Over the last couple of years, the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) has emerged as one of the bright spots in the troubled PC market. Intel kickstarted the category with their Sandy Bridge NUC kits in early 2013. Recognizing the popularity of this segment, other vendors also began to promote similar products. GIGABYTE targets this market segment with an extensive lineup of products under the BRIX brand. Late last year, GIGABYTE sent us their high-end vanilla BRIX, the GB-BXi7-4500. Unlike Intel's top-end Haswell NUC (based on the Core i5-4250U), this BRIX family member brings a Haswell i7 ULV processor into the UCFF market. Since the sample arrived along with the Iris Pro-equipped BRIX Pro, the GB-BXi7-4500 fell off our radar. Recently, we had the chance to subject the unit to our suite of benchmarks (as part of a comparison study against the Bay Trail-based GB-BXBT-1900).

Similar to other BRIX units, the BXi7-4500 comes barebones. An important point to note is that the GB-BXi7-4500 doesn't support 2.5" drives. So, users will need to bring in a mSATA SSD along with suitable DDR3L SO-DIMM sticks. At the beginning of the year, mSATA SSDs carried an unreasonable premium over 2.5" drives, but the situation is much better now. Avoiding support for a 2.5" drive allows GIGABYTE to reduce the height of the kit. We configured the review unit to end up with the following components.

GIGABYTE GB-BXi7-4500 Specifications
Processor Intel Haswell Core i7-4500U
(2C/4T x 1.80 GHz (3.0 GHz Turbo), 22nm, 4MB L2, 15W)
Memory 2 x 8GB DDR3L-1866
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4400
Disk Drive(s) Plextor PX-128M6M 128 GB mSATA SSD
Networking 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x1 802.11n/BT 4.0 mPCIe
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Operating System

Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 8.1 Pro x64

Pricing (As configured) $490 (barebones) + $256 (DRAM + mSATA SSD)
Full Specifications GB-BXi7-4500 Specifications

The BXi7-4500 kit doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but does come with a driver CD. In recent kits, GIGABYTE has moved to USB keys for the 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 (19.5V @ 3.43A) adapter, a US power cord, a VESA mount (along with the necessary screws), a driver CD and a quick-start guide.

The gallery below takes us around the hardware in the unit.

We have used A-DATA mSATA SSDs in our previous UCFF reviews. In order to make readers aware of other alternatives, we chose to go the Plextor route this time around. We configured our unit with a Plextor PX-128M6M 128 GB mSATA SSD (sporting a Marvell 88SS9188 SSD controller) for the boot drive and put in two Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz DDR3L SODIMMs for the DRAM.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the BXi7-4500 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 BXi7-4500 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect GIGABYTE GB-BXi7-4500
CPU Intel Core i7-4500U Intel Core i5-4250U
GPU Intel HD Graphics 4400 Intel HD Graphics 5000
RAM Corsair Vengeance CMSX16GX3M2B1600C9
9-9-9-24 @ 1600 MHz
2x8 GB
Crucial CT51264BF160B (Micron 8KTF51264HZ-1G6J1)
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
2x4 GB
Storage Plextor PX-128M6M
(128 GB, PCIe Module mSATA 6Gb/s, 19nm, MLC)
Intel SSD 530 Series
(180 GB, PCIe Module mSATA 6Gb/s, 20nm, MLC)
Wi-Fi Realtek 8723AE Wireless LAN 802.11n
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
(2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $746 $680
Performance Metrics - I
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  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    $750!!! haha. Pass it over here, man. May as well just buy a surface pro. Its not like this is a real i7 anyway. It is just an underclocked desktop i3 that occasionally runs at near stock clocks. And for that they charge $750!!!! Reply
  • Flunk - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    To get an equivalent processor in a Surface Pro 3 it would cost you $1,599.00, so I don't know what you're thinking of there.

    This is the same story as it always is with small form factor systems. You're paying for the size. The NUC form factor is small enough to attach to a VESA bracket. To get to that size they need to use Ultrabook components. If you want cheap pick up an AMD AM1 chip and mini-itx board or one of the little Baytrail Celeron-based mini-itx boards.
    Reply
  • johnny_boy - Thursday, October 16, 2014 - link

    You don't need ultrabook components for a vesa mountable pc. A number of mITX cases have them. And they use full sized components like ram and hardisks. The problem with todays mITX standard is that there is no appropriate small psu standard to match. SFX is till too big and pico psus require (always?) external bricks. Reply
  • dakishimesan - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    I love small ff pcs, but the mac mini is available for 599 with 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz) with 3MB L3 cache, or 799 with 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB L3 cache -- 35w cpus in a close size. Reply
  • WithoutWeakness - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    Mac Mini is considerably larger/heavier and can't be VESA mounted without dropping $50+ on an adapter. It certainly is a very capable machine for its size and the more powerful CPU options blow past the NUC-class devices but NUC, BRIX, and similar devices do a good job filling a niche for super-small "powerful-enough" x86 devices. I have the i5 Haswell NUC for a media center box and it's great for everything from media playback to some casual 1080p couch gaming and it's hardly bigger than my Raspberry Pi. Reply
  • MrCommunistGen - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    Also, despite the raw performance of the Mac Mini compared to dual core NUC-like devices, the Mac Mini uses IVB CPUs and come with 5400 RPM HDDs standard. I can see the former being an obstacle to some of the HTPC crowd. For the latter... I simply demand SSDs in any computer I spend any time using. Reply
  • dakishimesan - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    Yes true. I am a Mac Mini enthusiast but it is really annoying that Apple sometimes is right at the edge of new CPUs and other times is years behind. I bought the Sandy Bridge Mac Mini, the last one with the discrete GPU, when they released it about four months after Sandy Bridge became available. Interestingly, it was also one of the first computers available thunderbolt. The next year they upgraded to IVB almost immediately, but drop the discrete GPU, and this year there has been an update at all… So yes that sucks. I won't upgrading again until they get updated processors. However, one thing Apple loves is big increases in efficiency, so I would be surprised if they don't release a Broadwell Mac Mini, hopefully with an Iris pro Intel chip.

    And yes, the first thing I did was bust open my Mac Mini and put in a Samsung 840 pro SSD in there. But it wasn't the easiest upgrade of ever done.
    Reply
  • Haravikk - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    Actually if you have a good electric drill you can easily VESA mount a Mac Mini; it's base is only plastic, you just drill the four holes in a 100mm square's corners, screw it into the back of the monitor/TV, place the Mac Mini onto the cover and twist it into position. With proper cable management the mini won't move at all once you've bound the power and video cables together plus, the power button is pressed in the locked direction, so there's no risk there.

    Of course, Apple won't repair your mini for you if there are holes in the cover, but you can get a spare for $25 or so if you need one. I've done this for a Mac Mini that's used quite a lot; it runs no hotter than when it just sitting on a desk. If Apple gets around to updating the Mac Mini with newer, more efficient processor options then it would be even better.

    I'm currently building my own VESA mountable machine (or will be, if the processor ever arrives) with an Akasa Euler case and an i7-4790T (quad core, hyper threaded, 2.7ghz with 3.9ghz turbo boost and HD 4600 graphics). It ought to be pretty sweet; admittedly it touches £750 but that's with a 500gb mSATA SSD, 16gb RAM and that processor is overkill for most use-cases, so I could easily drop it into the $750 range with more modest components, while still trouncing the system in this article.
    Reply
  • dakishimesan - Thursday, October 09, 2014 - link

    That's a really interesting case, thanks for the heads up. Reply
  • Pugwash - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    Nice setup. What motherboard did you use? Reply

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