Curie is my workstation, named after Marie Curie, a "physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. [...] Her achievements included the development of the theory of radioactivity (a term that she coined), techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two elements, polonium and radium. Under her direction, the world's first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms, using radioactive isotopes. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw, which remain major centres of medical research today."

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

-- Marie Curie

I bought it after a failed search for a laptop.

  1. Specification
  2. Maintenance log
    1. Fan problems
    2. Discountinued support
    3. BIOS update
    4. SSD disk failure
    5. Replacement options
      1. Asus MiniPC PN50
      2. Brix and Qotom
      3. Tuxedo
      4. Purism
      5. System76 & Intel
      6. Other ideas


I wrote an installation report for Debian when I setup the machine. The machine was originally installed with Debian stretch in January 2017 but has been following Debian buster since September 2018.

It works very well and is generally silent unless I manage to max out all CPUs for an extended period of time, in which case a small fan noise can be heard.

Maintenance log

Fan problems

Update: three years later, the box is noisier: I added an HDD in there (which unfortunately makes noticable noise!) and the main fan has started to rattle, which is apparently common. Apparently, the MTBF for this box is around 60 000 hours, which is over 7 years, so it's a bit disappointing to see the fan rattle after three.

The technical specification doesn't specify a part number for the fan, nor how to replace it, which is pretty disappointing, considering it might be just a standard laptop fan. Intel themselves don't provide replacement parts for the NUC line which I find just plain outrageous. It's already pretty stupid to make things hard to repair, it's beyond stupid to refuse to repair them altogether...

Intel recommends a few stores for spare parts, but the only store for spare fans only has this one fan and it says it's compatible only with the 7iX series.

I asked on Reddit because I happen to have an account there, but I guess I could also ask on the Intel NUC forum...

Discountinued support

Also note the device was discontinued on June 30th 2017, less than 2 years after release (Q4 2015), and will stop receiving security updates in November 2020, 5 years after release. The proposed replacement product is the Intel NUC 7i3BNH. The new device has the following improvements:

And the following downsides:

Also interesting to note that neither machine has a TPM processor but it has "Intel PTT" which can apparently be used by windows to store FDE credentials...

BIOS update

BIOS update performed on 2020-02-05, from SYSKLi35.86A.0061.2017.0524.1454 to SYSKLi35.86A.0072.2019.1001.1636 (linked from here). The update was painful. The README file says we can update from a USB stick but I never managed to get that to work: the machine would boot, read the USB stick just a bit, then reboot again without doing the update.

I ended up doing a procedure that's not documented in the README:

  1. write the update file ( to /boot/efi (a FAT partition visible from EFI)
  2. reboot into the BIOS setup
  3. click (!) on the "update" button
  4. click the fs1: drive
  5. select the update file
  6. click open
  7. click yes

Then the machine rebooted and ... did the same thing as it did with the flash drive (just reboot). Only after a few attempts at this did the upgrade eventually go through, but it finally did.

The release notes detail the updates since the previous one (v61) which includes a bunch of security updates, for example.

SSD disk failure

See 2022-05-13-nvme-disk-failure.

Replacement options

The CMOS battery died some time in 2021, and I'm having a hard time replacing it (surprisingly). I'm also seeing weird CPU hangs, e.g.:

sep 13 15:23:46 curie kernel: watchdog: BUG: soft lockup - CPU#1 stuck for 22s! [Web Content:25294]

So I'm wondering if things are exploding here, and looking at replacement options.

Must have:

Nice to have:

Asus MiniPC PN50

Asus has a PN/PB series that's basically a clone of the NUC. Nice twist: has AMD Ryzen processors, see e.g. the PN50:

The Quiet PC folks make a fanless version, although it's much larger.

Brix and Qotom

To investigate: see the Brix and Qotom mini-PCs.


AMD thingies. Promising, but no sd-card reader. Possibly not a deal breaker.

very negative review


Purism announced their own mini-PC as well, although I kind of don't want to buy from them ever again. Their specs include "1 HDMI 2.0 4K@60Hz 1 DisplayPort 1.2 4K@60Hz", but (a) it's unclear if that's a "and" (2x4k) or a "or" (1x4k). And given what I know about DP and HDMI, that's probably barely 4k in the first place...

It's also expensive: 800$, which is a couple hundreds above an equivalent Asus or Intel equivalent. It's even 200$ above a better System76 (the meerkat, below).

System76 & Intel

System76 still sell their Meerkat which is a whiteboxing of the famous Intel NUC platform. It's unclear what we gain by buying from them, other than encouraging a Linux company of course.

The 11th gen Intel stuff does support 2xDP 1.4a and 2x thunderbolt (3 and 4, respectively) connectors, which can basically power four 4k monitors, if I count correctly.

Other ideas

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