ASUS ROG NUC 970 Review


After a decade of releasing mini PCs under the NUC (low for Next Unit of Computing… catchy!) name, Intel officially ended the project in 2023. Shortly after, Intel announced a partnership with Asus to continue producing NUCs under license, and the ROG NUC is the company’s first gaming-focused PC.

It’s a neat, compact, matte-black package, and it comes in two flavors: the ROG NUC 760 (Core Ultra 7 155H, RTX 4060 mobile, 16GB DDR5-5600, 512GB M.2 drive) and the ROG NUC 970 (Intel Core Ultra 9 185H, RTX 4070 mobile, 32GB DDR5-5600, 1TB M.2 drive). Both specs are also available as barebones units called the NUC Extreme, and come without RAM, M.2 storage, or Windows 11 pre-installed, in a plain black case.

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It’s the fully loaded 970 we’re reviewing today, and it’s no underdog, packing the flagship Intel Core Ultra 9 185H processor paired with an Nvidia RTX 4070 mobile GPU and a generous 32GB of DDR5 5600MHz SODIMM memory (user-expandable to 64GB). It’s a well-matched set of components that you can rightly expect to have enough power for 1440P gaming.

Those guts are built for mobile, though. Compared to their desktop counterparts, they offer higher performance, lower power consumption, are more adept at fighting in tight spaces, but are naturally less capable. For example, the RTX 4070 Mobile is a completely different beast than even the entry-level, non-super, non-Ti, desktop RTX 4070. With a 128-bit memory bus down from 192-bit, 8GB of VRAM instead of 12GB, and lower core and memory clocks on the desktop card, you get about a third less performance, give or take.

NUC 970 Specifications

(Photo source: Future)

PROCESSOR: Intel Core 9 Ultra 185H Processor
Graphics processor: Nvidia RTX 4070 Mobile
Memory: 32GB DDR5 5600
Storage: 1TB PCI-E Gen4 M.2 SSD
Wireless: Intel Killer WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
Entrance exit: 1x USBC Thunderbolt4, 4x USB 2.3, 2x USB 2.0, SD card reader, 3.5mm audio, 4x USB 2.3, 2.5G LAN, 1x HDMI 2.1, 2x DP 1.4a
Price: 2000 pounds | $2199 (£1,450 | $1,629 base)

Likewise, the Core Ultra 9 185H is aimed at high-end laptops, as opposed to the desktop powerhouses of the latest 14th-generation Core i7 and i9 processors, and that’s reflected in its power consumption. The processor in our test unit drew a peak 115W to reach its maximum 5.1GHz turbo speed under full load; compare that to the i7-14700K’s volcanic 253W draw at a full 5.6GHz ramp. In low, both the CPU and GPU are excellent choices for a super-compact system, allowing the ROG NUC to take up just 2.5 liters of volume.

You can upgrade the RAM and storage, but the CPU and GPU are for life, not just for the holidays. So while the NUC 970 can comfortably deliver solid mid-range desktop frame rates in today’s games — as long as you don’t go over 1440P — it’s also the equivalent of a gaming laptop, complete with external power supply. That goes for cooling, too; the noise from a miniature, high-speed fan under load is equivalent to that of a gaming laptop. However, the ROG NUC can be set to Quiet Mode via Asus’ preinstalled Armoury Crate app, which reduces the noise to a completely bearable level and barely touches the frame rates.

Going from Turbo (thunderous) mode to Silent (actually quieter mode), we noticed a drop of just 2 fps in Cyberpunk, which is simply undetectable in practice. Our advice? Set it to quiet and fugeddaboudit.

It’s not particularly future-proof, but I suspect that’s fine for the target audience of this device. There’s something appealing about a compact gaming PC that doesn’t offer or encourage invasive surgery and simply continues to work as a computer, which is what the ROG NUC 970 does. There are few manufacturers that offer such a silky plug-and-play gaming experience on a PC that will perform desktop-level tasks at 1440p.

The ROG NUC 970 takes its cues from Intel’s 2018 Hades Canyon NUC, albeit with a larger footprint. It has a similar shape with cut-out corners and an RGB panel on the top cover, for which you can print your own acetate masks to mount internally and change the RGB image. It also adheres to ROG’s brand style guidelines—angular shape language, “difficult” font—so your experience may vary depending on your style accents. It ships with an incredibly sturdy steel stand for mounting the device vertically, a welcome addition that reduces the footprint. Overall, the ROG NUC 970 has an attractive feel to it. density. There is no doubt that the power to volume ratio this machine offers is attractive.

