Vents located on three of the chassis’ four sides are used to provide an entry and exit points for hot and cold air.
Front-side ports consist of a pair of USB 3.0 connections stacked on top of one another and an audio jack. Spacing between the USB 3.0 ports is sufficient for two flash drives to be used simultaneously, although don’t expect to be able to use more than a single over-sized device.
During operation, a red light beam exits the front panel audio port (which is used to provide the SPDIF connection and powered by Realtek’s ALC269 audio codec) and can become an irritation when using the BRIX in a dark environment. With a cable plugged into the jack, the extent of this irritation is drastically reduced.
Rear panel connections include two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet connection (Realtek RTL8111G), HDMI and mini DisplayPort video outputs, the power input, and a Kensington lock point. Given the enclosure’s space constraints and the availability of low cost USB hubs, only equipping the BRIX with two pairs of the SuperSpeed ports is unlikely to cause meaningful issues. Both display outputs can be used simultaneously to power a pair of monitors. The DisplayPort connection can also be used to run a screen with a resolution greater than HDMI’s typical limitation of 1920 x 1200.
A notable omission from the ports is a card reader. Slotting a simple SD card reader into the BRIX’s chassis would be unlikely to cause any further design issues but it would certainly enhance the system’s functionality as an office or media PC.
A screw located in each corner secures the bottom panel in position. Removing these screws provides access to the component area where memory and an mSATA drive will need to be installed.
An ‘up’ arrow indicates the BRIX’s correct orientation when it is mounted to the back of a monitor using the VESA panel.
With a width of around 105mm and a depth of just over 110mm, the Gigabyte BRIX is easy to carry to different locations. Weighing just under 400g, the system can be slipped into a large pocket and carried from location to location. Alternatively, it can be hidden away in a space-constrained environment and left to operate.
Gigabyte lists some of the usage scenarios for such a miniature piece of equipment as digital signage, a HTPC, a media entertainment hub, and a full-blown office-replacement PC. Put simply, space-constraints are unlikely to leave users searching for a different system.
Sat next to the 4.7″ Nexus 4 smartphone, it is easy to interpret just how miniature Gigabyte’s BRIX actually is.
Whether a PC this small is actually necessary relates to individual preference and usage scenarios. For people wanting their system to reside in an office for general usage and then be transported to the TV where it operates as a media entertainment hub, the BRIX’s diminutive size is welcomed. Users wanting their system to be hidden away and left untouched may not require a system quite as small as the BRIX, but that doesn’t make it any less of an option.
Gigabyte uses a socket 1168 BGA motherboard (product number: MMLP7AP) which utilises the Haswell-ULT system configuration. Installed on the motherboard is Intel’s Core i7 4500U processor which is rated for a nominal clock speed of 1.8GHz, with the capability to turbo boost up to 3.0GHz. Packing 4MB of L3 cache and two hyper-threading physical cores into a 15W thermal envelope, Intel’s Core i7-4500U Ultra low voltage CPU sips power and produces very (laptop-calibre) modest amounts of heat.
Intel’s HD 4400 graphics chip (codenamed GT2) is built into the i7-4500U processor. Performance is provided by the graphics processor’s maximum clock speed of 1.1GHz – a figure which drops to 200MHz under idle conditions.
Pre-attached to the motherboard is a mini-PCI-E WiFi card which supports 802.11n connections. The adapter’s maximum speed is 150Mb/s on the 2.4GHz frequency band. Above the wireless card is an mSATA 6Gb/s connection which can be used to house the latest SSDs utilising the SFF connection. Up to two 8GB DDR3 1600MHz SO-DIMM modules can be installed in the BRIX. Removing the top cover (not that it should be necessary other than for cleaning purposes) provides access to the blower-style CPU cooler.
G.Skill Ripjaws 1600MHz 16GB SO-DIMM Memory Kit:
G.Skill sent over a pair of its newly-released Ripjaws SO-DIMMs to use as part of the BRIX system. Rated for a 1600MHz memory frequency and 11-11-11-28 timings, the pair of 8GB modules operates at a DRAM voltage of 1.35V (highest voltage supported by the BRIX). A black, silver and red sticker covers sets of memory chips located on both sides of the PCB.
Kits with different speeds, timings, and capacities are available from G.Skill. We opted for the 1600MHz dual-channel 16GB kit as it represents the fastest and highest capacity configuration that Gigabyte’s BRIX can accept. Users looking to upgrade their gaming laptop may be able to support higher frequencies and capacities, of which, G.Skill has plenty to choose from.
With 16GB of 1600MHz G.Skill Ripjaws memory and a 128GB Plextor M5M mSATA SSD accompanying the Core i7-4500U, it is easy to see that a powerful system can be built around the Gigabyte BRIX.
No, this machine isn’t going to play the latest games at 1920 x 1080. But as far as general computing, media playback, and more demanding tasks such as file archival go, the Gigabyte BRIX i7-4500 system should be able to offer pleasing performance.Gigabyte BRIX i7-4500 Barebones Mini-PC Review (w/ G.Skill Ripjaws 1600MHz 16GB),