Intel NUC vs DIY Computer

I’m using a DIY computer with great results. It’s a recent i3 with 16GB of RAM. The primary O/S is FreeNAS/OpenBSD which I use as my NAS for my Macs’ backups. I also run Plex in a jail. I’ve installed a Debian virtual machine that is allocated 1 core (really one thread of the four available - 2 cores each with 2 threads) and 2GB of RAM.

I have never seen utilization go over 20% no matter what I am doing. My current heaviest load is running backups to the NAS, streaming a 1080p movie in Plex and running four audio streams concurrently to different endpoints.

I highly recommends the DIY. You can run Debian and Roon on an i3 with 4GB RAM. I looked into the NUCs but the price/performance is not great. Both they and the Mac Mini use mobile processors which are much slower than desktop CPUs.

If you are worried about interference, just place your computer as far away from your stereo as you can. I run my DAC in my office on a 15ft USB cable to keep a good distance between it and the computer (a Mac Pro).

I bought a Intel NUC 5i5. I put in a smallish M.2 SSD and 8 Gigs of RAM to run Roon headless. My music is stored on a QNAP NAS. Because the NUC is in my listening area I decided to buy a fanless chassis. Even before I bought the fanless chassis I really could BARELY hear the fan of the NUC, when ran which was very rare. However, my audio paranoia got the better of me (and it was worth it) and I bought an Akasa fanless NUC chassis (Newton). Absolutely silent. I can put that thing anywhere and I’m not concerned about RF or noise. Works TERRIFIC. I bought another NUC to run the Roon interface, rip music with dBpoweramp as well as run PLEX and rip DVD’s. All wired to to my home network.

All of your options will work, each with tradeoffs.

My 2 cents. But this is my audio Nirvana.

Do you think so…? :heart_eyes:

Actually I really didn’t worry about the look given it’s going to live in my cellar next to the NAS. What is the plural of NAS, by the way? NASi? NASes?

@danny you could always send it to me. :wink:

You n van change the outer plate. It comes with a blank black one as well.

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Hi Danny
Just curious if the Mac Mini had an SSD or a 5,400 spinning drive??..Also what RAM size was in both machines??

And what Processor was in the Mini v’s the NUC??


Hi dpstjp
You might want to make sure that your M.2 SSD has connectors that look like the one on the far right, rather than the other 3

Easy to get it wrong…and it does make a tremendous difference to M.2 SSD speeds [number of PCI Lanes used v’s M.2 SATA etc.]…and as we know RAM and SSD speed are critical when it comes to Roon…as well as the Processor but to a lesser extent

In other words, you want to use a NVMe M.2 SSD if your motherboard can support it. NVMe drives play nicer with Win 10, other versions of Windows (7 for sure, not sure about 8.*) will need drivers loaded during the installation process. I like the Samsung 850 pro M.2.

Thank you. Yes it was the NVMe I went for. Not a huge cost as all it’s going to hold is the Roon database.

True, but given that there are pictures of the items on most websites [Amazon, NewEgg etc.] it’s sometime easier to check the Connections rather than delve into the small print

e.g. there is no mention of NVMe on the M.2 drive on the right of the picture above, no matter how close you look…but the connector layout at the bottom will tell you straight away

The other 2 ‘drives’ in middle are M.2 SATA and just as the legacy 2.5" SATA SSD’s, will generally top out at about 520MBps [MegaByte] Read speeds…versus about 2,000MBps for the M.2 PCIe x 4 Samsung drive on the right…a not insignificant difference that will be noticeable with Roon’s database

Also, many people buy small SSD’s for NUC’s just to cater for the OS and a several programs…and in some cases, the M.2 PCIe x 4 devices are not available below 256Gb {Samsung being the usual exception]

Are you really sure that it makes any real world difference what kind of SSD you use in a NUC 2.5 inc SATA or NVMe when all it does is running Roon Server and holding the database. The audio files on a NAS.

Has anyone measured the influence of running Roon on different a 2.5 inch SATA SSD’s and a much faster NVMe ?
If it does matter I would not hesitate to upgrade my 2.5 128GB Samsung to NVMe.

The Roon database is usually 2 to 5Gb…and just as using an SSD over a spinning drive will improve “perceived” performance of Roon, then a PCIe SSD up to 4 times faster [or more] will offer similar benefits

Sure, those benefits are more likely to be seen when using the Roon Core & Server on the same machine…but it’s likely that there will be some benefits even when running RoonServer on the machine only [Gigabit Ethernet may then become the bottle neck]

If one already has an SATA SSD, then will an NVMe offer a sufficient advantage to justify the cost??..hard to say without testing

I really only brought it up as the user above has just purchased…and might be interested in changing before he installed and set it up etc

I’ll let you know. Frankly it cost me £62.69, so really not much more than an SSD would have done. The RAM was a lot more, but if it makes no difference I can repurpose the whole thing without any additional expense.

