I just received Intel NUC mini PC few days ago and would like to share my experience using it with Pianoteq.
It is model DC3217BY, which has i3 CPU inside. It costs new 140€ as barebone system (no RAM, SSD, wifi). I bought it one month old (so basically new) with 4GB RAM, 32GB SSD and wifi/BT card inside for 190 €.
When I saw it first, I was shocked how small it was. Installation of Windows 8.1 Pro from USB drive went smooth and fast, 10 minutes and system was ready. After that I installed Pianoteq and drivers for my external usb sound card Kontakt Audio 2. That was all, I decided to use it as pure "sound module" for PT, I even disabled wifi/BT card. Boot time is excellent, it takes 13 seconds from pressing power button to desktop screen with icons on Win 8.1.
The way I use it is very simple - no mouse, no keyboard, no monitor. All I do is I press the button on the top to wake it up or put it back to sleep state. It takes about 2-3 seconds from pressing to button until I can play. It is about the same time it takes my Kawai CL36 to start after pressing power button. You can even keep it idle 24/7, as the power consumption is very low (more below). In case of some problem (power shortage...), I set PT to start automatically after reboot. You can also use remote desktop from other PC/phone/tablet in case needed.
Thanks to external usb sound card Kontakt Audio 2 it is excellent. This sound card is so small that you can wear it in your jeans pocket. Connecting is very easy, usb cable to NUC, one stereo jack to headphones and other one to powered monitors. It has also power connector, but it is not needed with NUC. NUC doesn't have separate audio output connector, sound output goes through hdmi or thunderbolt (I think). I am not sure about sound quality/latency when using on-board audio, but these are quite good these days.
I set sample rate to 48000 Hz, process buffer 64 samples, USB buffer 1 ms. Total latency is 5.8 ms, which is very good, basically I can not feel any delay at all. Kontakt Audio 2 drivers are rock solid, I never had any issue with them.
PT performance regarding CPU:
CPU used in my NUC is Core i3 low power 3217U version, frequency 1,8 GHz. It runs at 800 Mhz when idle. In PT I use D4 bright preset, stereophonic sound and small hall reverb.
First I just played myself few easy songs - no problems. Then I downloaded Moonlight Sonata midi and played it with pedal down all the time. Polyphony usage reached about 80 and CPU usage was about 50%. Than I tried He is a Pirate midi and played it again with sustain pedal down all the time - polyphony usage reached 223, CPU usage at about 80-90% and again no problems (no red lines) at all. No dropouts, nothing. I am really surprised how well CPU handled even that last crazy midi test.
NUC Power consuption:
Sleep state - 0W (well, other reviews state about 2.5W)
Idle in Win 8.1 - 11W
Me playing with PT - 14W
Midi played in PT (crazy one) - 18W
Not sure why my device didn't measure anything in sleep state, I just guess it was really really low :-)
Yes, you can buy laptop for about 350€, which has display, similar CPU, 500GB HDD, keyboard, touchpad... But I don't need any of that.
I just need something cheap, small, noiseless and power efficient, which delivers Pianoteq sound to my Headphones/Monitors in 2-3 seconds after pressing power button.
And NUC delivers all of that.
P.S. Sorry for poor quality pictures, my hdmi-dvi cable is damaged, so there are strange colors and other artifacts.
NUC and Kontakt Audio 2 - both of them are very small.
Total latency 5.8ms means no noticeable delay at all.
No dropouts when playing crazy midi with sustain pedal down all the time(223 polyphony). Audio load (CPU usage)about 80-90%.
11.7W power consuption when idle in Win 8.1 (about 14-15W when playing with Pianoteq)