Cooler Master Mastercase NC100 and Intel NUC 9 ECE Review
Published: 23rd August 2020 | Source: Cooler Master | Price: |
There are very much two ways you can look at this system. If you approach it from a desktop aspect then naturally there will be a level of compromise in connectivity and absolute performance that will always limit you when compared to similarly priced setups. Indeed we very carefully chose our comparison CPUs based partly upon similar core counts, partly on similar price structures, and then included the 10th Gen Intel i5 just to see how well the 9th Gen i9-9980HK in the NUC holds up. In price terms you'll be at a similar level building your own rig, just with a little more upper limit of performance. Coming at it from that angle you end up feeling that the NUC and NC100 combination is fantastic at an engineering level, but lacking a tiny bit of expandability.
Instead, think of it like a laptop. Then it makes infinitely more sense. For a start it's much cheaper. This setup here with the Mastercase NC100, Intel NUC 9 ECE and the Strix RTX 2080 Ti is around £2200. Find a laptop that has that much gaming and encoding potential for that price. We'll wait. Exactly. Even if you did, by some miracle, get a laptop for this money then automatically having an RTX 2080 Ti in it means you'll be limited to battery life measured in minutes not hours, so it'll have to be plugged in all the time. This setup is plugged in all the time, but just as portable, and won't suffer the problem that plagues laptops where you've not turned them on in a little while and the battery has drained to nothingness. It's always willing and ready.
It's very difficult to separate either product as they are both such a cornerstone of the other. Without the Intel NUC form factor then Cooler Master wouldn't make a case this small, and if they did and the NUC didn't exist you couldn't build a system in it. Both of them work in harmony together, but what makes them particularly lovely is how well they synergise and how little compromise has been made to achieve the small footprint the NC100 undeniably has. Yes it's small, they both are, but it has the same level of attention to detail and build quality we've come to expect from Cooler Master. They don't use the Mastercase nomenclature lightly and NC100 is as robust as it is tiny. With 7L internal capacity compared to 120+ litres from a large ATX case it's a tight squeeze, and yet doesn't feel cramped once built. Most of them will, admittedly, be black and it looks cool in that colour but we're super pleased to have got our grubby mitts on one of the very few white ones around and think it looks even nicer. Just imagine this sitting on your unit next to the upcoming white PS5 and it won't look out of place.
Similarly the Intel NUC 9 is mind-bending in how much they have squeezed onto a PCB that is, don't forget, 203x131x38mm in total. To have two ethernet connections - i219 and i210 - as well as two Thunderbolt 3 ports and four USB 3.1 Gen2 ports around the back is insane, and that's without getting into the two DDR4 DIMM slots and two M.2 sockets. Slap the Intel Core i9-9980HK (8 Core, 16 thread) into the middle of that and you have a setup that wouldn't look out of place on a full ATX motherboard, let alone something this compact. Our results bore out this level of performance being plenty good enough at more unlikely usage tasks - 3D rendering, 4K video editing - as it was at being the backbone of a beefy gaming setup and able to keep the RTX 2080 Ti fed with data. We compared it to a full size build utilising that GPU and it held up perfectly well.
Both the Intel NUC 9 ECE and the Cooler Master Mastercase NC100 are perfectly matched, giving those of you who want the most compact form factor possible without compromising performance a mighty pair with which to slay your enemies. Outstanding attention to detail and, best of all, it just works. You'll need to hurry to get your hands on a white version of the NC100 though, so don't just sit there...