The emergence of power-efficient high-performance processors has created a bright spot in the desktop PC market. The ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) heralded by the Intel NUCs has experienced rapid growth over the past few years. GIGABYTE, with their BRIX lineup, was one of the first vendors to introduce NUC clones. They went beyond the traditional Intel models and provided plenty of choices to the end users. GIGABYTE has also kept up with Intel's release cadence and updated the BRIX lineup after the launch of new U-series CPUs. Today, we are taking a look at the GB-BKi7HA-7500 - a BRIX based on the Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U, with support for a 2.5" drive, and sporting an ASMedia bridge chip for USB 3.1 Gen 2 support.

Introduction

The Kaby Lake-U platform for mini-PCs has proved to be a simple one for OEMs with existing Skylake-U mini-PCs in their lineup. Given the pin compatibility, the vendors only needed to put in some BIOS support before swapping the Skylake-U package for a Kaby Lake-U one. We have already covered the advantages of Kaby Lake over Skylake for mini-PCs (such as 4K Netflix and improved perf/Watt) in earlier reviews.

A look at the GIGABYTE BRIX listings shows more than 20 different Skylake-U units (models starting with GB-BS). Given that Kaby Lake doesn't provide a great deal of benefit over Skylake for many use-cases, GIGABYTE has decided to only selectively update the comprehensive lineup. Each barebones Skylake BRIX SKU has a model number fitting the following format:

GB-BS<CoreSeriesIdentifier-01>(H)(T|A)(L|C)-<CoreSeriesIdentifier-02>

The format changes for Kaby Lake, with the BS being replaced by BK. The CPU in the SKU can be determined using the CoreSeriesIdentifier. For example, our review sample, the GB-BK<i7>HA-<7500> has the Intel Core i7-7500U. The other parts of the model number are optional. For example, in the Skylake series, we have the GB-BSi7-6500, which is essentially a Skylake-U NUC clone with no bells and whistles, but, just sporting a CPU option that the Intel NUC lineup doesn't provide.

The optional components indicate the presence of the following features:

  • H = 2.5" drive support
  • T = Thunderbolt 3 / USB 3.1 Gen 2 using the Alpine Ridge chipset
  • A = Dual USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (1x Type-A and 1x Type-C) using the ASMedia 1142 USB 3.1 Gen 2 controller
  • L = Dual RJ-45 gigabit LAN ports
  • C = COM (RS-232) port (RJ-45 slot similar to the L SKU, and a RJ-45 to COM cable bundled)

As part of the Kaby Lake update, GIGABYTE has introduced ten models, with a choice of Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7, with or without support for a 2.5" drive, and a Thunderbolt (no ASMedia USB 3.1 Gen 2) or non-Thunderbolt (but, with ASMedia USB 3.1 Gen 2) option.

GIGABYTE sampled us the barebones version of the GB-BKi7HA-7500. We completed the configuration using a Samsung SSD 950 PRO 512GB M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD and 2x16 GB Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR SODIMMs. Though the SODIMMs are capable of operating at 2400 MHz, the BRIX set it to operate at 2133 MHz. The specifications of our review configuration are summarized below.

GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HA-7500 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-7500U
Kaby Lake, 2C/4T, 2.7 GHz (Turbo to 3.5 GHz), 14nm PLUS, 4MB L2, 15W TDP
Memory Crucial Ballistix Sport LT BLS16G4S240FSD.16FAD DDR4
15-15-15-35 @ 2133 MHz
2x16 GB
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620
Disk Drive(s) Samsung SSD 950 PRO
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; 40nm; MLC V-NAND)
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Intel Gigabit Ethernet Connection I219-LM
Audio 3.5mm Headphone Jack
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Display 1x HDMI 2.0 (HDCP 2.2 / 4Kp60-capable)
1x mini-DisplayPort 1.2
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
2x USB 3.0
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Pro x64
Pricing (As configured) $500 ($1074)
Full Specifications GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HA-7500 Specifications

The GB-BKi7HA-7500 come with a CD and a read-only USB key containing Windows drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers downloaded off GIGABYTE's product support page. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 65 W (19V @ 3.42A) adapter with a US power connector, a VESA mount (along with the necessary screws), a driver CD and USB key, and a quick-start guide.

