There’s obviously a lot of confusion over the hardware requirements and support for ROCK so I hope that this helps some people out. I think what many of us forget is that while computer lingo is general vocabulary for some of us it’s not that way for all of us. Nothing wrong with that as I would much prefer that my heart surgeon be a master of his field and not know a DIMM from a hard drive than the other way around
So you want to run ROCK and you’re confused as to what hardware to buy. When ROCK is released Roon will release specifics of tested configurations that are known to work well so if you can wait a little bit you’ll have a list to shop from. If you want to buy something now or are confused as to some of the choices you’ll need to make then read on…
First, you need to answer a ONE question: How large is your library in data volume (is it more or less than 2TB)?
You need to make a few decisions in your hardware purchase:
A) Which NUC?
Let’s narrow this down. You can get either a Core i3 CPU (fast) or Core i5 CPU (faster) in a case which will support internal storage or one that wont.
Rather than split hairs here between the i3 and i5 just buy the i5. The cost difference is minimal, but the extra performance may be beneficial now or in the future. The only time you should be considering going into an i7 is if you’re doing major DSP (upsampling and room correction to multiple zones simultaneously) or you have a HUGE library (hundreds of thousands of tracks).
The decision comes down to the case. The taller NUCs (the SYH models) have space for an internal drive with the limitation that this drive can only be 9.5mm tall. The largest spinning (hard) drive that I’ve found that will fit in this space is 2TB. You can also put a solid state drive (SSD) in here, but there is no sonic or performance benefit in doing so.
If you want your entire Roon core to be self-contained AND your music will fit onto a 2TB drive then buy the taller case (the NUC6i5SYH). If you want it to be self-contained and it’s less than 4TB then get out you platinum card and fork over $1400 for the Samsung 4TB SSD as that’s the only option over 2TB that will fit into the case!
To sum up:
Library larger than 2TB OR you don’t care about it being self-contained ==>> Order the NUC6i5SYK (short case)
Library smaller than 2TB AND you want a self contained unit ==>> Order the NUC6i5SYH (tall case)
Regardless of the NUC you choose you will need to provide storage for ROCK itself. The NUCs have a slot on the board that accommodates what’s called an M.2 SATA card. Think of this as a solid state drive on a stick. Both NUC models support this regardless of the case size. You’ll need an M.2 SATA card that is at least 64GB but going larger has little benefit other than a potential performance boost (256GB M.2 cards are usually a bit faster). You will also see options come up in searches that reference NVMe. This is a newer technology that is fully supported by the NUC and it’s quite a bit faster than any normal M.2 SATA card.
Keep in mind that this device CANNOT be used for storage of music files.
To sum up:
Rather than go through iterations here just order an NVMe card. It’s stupid-fast and not that much more expensive than a regular M.2 SATA card. Some options are:
Samsung 950 Pro - I have one of these and it works great in my NUC. These are being replaced by the 960 Pro so availability is getting scarce. The 960s are still pretty pricey.
Samsung 960 Pro - This is new and still a bit expensive.
If these options are too pricey then go for a Samsung 850 M.2 SATA
If you got the tall NUC and want to install an internal drive you have two options.
The easiest is to get a 2.5" laptop hard drive that’s 9.5mm (or less) thick. This will limit you to 2TB. Don’t bother with a 7200RPM drive as the faster platter speed won’t have any benefit in this application and these tend to run noisier and hotter.
If you want to use an SSD then you can, but the only real benefit is going to be in terms of noise. If you still want internal storage and you need more than 2TB then your only option is the 4TB Samsung SSD (which is stupid-expensive)
Let’s make this simple. Get an 8GB kit (two 4GB sticks). There’s no benefit to using more. None. Really. Seriously.
This is what I’m using in my NUCs
Kingston HyperX Impact 8GB RAM kit (2x 4GB SODIMM) - 2133MHz DDR4 - HX421S13IBK2/8
D) Storage - Part 2
A-C get you everything you need to install and run ROCK, but if you aren’t using an internal drive to store your music then you’ll need to find a home for your files.
You have two options:
External USB3 drive connected to NUC: Works great. Pick an external drive that floats your boat and buy it.
NAS: Also works great and has the added benefit of being useful for storing other kinds of files (computer backups, photos, documents, etc). This is my preferred method as most NAS systems provide a convenient and automatic way to backup your music files.