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
POST A COMMENT

32 Comments

View All Comments

  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    interesting idea, but for the cash I'd rather get the intel box with iris graphics. $500 is too much for a box o badly hamstrung in the GPU department, especially if the iris kaby lake intel NUCs are around the $500 price. Reply
  • niva - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Can you please point out where one can find a Kaby Lake Intel NUC with Iris for the same price, or less? We will be eternally grateful! Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    @niva The new Intel NUC Kaby Lake i7 version will be out end of this month. Right now you can preorder it on several websites. The website below has it for preorder for $521 and on their website it says they are expecting to receive 190 units on March 31st. Here is a link to the page on shopblt.com, http://www.shopblt.com/item/intel-boxnuc7i7bnh-box... Reply
  • gigahertz20 - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    I'm waiting for the new Kaby Lake Intel NUCs. Specifically the NUC7i7BNH model, it's got 2x2 802.11ac WLAN unlike this Gigabyte BRIX and hopefully the fan isn't as loud as this one either. The UEFI Bios is always pretty comprehensive on the Intel NUCs as well. Amazon is selling the i3 version but not the Kaby Lake i7 version yet, I heard sometime from March through May is when the i7 NUC should show up on Amazon/Newegg. If you are looking to buy a UCFF PC, there is no reason I can think of to get this BRIX when the Intel NUC will have it beat plus you get Iris Graphics. It will be a no brainer. Reply
  • CSMR - Saturday, March 18, 2017 - link

    The NUC7i7BNH does look good.

    I think with any powerful machine in such a small form factor you have to mod it if you want it to be quiet.

    The last Iris Pro/Plus device in a similar form factor is the Brix BXi7-5775. I using this, and cut open the top to put a larger quiet fan in. It's great, fast and quiet.
    Reply
  • bill44 - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    "However, GIGABYTE has integrated a LSPCon and ensured that the lack of native support is not a problem for the GB-BKi7HA-7500."

    Unfortunately, LSPCon is a big problem. It's not capable of playing 3D FramePacked material with latest Kodi when HDMI 2.0 is used as output. Requires native HDMI 1.4.
    http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=266316
    Reply
  • mooninite - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    This won't be a problem much longer. 3D TVs are going away. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    I'd argue that televisions in general are on a slow decline as well. Certainly 3D TV was something of a niche/fad that didn't gain the widespread sales it needed to take off in the late 2000's after making its return from the grave. At this point, since TVs are waning anyway as a entertainment source (current models sold are larger, but there are fewer of them per household and the trend seems to point generally downward for the future), 3D variants don't seem like they have a chance of surviving. Though I think it's likely 3D projection will be resurrected yet again in the future and maybe next time around the technology will make it practical, I can't see that happening soon while many of us remember the last flop and would be cynical about another attempt. It is also unlikely to take the form of a conventional consumption device like a television since, by the time it's forgotten and brought back as a new idea, we'll be consuming content differently. Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    I have a Samsung 3D tv from 2011, it's gimmicky but still fun for certain movies. At least it has the active shutter glasses (that I feel work better than the filter glasses at theaters that give me a headache) Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    Oh yeah, its cool tech for sure! It just didn't take off like it would have needed to for it to get the broad support it required to survive past more than an iteration or two of hardware from most companies. In fact, with as hard as it fell, I was surprised there were a few products that continued to support some form of 3D like Nintendo's New 3DS even well after it was clear 3D wasn't a thing anymore. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now