HTPC Credentials

The GIGABYTE GB-BXi7H-5500 is a compact PC, but, thanks to the 15W TDP CPU inside, it doesn't require a noisy thermal solution like what we saw in the BRIX Pro and BRIX Gaming units. Subjectively speaking, the unit is silent for most common HTPC use-cases. Only under heavy CPU / GPU loading does the fan become audible. However, as mentioned before, it still makes a good HTPC for folks who don't want to pay the premium for a passively cooled system.

Refresh Rate Accurancy

Starting with Haswell, Intel, AMD and NVIDIA have been on par with respect to display refresh rate accuracy. The most important refresh rate for videophiles is obviously 23.976 Hz (the 23 Hz setting). As expected, the GIGABYTE GB-BXi7H-5500 has no trouble with refreshing the display appropriately in this setting. In fact, in our recent tests, Intel's accuracy has been the best of the three.

The gallery below presents some of the other refresh rates that we tested out. The first statistic in madVR's OSD indicates the display refresh rate.

Network Streaming Efficiency

Evaluation of OTT playback efficiency was done by playing back our standard YouTube test stream and five minutes from our standard Netflix test title. Using HTML5, the YouTube stream plays back a 720p encoding. Since YouTube now defaults to HTML5 for video playback, we have stopped evaluating Adobe Flash acceleration. Note that only NVIDIA exposes GPU and VPU loads separately. Both Intel and AMD bundle the decoder load along with the GPU load. The following two graphs show the power consumption at the wall for playback of the HTML5 stream in Mozilla Firefox (v 35.0).

YouTube Streaming - HTML5: Power Consumption

Differences in the power consumption numbers for the Broadwell and Haswell BRIX units can be attributed to changes in the version of Firefox as well as the drivers. Ideally, the Haswell-based unit ought to consume more power for the same workload - something brought out by the Netflix power consumption numbers shown below.

GPU load was around 13.03% for the YouTube HTML5 stream and 4.25% for the steady state 6 Mbps Netflix streaming case.

Netflix Streaming - Windows 8.1 Metro App: Power Consumption

Decoding and Rendering Benchmarks

In order to evaluate local file playback, we concentrate on EVR-CP, madVR and Kodi. We already know that EVR works quite well even with the Intel IGP for our test streams. Under madVR, we used the default settings (as it is well known that the stressful configurations don't work even on the Iris Pro-equipped processors). The decoder used was LAV Filters bundled with MPC-HC v1.7.8. LAV Video was configured to make use of Quick Sync.

GIGABYTE GB-BXi7H-5500 - Decoding & Rendering Performance
Stream EVR-CP madVR - Default XBMC
  GPU Load (%) Power (W) GPU Load (%) Power (W) GPU Load (%) Power (W)
480i60 MPEG2 23.28 12.54 65.46 14.79 12.93 10.34
576i50 H264 20.18 11.46 74.94 15.44 22.15 10.73
720p60 H264 28.03 14.56 72.32 18.64 27.91 11.65
1080i60 MPEG2 29.87 14.40 48.78 19.73 27.75 11.88
1080i60 H264 32.24 16.06 49.99 20.24 31.04 12.21
1080i60 VC1 31.01 15.23 49.06 19.91 28.77 12.20
1080p60 H264 31.87 15.88 65.89 18.54 30.58 12.07
1080p24 H264 12.71 13.47 20.95 12.49 11.58 10.39
4Kp30 H264 29.87 20.01 93.85 38.24 17.67 12.32

The Intel HD Graphics 5500 throws us a nice surprise by managing to successully keep its cool with the madVR default settings. Only the 4Kp30 stream downscaled after decode for 1080p playback choked and dropped frames. Otherwise, there was no trouble for our test streams with either Kodi or MPC-HC / EVR-CP.

Networking and Storage Performance Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
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  • cobalt42 - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    I think you're actually kind of agreeing -- as implied by the OP, 1366x768 is closer to 1280x720 than it is to 1280x1024. (768p is 80% of 12x10, 720p is 70% of 12x10). Either way, 1280x1048 is rather too many pixels. Reply
  • milkod2001 - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    This seems more reasonable build compared to ASrock a few days back you posted review about. But Im still not sold on temperatures it reaches. 90c is way too much. Looks like even Broodwell could not help. Problem must be the case, it's just way too small.

    My suggestion to vendors would be to completely ignore Intel's NUC standard build entirely and put everything into bigger aluminium case Apple mini like.
    Reply
  • milkod2001 - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    in other words, clone Apple mini, make RAM + SSD upgradable and slap windows OS on that. Then we talk. Reply
  • nwrigley - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    I haven't seen anything that comes close to the Mac Mini on an engineering level. It's a real shame too, the Mac Mini has been out for 10 years and nothing has bested that design.

    I hope we start to see some more innovation. If you go a step above the Mac Mini in size/weight/performance you've probably doubled your size and weight (at least). I wish they would make parts for systems larger than a laptop, but smaller than a tower. I would gladly trade off some of the size and weight of the Mini for more performance.
    Reply
  • Kalessian - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    This review hit my browser like a sack of brix. Thx. Reply
  • ericgl21 - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    This i7-5500U is not impressive at all.
    Even now with 14nm, a 15W CPU (with iGPU) from Intel still doesn't cut it.
    Hopefully, Intel will release a proper quad-core CPU that would take on the i7-4770R in all respects, including a lower TDP.
    Reply
  • BlueBlazer - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    Getting close and often surpassing AMD mobile APU offerings that has higher TDPs. Source of comparisons http://www.anandtech.com/show/8119/amd-launches-mo... and http://www.anandtech.com/show/7106/amds-a105750m-r... Although differrent resolutions, 1280x1024 has more pixels than 1366x768. Furthermore not forgetting that this Core i7 5500u is just a 15W part! Reply
  • Hulk - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    Not that I don't appreciate this fantastic review but are we going to see a Broadwell review?

    Specifically:
    Broadwell, Haswell, Ivy, and Sandy with clocks normalized so we can see IPC improvements Work normalized so we can see a few generations of power efficiency improvements?
    And finally head-to-head for each iGPU (with games and compute benches)?
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    Looks good. cant wait to pick up the hd 6000 varient. I may have missed it, but does the broadwell NUC allow for the TDP to be raised like the haswell ones did? that, combined with 2133 memory let hd 5000 stretch its legs and perform quite well. hd6000 would be even better. Reply
  • kgh00007 - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - link

    Yeah I hope so! I have raised the TDP on my D54250WYK to 25W and also have 2133 RAM, makes a big difference in performance over 15W TDP and 1600 RAM in games!! Reply

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