I find searches on the Mac Mini to be very slow (I’ve mentioned this before) so I would like to see a difference.

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I have had both as well. I just got my customized sonictransporter AP from Andrew and it absolutely blows both my Mac mini and nuc away. It has an i7 processor with and 8 tb backup drives and a 250 gb Samsung ssd for the database and Linux operating system. 16gb of ram and I have outfitted it with a teddy pardo power supply. Unreal quality and performance. Also has a cd ripper built in. I simply put a disk in and minutes later it appears in roon as a flac file. You can choose to rip as uncompressed or compressed lossless. Really slick computer. It is a little bigger than two Mac minis on top of each other. The case is anodized black aluminum… Very heavy.

Wow @Fritz_Curtis , that’s a beast of a Roon server.

As Daniel (@rugby) mentioned above I use a Gigabyte Brix, namely a BRIX S GB-BXi7H-4500u. It sits on my computer desk, off to the side of my stereo in my apartment.

The virtue of the S models is two SSDs. One mSATA (120 GB with Windows 2012 Server and Linux partitions, for OS, Roon Server, HQ Player) and one SATA (1 TB SSD for music library).

The i7 fan comes on if:

  • I dump a number of albums into Roon for analysing; or

  • I start using poly-sinc-shrt-mp filter in HQP (goes off after an initial burst); or

  • I use closed form filter in HQP (stays on).

The fan is audible when no music is playing, but I can’t hear it when the music is playing. There are other things in my apartment (fridge, road noise etc) that contribute to a relatively high background noise level for listening.

If I were to start again I’d probably move the Server into a cupboard in another room, build a purpose built box with the beefiest i7 I could find and not worry about fan cooling. For the moment, however, I’m going to leave the BRIX where it is.

My m.2 NUC was measured running at about 1400 read speed (crystaldisk app). So, not quite as much as 2000. However, of all the units I have run Roon or roonserver on (alpha testing means that is quite a few) experience shows me that this is by far the best performance.

In real world terms this means super fast shut-down and reboot, fast restarts of of Roon even with large/mega-large libraries, fast search, fast browse, etc.

I’m getting NUC/Brix envy :wink:

Seriously though, I use a 2012 mac mini, 8GB RAM, and a 512GB Samsung SSD for OS and most of my music. Smallish library with around 1000 albums but I have to say I’ve never felt the need to get a faster machine - it all feels pretty fast to me - the iPad as my main interface.

With RoonSever and my collection I barely need half that RAM at the most. The CPU is barely touched on single zone playback, and I’ve only experimented with HQPlayer briefly and using the DSD64 up sampling definitely gets the CPU graphs moving quite a bit more obviously but didnt have any issues but Im niot sure if it would be idea to have a mini running hard 24/7. I doubt I’ll use HQPlayer other than to experiment so the mini’s perfect. Also, if its on display in your lounge the mini is a lovely looking thing and silent. I bought it second hand and it was as-new.

One other consideration for Linux is I’m not sure if you can run things like Tidal desktop or Qobuz desktop or iPlayer or things like that? You may or may not have a need for generals purpose programs of course.

Sure do! :slight_smile: I am taking the NUC plunge. Hope to put it together over the weekend. The biggest thing I think I still need to figure out is how to back up the NUC and music on it to my NAS.

Have a look at

Open Source and Multi-Platform…as well ability to handle Network Share syncing…and Recurring Sync Schedules [e.g. every 24 hours / every Sunday at 2am etc]…and the Error Logs / Audit Trail is also useful if certain files didn’t copy etc

There are others out there, but personally I find this works great for my requirements

By the way, I’m recommending this for the Roon Database backup [after Roon has been closed]…as well as the Backup Sync of Music Files & Folders…as well as non-Music files on the NUC

For OS Backup, there are other tools out there that would be better…akin to “Time Machine” on OSX

Thank you! I will definitively take a look at the gigabyte brix!

I for got to mention, mine sits off of my main music room as well because of the small form factor. It is fanless as well so no noise. It has huge brass tubes in it that connect directly to massive heat sink fins and wall. For 1500 bucks, I think it is the ultimate roon server and all in one for roon