Battery Powered NUC Project

Reldey

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Silver Supporter
Feb 14, 2017
365
380
So in my never ending itch to mess with portable systems, I decided I wanted to try out a NUC, and attempt to battery power it as cheaply, and easily as possible. I was waiting for newer, Kaby Lake R models to come out, however after finding they dropped the Thunderbolt 3 port, I opted for the cheaper Kaby Lake model (specifically the NUC7i5BNH). I popped in a single stick of 8GB DDR4 (with another stick to follow soon...) and a 500GB Crucial SSD.

With the NUC ready, I looked around and found that a user on a certain astronomy forum had tried to power a NUC by battery to run his telescope, albeit with an expensive solution. There was one particular product that he mentioned, that caught my eye as a cheaper alternative to powering the NUC. I opted to try the cheaper option, and went with a MaxOak battery pack, specifically with the intention to use the 20v (measured by other users as 19.3v) output to power the NUC.

The battery pack itself puts out 3 amps max through it's barrel jack DC connections. It has one 12 volt, and one 20 volt option. As the amperage for both ports is labeled as the same, and the NUC can support either voltage, I opted for the higher voltage to give me more wattage headroom (ideally, a max of around 60 watts).

I had thought about other alternatives, such as powering an STX board instead of a NUC. But looking at ease of use, and just getting a system running with known power consumption numbers (the NUC in reviews seems to never go above 60 watts, even in a stress test) it seemed like the safer, even if less interesting option.

I also planned to use the GeChic 1503H portable monitor in this setup, and hoped that the same MaxOak battery back would be able to power this as well. If it couldn't, I was willing to bring an additional battery pack along specifically for the monitor.

So with all this done, I am happy to say it is a success, even if a clunky one. One thing of note is that the NUC has to be plugged into the MaxOak battery pack first, and turned on. Once it is turned on, the battery pack dedicates itself to supply voltage to the unit. Once this is done, I am able to plus in the USB power from the monitor to the pack.

From there it is smooth sailing, and I have a portable desktop system in a bag, with the ability to change out any peripheral I wish, even if I can't upgrade the NUC beyond the memory and storage. When at home, I plan to simply plug the unit into an EGPU for a guest gaming setup.

Even though the NUC itself is just over a year old, it seems to run pretty well and does some 3D tasks better than I would have expected fro a $300 machine.

I am currently typing this on the system at a coffee shop now, and a picture of the system is below. I am not sure yet about battery life, as I know the higher voltage may reduce the 50,000 mah capacity quite a bit. Will just need to keep track of real world measurements as I use it, but it seems it may last at least 4 hours of use.

NUC: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N2UMKZ5/?tag=theminutiae-20
MaxOak Battery Pack: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YP823NA/?tag=theminutiae-20

 

Choidebu

King of Cable Management
Aug 16, 2017
730
732
Awesome results! NUC is definitely the right choice. 60W (+10W for the monitor) definitely on the portable side.

Can you charge the pack while using it? What happened if you just plug everything and turn it the nuc on first then the monitor?

I really hope we can see more STX boards in the future with native dp through lvds leading to more diy portable systems.

Affordable usb battery packs such as these also opens up possibilities - right now we're limited to charging circuits, supply circuits and then rc battery pack.
 

Reldey

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Silver Supporter
Feb 14, 2017
365
380
Awesome results! NUC is definitely the right choice. 60W (+10W for the monitor) definitely on the portable side.

Can you charge the pack while using it? What happened if you just plug everything and turn it the nuc on first then the monitor?

I really hope we can see more STX boards in the future with native dp through lvds leading to more diy portable systems.

Affordable usb battery packs such as these also opens up possibilities - right now we're limited to charging circuits, supply circuits and then rc battery pack.
Thanks! It seems to be working out well.

As far as charging while using it, I am not sure. I currently don't have the charger with me, but I can test this later. If I plug everything in first, the power goes to the NUC then goes away quickly before I can turn it on, as if the idle power draw isn't enough to trigger the pack to continue to deliver power. It has a weird auto-on/manual-on system with the power button on the battery pack, but it isn't a big deal.

I too hope we have more SFX boards, especially ones with a solid x4 thunderbolt 3 port for eGPU expansion. But we will see...
I really wanted to build my own SFX unit, but the power draw just didn't compare to the NUC from what I researched, I may be wrong or have missed something though.
 

Choidebu

King of Cable Management
Aug 16, 2017
730
732
I really wanted to build my own SFX unit, but the power draw just didn't compare to the NUC from what I researched, I may be wrong or have missed something though.
It's really just a cpu choice. These NUCs comes with laptop grade processors soldered down to the mobo. Your U series i5 might have similar performance to currentvdesktop grade i3 while having tdp of half that. But it's still a 35W component, so a similarly performed STX shouldn't use more than 75W. Now with a dGPU, that's a whole other story..