CRACKING INTO THE CASE
Is it a petite powerhouse, or a diminutive danger?
LENGTH OF TIME: 1-2 HOURS LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: MEDIUM
THERE IS ONE COMMON— and almost unavoidable— issue with small form factor builds. They can be fiddly, which is just the way it goes when the chassis is this compact. Intel has ramped up the scale, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this will be a walk in the park. To see what we’re working with, we need to get started by opening the top of the case. This involves a heavily loaded spring thumb screw on the back of the case. Gently, and we mean gently, loosen this screw and set it aside somewhere safe. You may be wondering why we’ve emphasized being gentle with this heavily loaded spring thumb screw? Well, we may or may not have spent around five to ten minutes searching for it as it pinged straight off initially. We’ll leave that for you to figure out.
OFF COMESS THE TOP
NOW THAT YOU HAVE the screw loosened—and, hopefully, haven’t wasted too much time looking for it on the floor—you can prize the top panel off of the Intel NUC. To do this, you’ll need to slowly slide the top panel backward and then lift it upward. Place this aside, preferably next to the thumbscrew you’ve just taken off— it’s always advisable to keep all of these parts together as builds can get messy quickly. Once this is off, we can get a first glimpse into the machine. Along the top, you’ll see the USB header cable that runs across from the I/O shield to the motherboard. We’ll need to come back to this later so it’s worth noting. You can also see the CPU fan, a heatsink chamber, and also the compact SFX 750W PSU powering this NUC 13 Extreme.
EXHIBIT SIDE PANEL A
SO THE TOP’S OFF and now we need to access the side, starting with the front. Thankfully, there are no hidden screws here. In fact, so far, this isn’t nearly as bad to strip down as we initially feared. To remove the side panel, pull back from the top lip and lift upwards, and it should ease off. Put it somewhere safe, as with the other parts, you don’t want to scratch or damage your case. With the side panel off, we can see a large RTX 4070 Ti-sized hole at the bottom. Above that, is the Intel NUC compartment where all the wizardry takes place. Here, we can see the rest of the heatsink, CPU fan, and now our DIMM slots containing the Kingston DDR5 sticks supplied by Intel.
EXHIBIT SIDE PANEL B
FOR THIS NEXT STEP, we will do the same again, just on the other side, which seems pretty simple. Grabbing the top of the side panel, pull it back slightly and lift it upward to take it off. Around this side, we can see the back of our SFX 750W PSU and the two case fans. As you may have noticed, we’ve taken out the hard drive cage that sat towards the bottom of the case on the previous step. Because we’re only using one M.2 SSD, this cage was unnecessary and we need as much space as possible to make the GPU installation less of a stress.
1, 2 OR 3?
STORAGE OPTIONS on the Intel NUC 13 Extreme are plentiful, or at least they were before we took out the HDD cage. Regardless, there are still three M.2 slots available, so we just need to flip over the NUC compartment to gain access to them. When we say flip, take that with a pinch of salt—we actually mean once you’ve carefully turned it over, you’ll see the three slots, two horizontal and one vertical. Annoyingly, these aren’t numbered but the vertical is the primary, the one closest to that is the secondary and the one in the corner is the tertiary slot. Using a small screwdriver, remove the M.2 screw and take off the heatsink cover of the primary slot. Our kit came with a Kingston pre-existing kit, so we had to remove that, but if you are using a bare-bones kit then take your SSD, place it in the slot-end first, rest the heatsink cover on top, and tighten securely.
AS WE ONLY HAVE three new components to add to the Intel NUC 13 Extreme kit, we’ve saved the best for last, our GPU. Finding a graphics card within the 40 series Nvidia lineup that could run with the 750W SFX PSU inside the NUC and fit within the tight GPU clearance wasn’t easy. Yet the Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 4070 Ti Trinity OC 12GB should be the perfect card, and the party piece of this build. To gain access, turn the case upside down and pop off the bottom panel. With the case fans facing away from you, remove the two closest screws on each side and the bottom edge should come loose, making installing the GPU easier. You can remove some screws to access the PCIe I/O shrouds on the side. We also extended the GPU mount to fit this hefty card by loosening the screws and sliding it to the edge.