpler. The unit is entirely bare on the front, with vent holes (that match the NUC’s) on the sides, and only the USB C connector on the back. If I could wish for one thing, it would be to have external status LEDs for power and activity. But the goal here was to keep the cost down, and sometimes you need to pick your battles. What I’d LOVE to see is an LED ring like some of the NUCs have. Imagine the little light show you could put together on your desk!
It’s got a powder-coated grey finish, which is nice & clean. It doesn’t match the metallic finish of the NUCs, but it still looks good sitting under one, whether the older silver or the newer dark grey.
Inside, the simplicity of the design continues. Dual m.2 slots on a single board…that’s it. One thing I learned when working on the prototypes is that you can fit A LOT into a 4″ x 4″ square. One of the units I built was a combination TV tuner, USB hub, memory card reader. So while it’s not a case of “the sky’s the limit”, you can still add some pretty cool things.
Another thing changed in the GoRite design is that, unlike the prototype, this unit has no feet. It sits flat on the table.
Maybe I’m weird, but that bugs me. I’d like it to have rubber feet like the NUC, just for the sake of consistency. I spoke to GoRite and they may include stick-on feet with the production unit. For this one, I’ll just pick up some at Lowe’s and put them on myself.
Functionally, it does exactly what you’d expect. I put a couple of 180GB Intel SSDs in (not exactly swimming in m.2 drives, so I pulled them from my Skull Canyon).
On the board, there are three switches to control how the drive shows up. You have three options: RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD.
You may be tempted to complain that you need to open it up to set that, but think about two things. First, the lid pops right off. Second, would you really want an external switch to move from RAID 0 to RAID 1? I wouldn’t. One accidental bump and your data disappears (temporarily at least). It’s not like you’ll be setting the drives up in different RAID modes on the fly.
There’s a flat USB C cable included, about 18″ long. Here again, I’m weird. Something I’d always envisioned for these was a short (2-3″) cable with 90 degree angle connectors on the top and bottom. That would put keep the cable close to the back of the unit and looking nice. Still, I did appreciate the longer cable while working on the unit, as my cable idea wouldn’t work at all unless it was stacked with the NUC.
I guess flexibility wins again. Speaking of that, what about a coiled cable? One that when at rest is only a few inches, but stretches out when needed. That would be cool!
One of my favorite parts of this idea is that, unlike a replaceable NUC lid, you aren’t locked into a single accessory. With stackables, you just stack them up. Get enough and you’ll end up with something like a Jenga tower! Also, unlike the lids, if you upgrade to a new NUC model, you can take your accessory with you. Most would be USB powered, so as long as the NUC had a USB port, you could just plug it in.
There are so many possibilities to this concept. I’d love to see it take off. I can see so many use cases:
- TV tuner
- Ethernet hub
- Optical drive (with bonus spinny action!)
- Memory card reader
- USB hub
- Power pack (take your NUC on the road!)
- Daisy-chained units (to save USB ports on the NUC)
And there it is. One completely biased opinion about a pretty cool new add-on for your NUC.