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PCs

Gigabyte Brix Pro is a small but capable desktop PC

Published on May 23, 2014 5:00 AM
 
Gigabyte Brix Pro

This desktop computer is the size of my palm. Including an external power adaptor, the Brix Pro comes in at just under 1kg. It can even be mounted to the back of a monitor.

Chip giant Intel has been pushing these mini PCs, which it calls the Next Unit of Computing (NUC), for office and home use. They use laptop processors with integrated graphics and audio, and are extremely compact, with a footprint of slightly over 4 inches by 4 inches (10.16cm by 10.16cm).

Strictly speaking, the Brix Pro is not an NUC. It is slightly taller to accommodate a more capable quad-core Haswell-class Intel Core i7 chip. This system consumes more power than a typical NUC, but it performs better.

With an Intel Iris Pro graphics chip similar to the one on the base Apple iMac, the Brix Pro is good enough for video and image editing. While the Iris Pro is obviously not as fast as the dedicated graphics chips on gaming laptops and desktops, it is able to run older games at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. For example, Bioshock Infinite ran at a decent 25.48 frames per second at Medium settings.

It can be tight, but the Brix Pro can support an mSATA solid-state drive along with a 2.5-inch notebook-class storage drive. With most laptops, you are stuck with a single storage drive.

Wireless 802.11ac technology is supported out of the box. There is also a Gigabit Ethernet port. Meanwhile, its HDMI and Mini-DisplayPort are able to support 4K screen resolutions.

Despite having numerous cooling vents, the Brix Pro runs warm. To compensate, its cooling fan spins noisily when tackling CPU-intensive or graphics-intensive tasks, which can be distracting in a quiet setting.

This system is sold at Sim Lim Square for $959 without a hard drive or memory. There is no pre-installed operating system. Hence, you need to budget roughly $400 to get a usable computer similar to my review unit, which comes with an 8GB RAM and a 240GB solid-state drive.

A comparable desktop PC can be had for less, but will probably take up more space than the Brix Pro.

You have to add roughly another $100 or more for an OEM Windows licence. Alternatively, you could skip this and use a free Linux variant, such as Valve's gaming-oriented SteamOS.

In fact, the Brix Pro was one of 13 SteamOS systems featured at this year's CES tradeshow. Given its small size, this system is perfect as a PC gaming console or a home theatre PC, though you may have to turn up the volume or use headphones to drown out the noisy fan.

  • A decent desktop system that is good enough for home and office use. Its best asset is a compact chassis that can be mounted at the back of your monitor.

vinchang@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on May 21, 2014.

Background story

TECH SPECS

Price: $959 (without memory and storage)

Processor: Intel Core i7-4770R (3.9GHz)

Connectivity: 4 x USB 3.0, HDMI, Mini-DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet, headphone jack with digital audio output (SPDIF)


RATING

Features: 4/5

Design: 3/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 3/5

Overall: 4/5