Final Words

We have reviewed at least one BRIX in each generation over the last four years. Using Skylake, GIGABYTE launched a wide range of solutions targeting different market segments within the UCFF space. The Kaby Lake version of their BRIX-H lineup builds upon that success by tweaking a few of the Skylake models to provide consumers with more choices (while taking advantage of some new Kaby Lake features). Compared to other Kaby Lake UCFF PCs such as the MSI Cubi2-005B and the ASRock Beebox-S 7200U, GIGABYTE's KBL-U BRIX lineup has a number of advantages.

The KBL-U BRIX units provide user-friendly support for M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe drives. The Cubi2-005B doesn't support M.2 2280 drives at all, while the Beebox-S needs a riser due to its smaller chassis dimensions. In addition, unlike the GB-BKi7HA-7500, the Beebox-S doesn't have thermal pad protection for the M.2 SSD.

The KBL-U BRIX H units (such as the GB-BKi7HA-7500 that we have reviewed here) offers simplified installation and cable management for 2.5" drives. The SATA power and data cables are integrated and come pre-installed on the board. In the other two UCFF PCs that we have reviewed before, the power header and data cable are separate and a pain to install within the space constraints imposed by the form factor.

GIGABYTE provides more choices to the end user, with the right unit for purchase being dependent on the intended use-case. The KBL-U BRIX lineup has Core i3, i5 and i7 varieties, while the Beebox-S has only the first two. The Cubi2 lineup does have all the three, but, GIGABYTE outscores MSI by having a Thunderbolt option as well. In addition, GIGABYTE has USB 3.1 Gen 2 on all their Kaby Lake BRIX units. The Cubi2 doesn't have it in any of their offerings.

The KBL-U BRIX units support HDCP 2.2. They can be used to play back Netflix 4K content. Unlike the MSI Cubi2-005B, the GB-BKi7HA-7500 does have a LSPCon for HDMI 2.0 output with HDCP 2.2 capability. Like the Beebox-S 7200U, the GIGABYTE BRIX unit can also deliver 4K Netflix - one of the primary reasons that make Kaby Lake mini-PCs attractive for use as a HTPC.

Despite the above positives, there are certain areas that GIGABYTE can improve upon. The UEFI BIOS is pretty basic, particularly when compared to ASRock's Beebox BIOS. The latter features more fine-grained user control over the DRAM timing settings, online automatic BIOS updates and other value additions. The system also needs a better sound profile. Subjectively speaking, the fan in the GB-BKi7HA-7500 makes more noise compared to the other two UCFF PCs that we have analyzed before. The choice of fan, as well as the default fan curves in the BIOS, needs some attention from GIGABYTE. Finally, a flagship UCFF PC with a Core i7 processor definitely needs a 2x2 802.11ac WLAN solution. GIGABYTE should upgrade to either the Intel AC8260 or AC8265 from the currently install Intel AC3168 solution.

The GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HA-7500 has a selling price of $500 on Newegg. But, the Thunderbolt version with an additional SDXC slot is just $10 more. Given that the version that we reviewed does not seem to be stocked anywhere in the US, it is a no-brainer to go with the GB-BKi7HT-7500 and get similar performance with additional future-proofing (Thunderbolt 3) capabilities. Given the absence of any significant premium for the Thunderbolt version, we believe GIGABYTE should focus only on Alpine Ridge (instead of the ASMedia ASM1142) for USB 3.1 Gen 2 support in the BRIX lineup.

All said, the GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HA-7500 is a compact and feature-rich Kaby Lake UCFF PC. In fact, considering the price and feature sets of all the KBL-U mini-PCs currently in the market, the GIGABYTE GB-BKi7HT-7500 (not the GB-BKi7HA-7500 that we have reviewed here) presents the best value for money.

Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
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  • 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

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