A mini-tower of power.
Gigabyte’s Brix systems are arguably the most popular line of non-Intel NUCs on the market, but the Brix Gaming UHD isn’t quite as small as a regular NUC. It’s still only 220mm x 110mm x 110mm, with an interior space of just 2.6 litres, but it’s about the size of three NUCs stacked on top of each other. This means it’s still tiny, easily able to be tucked away into the smallest of spaces, which makes the amount of hardware Gigabyte has stashed away quite remarkable. In fact, given the size and shape of this case, we’re surprised Gigabyte hasn’t given this a Tardis-façade, as it’s quite remarkable what they’ve managed to squeeze in. It’s a barebones unit though, making that price tag more than a little noteworthy – you’re going to need to bring your own memory, OS and hard drives to the party, which could substantially increase the price tag.
The entire chassis appears to be made from brushed aluminium, with a black top surrounded by a subtle LED light. Despite its small size, Gigabyte has managed to cram plenty of I/O connectors onto the exterior. There’s one HDMI 2.0, 3 x Mini DisplayPort, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, headphone in and out, and twin USB 3.1 Typo-C connectors. This plethora of outputs means it can actually output to four different displays, though the GPU within won’t be able to power a game across so many pixels – it’s more suited towards a mini-PC used to power a 4-screen store display. Given the small size, it’s no surprise that the power pack is external, but it’s relatively small, at just 152mm x 73mm x 32mm.
At the heart of the beast is Intel’s ubiquitous I7-6700HQ processor, a quad-cored, HyperThreaded CPU that has a base frequency of 2.6GHz and a maximum Turbo speed of 3.5GHz. This is paired with twin SO-DIMM DDR4 memory slots; our sample came with just 8GB of memory, but you’ll need to install your own as this is a barebones system. The maximum capacity is 32GB, running at a speed of 2133MHz, so you’ll need to buy twin 16GB sticks to max the memory out. Built in Wi-Fi is supported via Intel’s Dual Band Wireless-AC Intel 8260, which comes with an external antennae for added range. There’s also no hard drive installed, with the option to attach drives to a single M.2 slot (2280 storage) via PCIe/SATA, another M.2 drive via PCIe only, or another M.2 2230 drive, which is currently occupied via the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card. These are all housed on Intel’s HM170 chipset. Audio is delivered via Realtek’s ALC255 chipset, and it doesn’t appear that Gigabyte has done anything special with it – we noticed a small amount of hiss and distortion when using it, though not to the point where it’s a deal-breaker.
At the heart of the beast is Intel’s ubiquitous I7-6700HQ processor, a quad-cored, HyperThreaded CPU that has a base frequency of 2.6GHz and a maximum Turbo speed of 3.5GHz.
Where things get interesting is the inclusion of a GeForce GTX 950 discrete GPU, hence the Gaming UHD title. Now, given that Nvidia’s Pascal has just arrived and wiped the floor with the GTX 9-series, we weren’t expecting mind-blowing performance, but for such a small system it’ll happily run older games at moderate detail levels. Think World of Warcraft, World of Tanks and other mid-level games, and this thing should be able to deliver playable frame rates at moderate detail levels. Given the small size, we were happy with the 46dB fan noise, as we expected it to be much louder given the dimensions.
Given this is a barebones system, we have to be a little concerned about the price. It’s $1,399, making it around twice the price of similar specced NUCs. The benefits of this device though are the inclusion of a discrete graphics card, much more space for added hard drives, and a huge bank of I/O options. And yet, if only Gigabyte had waited for the anticipated GeForce GTX 1050, we can’t help but feel it would have offered vastly superior gaming performance.
We don’t deny that Gigabyte has crammed a lot of goodies into a tiny space, but we probably wouldn’t recommend it as a gaming box. However, if you need to power four displays independently, with the CPU horsepower to back it up and the option for plenty of storage, the Gigabyte Brix Gaming UHD is quite an impressive, albeit expensive, solution.