The unit also supports a 2.5" drive. The appropriate SATA cable (data and power together in the typical notebook form factor) is pre-installed inside the main unit (as can be seen in the gallery below).

The metal frame on the inside of the bottom lid (which holds the 2.5" drive in place) also has a thermal pad positioned to aid in the dissipation of heat from any M.2 SSD used in the system.

The high-speed I/O lane distribution in the GB-BKi7HA-7500 is similar to what we saw in the Skylake BRIX. The PCIe lanes are distributed as below:

  • PCI-E 3.0 x2 port #1      In Use @ x2 (ASMedia ASM1142 USB 3.1 xHCI Controller)
  • PCI-E 3.0 x1 port #6      In Use @ x1 (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168 AC HMC WiFi Adapter)
  • PCI-E 3.0 x4 port #9      In Use @ x4 (Samsung SSD 950 PRO NVMe Drive)

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HA-7500 against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HA-7500 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HA-7500
CPU Intel Core i7-7500U Intel Core i7-7500U
GPU Intel HD Graphics 620 Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM Crucial Ballistix Sport LT BLS16G4S240FSD.16FAD DDR4
15-15-15-35 @ 2133 MHz
2x16 GB
Crucial Ballistix Sport LT BLS16G4S240FSD.16FAD DDR4
15-15-15-35 @ 2133 MHz
2x16 GB
Storage Samsung SSD 950 PRO
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; 40nm; MLC V-NAND)
Samsung SSD 950 PRO
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; 40nm; MLC V-NAND)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $500 (barebones)
$1074 (as configured)
$500 (barebones)
$1074 (as configured)
Performance Metrics - I
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  • peterfares - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    The Mac Mini is quite a bit larger than these things, that's how the power supply is integrated. That said, I do prefer the Mac Mini's form-factor more. I would take a larger box and have the power supply integrated, I've always hated external power supplies. Especially in monitors - I now only buy monitors with built in power supplies. Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, March 20, 2017 - link

    OTOH, external is a heck of a lot easier to replace when it goes bad. And easier to get replacements, as third parties will make externals, but not proprietary internals. Reply
  • capedave - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    Power brick never bothers me, as long as it is QUALITY. Better slower quieter more powerful fans? Hell yes! Reply
  • geok1ng - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    i have a hard time trying to understand the market niche for such products. they cost between a chinese 2in1 and an ultrabook, without offering many advantages over either. a SFF PC with a pentium G4560 would cost a fraction of it, while having a slightly bigger footprint. The way i see it, one either picks a performance king, like the 7267U, a budget king like the G4560, or a power sipper like the 7Y57. I fail to understand why choose a 15w SKU that does not perform when you have 3 alternatives that either cost much less, draw much less power or deliver much better graphics performance. Reply
  • kaidenshi - Sunday, March 19, 2017 - link

    "a SFF PC with a pentium G4560 would cost a fraction of it, while having a slightly bigger footprint."

    Indeed, my main workstation is a Skylake G4500 and it's more than fast enough. It's in a mid tower case but I could switch to a mini-ITX board and case, keeping the rest of my components, and have something 1/4 the size with the same power. Having it in a Brix/NUC format would be even better since I don't play AAA games and have no need for a discrete GPU.

    I guess we don't see Pentium Gxxxx in SFF PCs because there's really no profit margin for those CPUs.
    Reply
  • capedave - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    A shame that more noise analysis is not mandatory in computer reviews. From what tiny amount of information exists, I am thinking it is too loud for me. Decibels? Who knows? Reply
  • awehring - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    +1

    no, +1000
    Reply
  • Sailor23M - Sunday, March 19, 2017 - link

    Was really looking for the comparison against the Intel Skull Canyon NUC Reply
  • 1_rick - Saturday, April 15, 2017 - link

    I suspect it doesn't compare to the Skull Canyon. No Iris and only has half the cores. Reply
  • DroidTomTom - Saturday, April 01, 2017 - link

    The NUC market is one area where more competition is needed. Same price as a similarly equipped laptop minus monitor, speakers, web cam, keyboard, and mouse. I really hope Ryzen can make a huge dent in this area. Reply

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