The BRIX Pro is an ultra- compact PC kit that’s similar in size and design to Intel’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing) barebones kit, which we reviewed in the March issue. The big difference between these small machines is the processing power of each. Intel’s units feature CPUs that you’d typically find in Ultrabooks (the fastest NUC includes the Core i5-4250U, for example), while the BRIX Pro lineup comes with Intel’s R-series BGA Haswell processors. We got a chance to check out the GB-BXi7-4770R that—surprise—is built with an Intel Core i7-4770R.
Test system specs: Processor: Intel Core i7-4770R (3.2GHz/3.9GHz); Motherboard: GIGABYTE
M4HM87P; Graphics: Intel Iris Pro HD Graphics 5200; Memory: 4GB Kingston DDR3L-1600; Storage:
256GB OCZ Vertex 3, mSATA: 128GB ADATA SX300
The Haswell chip at the heart of the BRIX PRO is a quad-core processor with Hyper-Threading that runs at a base clock of 3.2GHz and a max turbo of 3.9GHz. It’s also got 6MB of Intel Smart Cache. That’s some pretty impressive computing power, considering that the GB-BXi7-4770R, at 2.4 x 4.3 x 4.5 inches (HxWxD), can easily fit into a backpack with room to spare.
The BRIX Pro we reviewed (model GB-BXi7-4770R) is a mobile powerhouse. The unit’s Iris Pro Graphics 5200 offers 40 GPU execution units and 128MB of embedded memory. The 40 execution units are double what you’ll find in Intel’s HD Graphics 4600/4400/4200 processor graphics—quite the performance boost. The on-package memory helps reduce memory bandwidth issues, and GIGABYTE indicates that the extra bandwidth will boost performance in 3D applications. The Iris Pro Graphics 5200 also features a maximum dynamic frequency of 1.3GHz. Support for Intel’s Quick Sync Video, InTru 3D Technology, Clear Video HD Technology, and WiDi are all here, too.
The support for high-quality video makes the BRIX Pro a good option for people looking for a miniature HTPC. It could also be a nice fit in an office, as the ultra-compact PC can span video across two displays using both the HDMI and mini DisplayPort outputs. GIGABYTE includes a VESA mounting bracket to let you easily attach the computer to the back of an HDTV or monitor. This discrete mounting system also makes the BRIX GB-BXi7-4770R suitable for digital signage duties and any other environment where you want the PC hidden from view.
GIGABYTE calls the BRIX Pro an ultra-compact PC kit because it doesn’t come with memory, storage, or an OS. Thankfully, these components are fairly easy to come by. The BRIX Pro’s approach also gives you the chance to select storage and memory that best suit your needs. We’ll note that the BRIX GB-BXi7-4770R requires DDR3L SO-DIMMS that are designed to operate at 1.35V. Our test unit wouldn’t even boot with 1.5V SO- DIMMS. For storage, you’ll be able to install a standard 2.5-inch drive and/or an mSATA SSD.
To access the SO-DIMM and mSATA slots, you’ll need to unscrew the back panel. Together, the two SO-DIMM slots support up to 16GB of memory running at 1,333MHz or 1600MHz.
Besides the mSATA slot, the BRIX GB- BXi7-4770R has a half-size mini PCI-E slot that GIGABYTE utilizes for an 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth 4.0 wireless module. We like that GIGABYTE has included wireless connectivity because it frees you from needing Ethernet access.
There’s plenty of connectivity built into the BRIX Pro, too. On the front of the unit, there are two USB 3.0 ports and a headphone jack that doubles as a coaxial S/PDIF input. On the rear panel, you’ll find the HDMI and mini DisplayPort outputs, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, a Kensington lock slot, and the power input. We like the inclusion of the Gigabit Ethernet port, because it’s always helpful to have a reliable, speedy connection, especially for media playback. The BRIX GB-BXi7- 4770R supports HDMI version 1.4a and DisplayPort 1.2a standards.
Our benchmark numbers show that the GIGABYTE BRIX Pro is certainly capable of being a gaming box, provided the settings are right.
At 1,920 x 1,200 and the highest settings, the BRIX Pro pumped out 21.4fps in Aliens vs. Predator; it produced 32fps when we tested at 1,280 x 800 (same settings). The system also did well in our processor- specific benchmarks. In Cinebench 11.5, it produced 7.07 points, which is around 1.5 points lower than what the stock-clocked Core i7-4770K typically delivers. The processor’s Iris Pro Graphics 5200 also showed well in 3DMark Pro’s Fire Strike test, with an overall score of 1398.
If physical size is the most important feature for your next system, the BRIX Pro is a great option. Its performance level is surprising, considering the size of the unit. Essentially, it’s what you’d get with a high-end laptop, but for a fraction of the price. That alone makes it an appealing option for LAN party attendees.