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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  • toshz - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    Does anyone know what's the difference between the AC7260 and AC7265 wireless adapters?
    I was looking into purchasing the AC7260 to update my ultrabook (currently using AC3160) and then I saw the AC7265. Couldn't find any difference between them on Intel's site.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • kevith - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    Nice review, but why have you stopped opening the cases? I would be interested in one of these, but changing/adding cooling is a must. Reply
  • jrs77 - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    Allthough I very much like the idea of the smallest PC possible, the NUC or the BRIX (or anything else in this formfactor) is still too expensive compared to a more powerful and better customizable mITX-system.
    I can build a low-powered mITX-system for $600 (i5-4590T, H97 board, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 20x20x8cm case incl 90W PSU), which leaves me with money for the Win8.1 license (the one you didn't include in your price there!). Such a system, has much more value and can be strapped to the back of your screen not using anymore space than the NUC or BRIX.
    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    I agree. That's what I thought of this review. The processor is just too pricey.
    Someone could buy a notebook with an i5-Haswell with a AMD/Nvidia GPU near that price.
    Reply
  • piasabird - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    If most of what you plan on doing viewing video an i3 with 4 megs of cache will work just fine. Reply
  • deathwombat - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    Does the top of the box actually say "Supports 2.5" Hard Drivers"? At least have someone proofread your packaging! Reply
  • eanazag - Friday, January 30, 2015 - link

    I agree on the networking. 2x2 Wifi would be better and Intel NIC. I dislike the Realtek NICs. With an Intel NIC there are more options from the software side, like a tiny VM server. Reply
  • vision33r - Saturday, January 31, 2015 - link

    Intel has no pressure to improve performance. Reply
  • Mikad - Tuesday, February 03, 2015 - link

    This is just a small thing, but it has bothered me much lately: Many of the new articles have a quite bad "featured image". For example this one: Just a picture of the box with a bad lightning. The product itself is interesting but the picture is a turn off. IMHO it would be great if you could put more effort into these pictures. Reply
  • Teknobug - Wednesday, February 04, 2015 - link

    Looks like gaming is out of the question, at least at 1920x1080. May as well go with an i3 or N2940 and play via Steam stream from a gaming PC.

    Otherwise everything else about this is awesome.
    Reply

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