Very few products excite us enough to request the manufacturer to provide us with an engineering sample or demo model. The Intel NUC category has been particularly interesting as it provides us with an insight into where the traditional casual / home use desktop market might end up.

The ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) for PCs was originally championed by VIA Technologies with their nano-ITX (12cm x 12cm) and pico-ITX (10 cm x 7.2cm) boards. Zotac was one of the first to design a custom UCFF motherboard (size between nano-ITX and pico-ITX) for the ZBOX nano XS AD11 based on AMD Brazos. The motherboard was approximately 10cm x 10cm. Intel made this motherboard size a 'standard' with the introduction of the Intel NUC boards in May 2012.

GIGABYTE took the NUC concept and designed their own board and chassis in the BRIX lineup. At Computex 2013, Ian talked to them and found out that an AMD Kabini based version was also in the works. Last month, at IDF, we had the official launch of the Haswell-based BRIX units. The interesting aspect of the Haswell BRIX is the fact that it has become available for purchase prior to the Intel Haswell NUC. We now have full pricing details for most of the models:

BRIX Model GB-BXi7-4500 GB-BXi5-4200 GB-BXi3-4010 GB-BXCE-2955
Intel Processor Intel® Core™ Intel® Core™  Intel® Core™ Intel® Celeron
i7-4500U i5-4200U i3-4010U 2955U
IGP Intel HD 4400 Intel HD 4400 Intel HD 4400 Intel HD
Cores 2 2 2 2
Threads 4 4 4 2
Clock Frequency 1.8GHz – 3.0GHz 1.6 GHz – 2.6GHz 1.7 GHz 1.4 GHz
Audio Codec Realtek ALC269 Realtek ALC269 Realtek ALC269 Realtek ALC269
Expansion 1x mSATA 1x mSATA 1x mSATA 1x mSATA
1x mPCIe (WiFi) 1x mPCIe (WiFi) 1x mPCIe (WiFi) 1x mPCIe (WiFi)
Memory 2 x SO-DIMM 2 x SO-DIMM 2 x SO-DIMM 2 x SO-DIMM
DDR3 1.35 V DDR3 1.35 V DDR3 1.35 V DDR3 1.35 V
LAN Realtek RTL8111G Realtek RTL8111G Realtek RTL8111G Realtek RTL8111G
Pricing $530 $390 $300 NA

We visited Gigabyte at IDF and requested a BRIX sample for a quick overview. They supplied us with their IDF demo model (design and components slightly different from the official SKUs that are already shipping ). Our review sample came with a Core i3-4100U (1.8 GHz) CPU, a 320 GB Western Digital Blue HDD [ WD3200LPVX ] and a single-band Realtek RTL8723 802.11n mPCI-e WLAN adapter.

The demo model has a slightly higher profile (height of 4.3cm compared to the 3cm for the standard BRIX). This configuration (with space for a 2.5" drive) will be sold as the BRIX s, and is slated to hit the shelves towards the end of November. Obviously, the system will be sold barebone (users can install their own 2.5" SSD), but the Realtek WLAN module (the shipping version will have a dual band version unlike what we currently have in the IDF demo model) will be bundled with the system.

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  • Ikefu - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    What I would really love to see is a couple I2C or SPI headers on the motherboard. Then we could have the Intel turbo charged version of a raspberry pi and do some really cool maker/robotics projects. Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    See Quark ;) Reply
  • azazel1024 - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Did I miss something? This is very close to Intel NUC specs, but a fair amount cheaper.

    Depending on what "Intel HD graphics" means for the Celeron version and its pricing, that one could be a perfect HTPC. A low capacity mSATA, 2x2GiB SODIMMs added in and I'd imagine you could emulate up through at least PS2 and xBox games without breaking a big sweat.

    1080p24 playback, some older games if you really want too. Netflix and Amazon will work just fine for streaming on it.

    Store everything on the network that is possible and a 32GiB or even 64GiB mSATA drive would be plenty.

    Yeah, if you want to play current PC games on it, you need much beefier specs, but then just get a "real" computer and hook it up to a TV.

    Anyway, it seems to check all the boxes I need for a HTPC. Just a question of whether or not the Vita TV will make it to US shores or not on whether I'll get something like the BRIX down the road or not.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    "Intel HD graphics" means HD2000, so 6EUs at around 1GHz clock speed. Reply
  • d1nn0 - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    The audio chip is only 2+2 channels, so I would pass - I'd like to have a 5.1 or a 7.1 quality audio chip in my HTPC.
    But for a lean PC hidden at the back of a monitor - that would be a great choice, especially with a cordless keyboard+mouse.
    Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Friday, November 1, 2013 - link

    Wouldn't you pass the audio via DisplayPort or HDMI though? At that point having a shitty analog audio setup is irrelevant since you would just stream it straight to your TV/receiver instead... Reply
  • dj_aris - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    What about Iris Pro BRIX? Reply
  • funtasticguy - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Me too! This is what I have eagerly waiting for. Some called it the Brix 2 Gaming System. I was so disappointed that no new information was made regarding the Iris Pro Brixs. Gigabyte, please tell us something soon or I will move on to something else. Reply
  • Acarney - Saturday, November 9, 2013 - link

    Ya! I was under the impression they were going to release a unit with the i7 4770R chip, which would be the ONLY use I've seen so far of that high end Iris Pro desktop chip! I can not BELIEVE there has been zero adoption in that chip so far. I would think that would be the perfect HTPC in that it should be able to handle almost max MadVR settings, is damn near as fast as the fastest i7 Haswell, AND should be able to play most games at 1920 res with low (maybe even med) settings and games from a couple years ago with higher settings...

    I've had $1,000 set aside for a few months now since hearing about the Iris Pro Brix ready to buy it and then try to hack it into an HD-Plex fabless case (65w TDP would be no problem to cool!) and dump in one or two 4Tb hard drives and a CetoniTV 6....
    Reply
  • petes8k - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    Where are the fanless Haswell mini boxes? Reply

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