Even though the ROG NUC 970 has mobile-oriented elements, it offers good to great frame rates at 1440p resolution.

Elsewhere on the spec sheet, things are similarly laid out. Intel Killer WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, a trio of M.2 2280 slots running on PCIe 4.0, and 2.5G Intel LAN. I/O options are mostly good. Around the back, you get 2x USB 3.2 ports, 2x USB 2.0 slots, 2.5G RJ45, 2x DisplayPort 1.4a ports, a single HDMI 2.1 port, and a lone Thunderbolt 4 port that doubles as DP 2.1 for the Intel Arc iGPU that you’ll absolutely never have a reason to operate over an RTX 4070.

On the front, you have two more USB 3.2 ports, an audio jack, and an SD card reader. Where the IO sorely lacks are USBC ports, especially on the front. The single Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port on the back doesn’t do a good job on a product this high-end. I don’t know about you, but most of the crap I plug into my computer (phone, headset dongle, mechanical keyboard, Xbox Elite gamepad dock) works via USBC. If I’m buying it for its compact minimalism, I don’t want to mess that up with an external USBC hub that’s flapping around.

Now let’s move on to performance. The title is pretty clear: even with its mobile-focused elements, the ROG NUC 970 offers good-to-great frame rates at 1440p and excellent at 1080p.

Cyberpunk 2077’s 76fps at 1440p with Ray Tracing Ultra, DLSS set to auto, and frame-gen enabled is as silky and pretty as you’ll need it to be. Total War: Warhammer 3 at Ultra is just 60fps. Forza Mortorsport stutters at 68fps with Ultra, full DLSS, and Ray Tracing at 1440p. And if 1080p is your playground, you’ll find frame rates thundering well above the 100fps mark in almost everything you throw at it, aside from Homeworld 3, with its surprisingly punishing built-in benchmark

We also put the ROG NUC 970 through a few titles outside of our benchmark suite. We didn’t add those scores to our official list of numbers because those games don’t have built-in benchmarking tools, but we think it’s still useful to get a range of frame rates and a general feel for how it performs at 1440p.

Dead Space Remake handles 1440p/Ultra/DLSS brilliantly, with the final boss fight seeing between 75 and 107 fps. Even with that range, the action remains buttery silky. It’s a similar story in Helldivers 2, where regardless of the scene, the ROG NUC 970 hits a relentless 70-73 fps at 1440p Ultra with textures set to high. The “Uli” level in A Plague Tale: Requiem hit 74-94 fps at 1440p Ultra, with DLSS set to quality and Frame Gen enabled. In low, all three titles run silky silky and without any stutters.

Asus ROG NUC 970 Mini Gaming Computer

(Photo source: Future)

Buy if…

Money doesn’t matter: If you are looking for a powerful, miniature gaming PC with 1440p resolution and you don’t care how much it costs, Asus will be the perfect choice for you.

You’re not a fan of digging into the guts of your computer: Not everyone wants to be elbow-deep in a computer case, so if you’re looking for a plug and play PC, this is it.

Don’t buy if…

You value the upgrade path: This machine is not suitable for CPU or GPU upgrades.

It’s compact and does what it needs to do for £1,440, no question. So let’s address the issue: the price. At $2,199 (£1,999) fully loaded with RAM and storage, the ROG NUC 970 is ridiculously steep considering what it can do.

How much of that price tag is due to the R&D costs implied by the ROG NUC 970’s unique design, how much is ASUS’s markup on the ROG branding, and how much is due to the specific components chosen is anyone’s guess, but the fact is that it’s a very steep way to play at 1440p. It certainly won’t impress any seasoned system builder; for the same price as the full-size ROG NUC 970, you could build a machine around a desktop RTX 4080 Super and enjoy significantly improved 1440p frame rates or a comfortable 4K upgrade, although in exchange for that performance you’d have to trade off the ROG NUC’s USP of compactness.

But that’s not who this machine is aimed at. It’s for the PC gamer who wants a hassle-free 1440p experience in the smallest possible package and doesn’t care about future upgrade paths beyond memory and storage. If that’s you and you’re willing to spend that much money, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Better yet, if you’re willing to shell out DDR5, a storage drive, and a Windows key, go for the barebones version and install it yourself. You’ll literally save hundreds.

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