Not quite, those NUC’s run ROCK, which is RoonOS + Roon Core but without the optimized thermal management that is specific for the Nucleus hardware … and the Control4 Extension for home automation is also omitted.
However, don’t get me wrong … I’m not saying that NUC + ROCK is inferior to a Nucleus but there are subtle differences in their implementation.
There is no SQ advantage to Nucleus. Would suggest saving the extra bucks and going the NUC route. If you want something pre configured check out sonicTransporter as an example. It is also fanless, cheaper, and more powerful than the base Nucleus…
For the price differential I wouldn’t consider a Nucleus for a second but then I am perfectly comfortable building PC’s and fiddling.
I built a MOCK server (just to confuse matters a bit further a MOCK device is one that runs ROCK but is not an officially supported NUC). Took me 30 minutes from opening the package with the components from Amazon to having ROCK up and running. £300 as opposed to £1600+ for a Nucelus - that £1300 or so buys an awful lot of hifi, music and Roon subs!
If you’re not comfortable building the system up I bet you have a friend who is…
Re: job Vs hobby : I completely agree with that. And that’s what convinced me into joining Roon, in the first place.
If you’re comfortable building a (passively cooled?) Nuc yourselves, and load ROCK os on it : do it . It is much easier than you might expect.
It is an initial small effort. And onwards, it has proven to be (for me at least the last 3 years), a 100percent maintenance free appliance.
If not willing or capable of that initial effort : keep it simple and buy the actual appliance. Just a matter of preference and financials.
Edit: sorry, did not fully answer your questions. Sound quality differences are not to be expected. Nucleus does have a technical advantage, mainly if you wish to include home automation.
Hardware requirements : if you want a nucleus, just buy it. You’ll only need an endpoint to play the music ( can be a dac, appliance, or the nucleus itself over hdmi).
If I were to build a NUC8i7 as per the Amazon link would I be able to connect a USB C LG monitor and use it together with an external keyboard and mouse in order to install rock? I seem to recall reading that there is no USB C driver to use with the monitor - ruling it out?
One additional question - I currently run the Core on an iMac 27" with music files stored on an external USB drive connected to the iMac. I assume the USB drive can remain connected to the iMac and one simply directs a Nucleus or NUC to the external drive.
Finally I seem to recall reading that “coil whine” was common with NUC7’s and corrected with NUC8’s. A few have mentioned noise problems with the Nucleus and I attribute that to their using NUC7’s. It causes me to pause on a Nucleus purchase and consider a NUC8 instead.