Last year, ASUS licensed the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) minisystem from Intel and began offering not only a line of devices aimed at business users, but even a gaming mini-PC ROG NUC. Today we are going to get acquainted with a somewhat unusual model: The ASUS NUC 13 Rugged (NUC13BRF), a mini-PC in a dust and vibration-proof case that, according to the manufacturer, works in conditions where other computers cannot.


Specifications of ASUS NUC 13 Rugged

Processor Intel Atom x7425E
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics Technology
Memory 1x SO-DIMM DDR5 4800 MT/s memory 8GB~16GB
Drive 64 GB eMMC (soldered on the board), 1x M.2 2280 slot PCIe x2 NVMe SSD, 1x M.2 3042 Slot (SATA SSD/PCI x1/USB3.2 Gen2)
Wireless module Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210
Audio Built into the chipset
Ports 2x USB 3.2 Gen1, 2x USB 2.0, 2x HDMI 2.1, 2x RJ45 LAN
Power supply 20 V, 4.5 A, 90 W
Dimensions 174 x 108 x 35,8 mm
Weight 1060 g (including memory module and SSD)
Estimated cost in Ukraine 18 thousand UAH


Package contents

The box that ASUS NUC 13 Rugged comes in is quite small, but still significantly larger than the mini-PC itself. It also contains a power supply, two Wi-Fi antennas, a VESA-compatible mount, and documentation.

It is worth noting that there is no user manual in the box – only a QR code with a link to the official website. Also, depending on the version of the product, the package may not include a power cable (as it was in our case) – then you will need to buy it separately, it is a standard cable with a connector like in laptop power supplies.


Design, layout

The size and shape of ASUS NUC 13 Rugged resembles a small Wi-Fi router, especially with the antennas attached. It’s a small black box (17x11x3.5 cm) without any markings, the only unusual element being the massive radiator fins on top. As in the case of another mini-PC from ASUS, which we reviewed a year ago, the NUC 13 has no logos on the case, including the manufacturer’s logo.

ASUS NUC 13 Rugged (NUC13BRF) review: a mini-PC that can work in adverse conditions

The front and side panels are completely “clean” (except for the Kensington lock on the right), all connectors and indicators are located on the rear panel. Almost everything here is presented in duplicate (except for the power button and power connector): two HDMI 2.1 ports, two USB 3.2 Gen1, two USB 2.0, and even two Ethernet 2.5G.

There are also two connectors for external Wi-Fi antennas and an incomprehensible, at first glance, hook in the shape of the letter “T” – according to the manufacturer’s plan, it is intended to fix the connected power cable. The only thing missing here are audio jacks; this mini-PC can only output sound via HDMI.

ASUS NUC 13 Rugged (NUC13BRF) review: a mini-PC that can work in adverse conditions

As noted at the beginning, ASUS NUC 13 Rugged is dustproof (IP50), so it has no ventilation holes. There is no fan in the case – a massive radiator on the top panel is responsible for cooling. Moreover, the mini-PC comes with plugs for all ports, so after installation, you can protect all unused connectors.

At the bottom, next to the screws that secure the bottom plate to the case, there are VESA-compatible connectors – you can connect the included mounting plates to them and mount the mini-PC on a DIN rail.

ASUS NUC 13 Rugged (NUC13BRF) review: a mini-PC that can work in adverse conditions

ASUS NUC 13 Rugged comes as a barebone system – without RAM and storage, which the user will need to purchase separately and install on their own.

The mini-PC is very easy to disassemble: four screws are hidden in the rubberized legs, which must be completely unscrewed and the bottom plate removed. It has only thermal pads for the SSD and memory, so there are no ribbon cables, as was the case with the ExpertCenter PN64.

The motherboard has one SODIMM slot for up to DDR5 4800 memory (you can install an 8GB or 16GB module), one M.2 2280 PCIe x2 NVMe SSD slot and one M.2 3042 (SATA SSD/PCI x1/USB3.2 Gen2).


ASUS NUC 13 Rugged hardware platform

The copy we reviewed was equipped with an Intel Atom x7425E processor, and there is also a configuration option with an Intel Atom x7211E.

Intel Atom x7425E is a laptop processor of the Alder Lake-N family, introduced in early 2023. It has 4 cores and can process 4 threads, with a base frequency of 1500 MHz and a maximum frequency of 3400 MHz. The processor is manufactured using a 10 nm process technology and has a TDP of 12 W.

The Intel Atom x7425E supports DDR4 and DDR5 memory (up to DDR5 4800 MHz in single-channel mode). The graphics are handled by built-in Intel UHD Graphics, with a maximum video mode of 4096×2160@60 Hz.

As mentioned above, ASUS NUC 13 Rugged is a barebone system, so for the tests we installed one 16GB DDR5-4800 memory module – Kingston KF548S38IB-16. The system drive is a Kingston KC3000 PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD (1024 GB).

ASUS NUC 13 Rugged (NUC13BRF) review: a mini-PC that can work in adverse conditions

The Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 module (Wi-Fi 6E + Bluetooth 5.3) is responsible for wireless communication, and the Intel Ethernet Controller I226-LM (2.5 GbE) is responsible for wired communication. The sound subsystem is built into the chipset.

According to official specifications, the system with the x7425E processor can operate 24/7 at ambient temperatures ranging from 0 to 40°C, with the x7211E (TDP 6 W) – up to 50°C.


In the works

Intel Atom processors have never been about performance, so you shouldn’t expect any outstanding performance from the ASUS NUC 13 Rugged with a 12-watt processor (and this is in the maximum configuration) – if this is a critical parameter, it is better to pay attention to other mini-PCs from the same manufacturer, for example, the already mentioned ExpertCenter PN64, which can install productive mobile Intel Core 12 or 13 generation processors.

Nevertheless, we still made a basic set of tests just so that a potential user knows what he can expect. The BIOS has performance and power consumption settings – all further tests were performed in Performance Mode = Max Performance.

But more important than the performance data in the case of ASUS NUC 13 Rugged are actually the temperature conditions – it’s interesting how the Intel-based platform, which runs full Windows 11 and, despite its very compact size, has a completely passive cooling system, heats up.

In the Max Performance mode, the powered-on NUC 13 Rugged consumes a total of 7 watts in idle mode, the temperature on the radiator surface is 34°C (with room temperatures of 20-21°C), and the CPU temperature is up to 39°C.

ASUS NUC 13 Rugged (NUC13BRF) review: a mini-PC that can work in adverse conditions

Under a long-term maximum load (stress test of the system in AIDA64 for one hour), the total power consumption of the mini-PC was 14 W, and the temperature on the surface of the radiator rose to 46°C. As you can see, according to HWiNFO64, the CPU temperature rose to a maximum of 50°C.

ASUS NUC 13 Rugged (NUC13BRF) review: a mini-PC that can work in adverse conditions

The AIDA64 graphs show that the processor consumed the “passport” 12 W only at the very beginning – then the system quickly limited its consumption to 6 W, and then its TDP remained at this level until the end of the test. Well, this is quite expected behavior for a passively cooled system without any holes in the case.

It is worth noting that this mode provides for long-term use of the NUC 13 Rugged at ambient temperatures up to 40°C – so if the mini-PC is to be used in much colder conditions, the user can increase the limit for long-term operation.

In the Balanced performance mode, the consumption of the entire system under short-term load is limited to 20 W, but at such a moderate room temperature, the performance under long-term load was practically the same as Max Performance – in the summer heat, the difference is likely to be more noticeable.