BXi5G-760 as a HTPC

Thanks to its discrete GPU, the BXi5G-760 has to tackle a much higher thermal workload with its cooling mechanism. To accommodate this, a few extra fans have been thrown in compared to the BRIX Pro. It goes without saying that the acoustic profile is not entirely suitable for most HTPC applications (unless the gaming aspect gets precedence). Despite this, the HTPC credentials deserve coverage. We didn't take the trouble to look into the refresh rates. NVIDIA has one of the best custom resolution / refresh rate creation tools in the industry, and even minor deviations from the expected refresh rates in one's particular setup can be worked upon for more accuracy. We concentrate on two aspects - network streaming efficiency and decoding / rendering benchmarks.

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, while Adobe Flash delivers a 1080p stream. The power consumption at the wall as well as the GPU usage while playing them on Mozilla Firefox are provided in the table below. Note that NVIDIA exposes GPU and VPU loads separately. This indicates whether any playback issues are due to the post-processing aspects (GPU) or the video decoding block's inability to handle the stream (VPU). Netflix streaming evaluation was done using the Windows 8.1 Netflix app. Manual stream selection is available (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-S) and debug information / statistics can also be viewed (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-D). Statistics collected for the YouTube streaming experiment were also collected here.

GIGABYTE BXi5G-760 Network Streaming Efficiency
OTT Stream GPU Load (%) VPU Load (%) Power (W)
YouTube - HTML5 15.54 10.43 31.68 W
YouTube - Adobe Flash 12.71 26.26 30.25 W
Netflix - Windows 8.1 App 5.66 27.18 30.18 W

Decoding and Rendering Benchmarks

In order to evaluate local file playback, we concentrate on EVR-CP and madVR. We already know that EVR works quite well even with the Intel IGP for our test streams. Under madVR, we used the default settings for one of the passes. In addition, we also set up a 'madVR stress configuration' with the upscaling algorithms set to Jinc 3-tap with anti-ringing activated and the downscaling algorithm set to Lanczos 3-tap, again with anti-ringing activated. The decoder used is from the LAV filters integrated in MPC-HC v1.7.6.

An important point to note regarding the GPU loading is that the values reported by NVIDIA's drivers don't take the clock speed into consideration. For example, the 20% GPU loading reported for 1080i60 H.264 with EVR-CP is at a higher clock rate compared to the 45% reported for the 1080i60 MPEG-2 stream. The power consumption at the wall is the true metric of how much the system is stressed. The loading factors should be used only to determine if the stutters in playback are due to the hardware's incapability.

GIGABYTE BXi5G-760 - Decoding & Rendering Performance
Stream EVR-CP madVR - Default madVR - Stress
  GPU Load (%) VPU Load (%) Power (W) GPU Load (%) VPU Load (%) Power (W) GPU Load (%) VPU Load (%) Power (W)
480i60 MPEG2 49.19 4.08 34.30 11.07 2.00 56.45 27.88 2.00 72.54
576i50 H264 46.44 10.18 33.14 11.17 5.00 57.61 29.61 5.00 77.39
720p60 H264 42.64 38.94 34.98 34.37 27.58 52.29 53.99 25.03 66.87
1080i60 MPEG2 44.93 26.29 48.41 24.05 17.72 63.12 37.56 17.10 75.90
1080i60 H264 20.69 29.53 54.99 24.99 27.14 65.36 38.58 27.12 77.97
1080i60 VC1 75.49 54.14 44.11 24.38 23.86 63.75 38.1 24.46 77.70
1080p60 H264 49.66 84.95 37.12 38.05 64.17 49.37 54.25 65.34 59.92
1080p24 H264 20.22 34.77 32.99 40.3 44.18 36.83 54.72 37.36 39.01
4Kp30 H264 22.73 74.73 45.02 57.33 57.95 76.37 92.48 57.75 96.85

The results show that the BXi5G-760 is the most powerful madVR-capable HTPC we have reviewed in its form factor. The only stream that it couldn't handle was the 4Kp30 H.264 clip when played on a 1080p display with the stressful madVR options.

In the gaming benchmarks, we found it tough to make a call between the AMD R9 270X-equipped VisionX 420D and the GTX 760-equipped BXi5G-760. In the HTPC benchmarks, though, the GIGABYTE model emerges a clear winner. However, if acoustics are a concern, the ASRock VisionX 420D may make a better choice.

Networking & Storage Performance Miscellaneous Aspects & Final Words
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  • Madpacket - Monday, September 15, 2014 - link

    So an entire review on a gaming PC without mentioning how loud this thing gets while gaming? Really? Reply
  • Sm0kes - Monday, September 15, 2014 - link

    Yeah, kind of odd that the most obvious question is performance vs. thermal limitations was completely missed.

    Check out Linus Tech Tip's video review of the unit. He goes into some detail on the noise (read: not good) and thermal throttling.
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Monday, September 15, 2014 - link

    It should be pretty obvious to come to a conclusion on that without them telling you. Look at power numbers. They even say to look elsewhere if you are looking for better acoustics. Reply
  • wintermute000 - Monday, September 15, 2014 - link

    Mystified why they don't make these gaming NUCs a little bit bigger. Then they could put bigger, slower fans in there + more airflow. Its not like making this thing an inch wider/longer would bother anyone looking for serious gaming grunt, still would be a relatively small unit. Reply
  • drainplugofideas - Monday, September 15, 2014 - link

    I totally agree. Reply
  • flyingpants1 - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    Actually, there's no point. All you need is a mini-ITX motherboard and a GTX760 Mini installed normally, and a Silverstone SFX 450W PSU. Fits PERFECTLY in a 6.7"x6.7"x4.8" box. And it costs wayyy less than this thing, even with an i5-4690 and M.2 SSD 256GB.

    There's no point whatsoever to this whole NUC thing. We already have an SFF standard, it's called mini-ITX. NUC is just more BS to pad Intel's bottom line. If you don't need dedicated graphics, buy mini-ITX with 120W power brick, whole system for under $190.
    Reply
  • johnny_boy - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    That is the whole point--you need dedicated graphics for gaming on ITX unless you're happy wih something like an AMD A8-7600 at 45W TDP, which is the best iGPU you can get with those thermals. But this brix box smokes a 7600. With dedicated graphics you're looking at a significantly larger case and higher wattage draw even if you go with Maxwell. Reply
  • figus77 - Friday, September 19, 2014 - link

    If you really want play you should no look at any low powered small form factor PC... they simply can't let you play in a decent way... no one in 2014 wants to play at something less than 1920 and they can't do it in 90% of games and you sure had a full hd tv to use with them. With that 900$ you can do a normal gamig machine and an AM1 mini-itx system for TV... both better in their work. Reply
  • Popskalius - Monday, September 22, 2014 - link

    Actually, I have no desire to game at anything higher than 720p... but I've also never gamed at 1080p or higher so take that could mean something. Reply
  • fteoath64 - Friday, October 03, 2014 - link

    Even do water cooling with integrated radiator fins on one side protected by some course stainless steel mess. Sure make it a couple inches wider. It would by more stackable above a HT unit or something .... Reply

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