Remember the Iris Pro-equipped small-form-factor rig Gigabyte showed off at IDF in September? Well, the Brix Pro is finally ready for prime time, and the final version looks pretty slick.
The chassis' 4.5" x 4.3" x 2.4" dimensions are similar to those of Intel's Next Unit of Computing. Gigabyte's latest take on the mini PC concept is a little bit taller, and the underlying hardware is considerably more potent. Instead of pulling its CPU from Intel's ultrabook family, which is limited to 15W duallies, the Brix Pro sports a selection of quad-core chips with 65W power envelopes. Versions of the system will be available with the Core i7-4770R and i5-4570R. The i7 has 3.2GHz base and 3.9GHz Turbo frequencies, while the i5 is clocked at 2.7/3.2GHz. Only the i7 can execute threads in parallel via Hyper-Threading.
In addition to plentiful CPU resources, the R-series processors have the most powerful "GT3e" variant of Haswell's integrated graphics. Otherwise known as the Iris Pro 5200, this on-die GPU is backed by embedded DRAM that shares the same physical package as the processor. We were impressed withe the GT3e's gaming performance when we reviewed the Core i7-4950HQ last year. The R-series chips in the Brix Pro have half the eDRAM—only 64MB—so I'm curious to see how they stack up.
Despite its tiny size, the Brix Pro is loaded with connectivity. There are two USB 3.0 ports up front and two more around the back. Video outputs include HDMI and Mini DisplayPort, and the 3.5-mm audio jack can output analog signals or digital S/PDIF bitstreams. Gigabit Ethernet? Check. And wireless, of course. 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are both on the menu.
The wireless functionality is provided by a half-height Mini PCIe card that slots into the tiny motherboard. Dual SO-DIMM slots also populate the board along with an mSATA connector for solid-state storage. Thanks to the taller chassis, users can even add a 2.5" hard drive.
The Brix Pro will be sold as a barebones machine, so folks will need to add their own memory and storage. It's not cheap, either. The Core i5 model is slated to sell for $529, while the i7 variant will be priced at $649. I can't think of any other system that squeezes so much power into such a tiny chassis, though. This is basically an all-in-one PC in a box. Fittingly, I suppose, the Brix Pro comes with a VESA mounting bracket that allows the chassis to be affixed to the back of some LCD monitors.
Gigabyte's press release doesn't mention SteamOS specifically, but it's worth noting that one of the systems displayed during Valve's Steam machines press event looks an awful lot like the Brix Pro. Preconfigured builds could eventually be offered alongside the barebones rigs. Given the thermal envelope of the R-Series chips already in the Brix Pro, I wonder if Gigabyte could squeeze a Kaveri-based APU into the same case. Hmmm.
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