Cooling and acoustics
The Brix Gaming produces a lot of heat in a very small area. The only way for its tiny fans to rid the case of this heat is to spin fast, and that means a lot of noise.
I didn't have access to TR's lab-grade decibel meter for my tests, but as with most things these days, there's an app for that. I downloaded a highly rated app called dB Meter - lux decibel measurement tool for my iPhone and got to work. I wouldn't claim scientific levels of accuracy for these numbers, but they should provide a rough idea of how loud the Brix gets.
According to this app, the noise floor in my office is about 30dBA with no appliances, computers, or HVAC equipment running. Fire up the Brix, though, and things quickly get rowdy. At idle from a distance of about one foot, the fans produce roughly 37 dBA, and that figure rises to 43 dBA under load. With Turbo enabled, the fans can go quite a bit faster under load, which increases the SPL to 56 dBA.
dBA measurements don't tell the whole story, though. A sound's character is just as important a consideration when describing how annoying it is to the ear. At idle, these tiny fans make a coarse whir that's difficult to ignore. Under load, the fans produce a high-pitched whine. Turbo mode only makes matters worse. With its more aggressive fan profile enabled, the Brix Gaming in full song is like having a 1U server on my desk.
Here's a video of the Brix Gaming at idle, under load, and under load with Turbo enabled. Hear it for yourself:
While running my gaming tests, I also logged CPU and GPU frequencies and temperatures. You can see how much the Brix Gaming throttles clock speeds—and how Turbo mode alleviates the issue:
Intel's spec allows for the Core i5-4200H processor to run at up to 100°C, and Nvidia quotes a maximum temperature of 97°C for the desktop GTX 760, which is based on the same silicon as the part inside the Brix Gaming. Judging by the numbers above, then, the Brix Gaming doesn't overheat—but in its default fan profile, it does throttle clock speeds a fair amount in order to keep temperatures within spec. Even with Turbo mode enabled, the discrete GPU occasionally dips below its 941MHz base speed.
Toward the end of my time with the Brix Gaming, Gigabyte informed me that a new firmware update was available for the system. According to the company, this update changes the fan profiles for both the default and Turbo modes. I didn't have time to run the new firmware through the same tests as the old, but I did do a little last-minute testing to see what had changed.
With the new firmware, the default fan profile seems to allow the fans to run a tiny bit faster under load, but the difference is minimal. The updated Turbo profile appears to have been the biggest change. The system will now spin its fans as fast as is necessary to avoid GPU throttling under load, at the price of further increased noise. According to my imperfect tools, the Brix Gaming can now reach up to 60dBA under load with Turbo mode enabled. That's loud, folks. Get your noise-canceling headphones ready.