We've taken a look at a couple of PCs based on Intel's Next Unit of Computing (NUC) design here at TR: Intel's original whitebox NUC, and Gigabyte's NUC-inspired Brix Pro. While both of those machines were competent performers, neither of them had enough GPU horsepower to seriously tempt the PC gaming enthusiast.
With its Brix Gaming BXi5G-760, Gigabyte is looking to change that. The company has stuffed a discrete Nvidia GPU and an Intel Core i5 processor into a case that takes up about as much space as a dense paperback. The amount of computing power per cubic inch here is seriously impressive, at least on paper. Is the Brix Gaming good enough to replace the typical mid-tower gaming PC? Let's find out.
In the world of computing hardware, small, powerful things rarely come cheap. The Brix Gaming is no exception. It sells for $799.99 at Newegg right now. That asking price gets you an Intel Core i5-4200H CPU, which is a dual-core mobile part with Hyper-Threading enabled. The i5-4200H's base clock speed is 2.8 GHz, and Turbo Boost can take it as far as 3.4 GHz.
The real point of interest in the Brix Gaming is the discrete GeForce GPU. Nvidia and Gigabyte are calling the part a GeForce GTX 760, but don't let that name fool you—this isn't the same product as the regular, desktop GTX 760. A quick look at GPU-Z proves as much:
For comparison, here's the GPU-Z analysis of the GTX 760 in my personal desktop:
After looking at the numbers above, we reached out to Nvidia for more information. The company clarified the lineage of this GPU for us, and it explained the somewhat confusing choice of name:
In this particular case, [Gigabyte] is using a GK104 chip with 1344 cores and 192-bit memory interface. The "GTX 760" name was chosen because of the performance of this particular GK104 chip. It most closely matched the performance of the GTX 760 in our traditional desktop GPU lineup. Perhaps the 870M designation would've been more fitting, although the GPU in Brix doesn't support Optimus and Battery Boost, so that name wouldn't have been a great fit either.
Keep that in mind as you read the following pages. While the GPU in this system has the same name as the full-fledged GTX 760, it may not be capable of the same feats of performance. The Brix GPU's 72 GB/s memory bandwidth deficit is particularly noteworthy in this regard.
The Brix Gaming's GTX 760 is backed with a whopping 6GB of GDDR5 memory, though. That's the kind of capacity I'd expect to see in concert with something branded "Titan," not the average mid-range GPU. Whether the GTX 760 can make use of such copious memory is questionable, but it does look good on the spec sheet.
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4200H (2.8GHz, 3.4GHz Turbo), dual-core, Hyper-Threading enabled|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 with 6GB GDDR5|
|Platform hub||Intel HM87|
|Audio||Realtek ALC269 HD audio|
|Wireless||802.11ac Wi-Fi and Blueooth 4.0
Chipset: Azurewave AW-CB161H
1 Mini DisplayPort
4 USB 3.0
1 Gigabit Ethernet via Realtek RTL8111G
1 combination headphone/microphone port
|Expansion||SATA port for 2.5" hard drive/SSD|
|Dimensions||2.3" x 5" x 4.5" (59.6 mm x 128 mm x 115.4 mm)|
Gigabyte normally sells the Brix as a barebones machine. However, the company kindly provided us with a 128GB mSATA solid-state drive and 8GB of RAM for testing. Folks who buy this system at retail will need to supply their own memory and storage. I took a quick survey of Newegg prices for an 8GB SO-DIMM and a 128GB mSATA SSD, and found that similar parts would cost around $200. That would bring the total price for a Brix Gaming system to roughly $1,000.
Like the Brix Pro, the Brix Gaming relies on an external power supply. While it may seem unwieldy, the power supply will likely live under a desk for most of its life, so it's not a big deal in practice.
Also during my unboxing, I found a splitter for the combined mic/headphone port, a thumb drive with Windows chipset and grapics drivers, a VESA mounting plate, a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable, and a mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable. The Brix Gaming comes with almost everything you'll need to get it up and running, although I did have to provide my own HDMI-to-DVI adapter to connect the Brix to my older LCDs.
Now that introductions have been made, it's time to take the Brix Gaming apart.