Small form factor PCs are becoming more popular in homelab environments. Here's my experience with the NUC 10 and Proxmox over the last 2 years.
Back in August of 2020 I was fortunate enough to buy a brand new NUC 10. At the time, it was $1,059.95 but now, you can't find them anywhere near that price brand new. It was a big gamble because I have never owned a NUC before. I wanted something small, quiet and powerful all in the same package and the Intel NUC was known for all of these features and more. So after reading raving reviews for months, I finally bit the bullet.
When the NUC arrived, I unpacked it and was quite surprised it had a decent weight to it. It felt good and the build quality was excellent. And for what I paid, I was expecting that.
The model I purchased exactly is NUC10i7FNH. It was quickly sold out and I didn't see these come back in stock for several months. When they finally resurfaced, they were almost double the price I paid. I wasn't sure to feel good about it or not but I just brushed it off as me getting lucky before the chip shortage hit. It came with a 1TB 2.5 inch SSD and 64GB of RAM. It also has an empty m.2 slot I can use for more storage if I need it, however, I ended up replacing the 2.5 inch 1TB SSD with a 4tb SSD and it was more than enough to get started using Proxmox.
The purpose of using Proxmox on the NUC was really only to host personal websites, and applications using Docker images. With 64GB of RAM, I knew I could run multiple LXC and VMs without issues. Infact, at one point I had 6 VMs and 21 LXC containers all running at once and I was using just over half the RAM and only 1tb of SSD space.
The performance is something elese. Websites are loading in under 1 second, (just refresh the page and see for yourself) Docker is quick to respond and I sometimes ask myself if I actually need this thing. It packs so much power in such a small package and has been an asbolute dream runnig Proxmox. The answer is ofcourse yes, I do need this thing. I have plenty of room to expand and add more apps as needed and the i7 makes it a great candidate for a media server if you're only doing CPU encoding.
I've heard these can run warm when the CPU is under load but I have not noticed any big spikes. I installed Node Exporter and Prometheus to pull important system metrics into Grafana. There I can keep an eye on things and it seems to be pretty chill! Even when I was running a bunch of LXC and VMs I was always under 45c.
To put into perspective where I was verus where this NUC brought me in terms of specs, I was running a HP Elitedesk mini. I can't speak more highly of these mini HP Elitedesk PCs. They are fantastic little machines that are built like tanks. This is what I ran Proxmox on back in the day. It has a 1tb m.2 SSD and only 16GB of RAM. It also has a 250GB 2.5 inch SSD as the boot drive. Even with that, I was able to run 10 LXC and 3 VMS easily. Since I got the NUC, this machine is now being used as a Batocera gaming rig where my son and I play retro games such as Sega's Sonic The Hedgehog. This machine still holds it's own today and can run a Proxmox host without batting an eye.
Final Notes and Thoughts
After nearly 2 years of running Proxmox on the NUC 10i7FNH, I only restarted it twice and it never failed. It has been and still is a vital part of my homelab environment giving me power to run basically anything I want to run within Proxmox. Have I tested it to it's full potential? I really don't feel like I have! It's almost difficult to do so when you have 64GB of RAM on a Proxmox host.
More or less, this is me singing praises about how great this NUC is and I do highly recommend them. The prices are ridiculous but if you can find one used for a reaosnable price, get it and never regret it because even though I bought mine new, I don't regret it one bit. If you need a small footprint machine that can do heavy work, these are complete powerhouses!