Send in the clones! Intel's itty-bitty Core i5-powered Next Unit of Computing caught our eye late last year by providing desktop-class power in a barely-there package that's so small, you could easily slip the entire computer into your jacket pocket. The combination proved so succulent that the NUC landed in PCWorld's top 50 products of 2013, despite being a fairly pricey system devoid of memory, storage, and even an operating system.
Enter Gigabyte's Brix GB-BXi7-4500.
Clad all in black, the Brix GB-BXi7-4500 bears a striking resemblance to Intel's micro-PC, and one that goes more than case-deep. Like the NUC, the Brix asks users to bring their own RAM, OS, and storage. Like the NUC, the Brix includes a VESA bracket that allows you to mount the system to the rear of a monitor and create an impromptu all-in-one PC. Heck, even the general look of the Brix mirrors the NUC in all but the tiniest details, though it ditches Intel's silver styling for a svelte, all-black design.
The heart of the Gigabyte Brix GB-BXi7-4500 differs from the NUC in some very important ways, however — ones that make it a very, very different value proposition. Let's dig in.
Amazingly, Gigabyte's Brix actually measures in slightly smaller than Intel's NUC, though you wouldn't notice the difference unless you plop the two systems next to each other (or bust out a ruler). At 4.5-by-4.24-by-1.18-inches, this machine is tiny.
Despite its diminutive size, the Brix offers a healthy selection of ports — a selection that once again largely mimics the NUC. The front of the machine holds a pair of USB 3.0 ports, along with headphone jack that doubles as a SPDIF port. The rear of the Brix houses another USB 3.0 duo, along with Ethernet, Mini DisplayPort, and HDMI connections. You'll also find a Kensington lock slot.
The Brix lacks the NUC's infrared sensor, which could be a drawback if you planned on using it as a home theater PC. Its HDMI port is full-sized, however, which is a welcome change after fiddling with the NUC's mini-HDMI connection.
It's what's inside that counts
Let's take a step back before we look at the Brix's performance chops.
As a so-called "bare bones" PC, the Brix requires you to install your own low-voltage memory, mSATA solid-state storage, and operating system. It's all fairly straightforward, especially if you keep the helpful Quick Start guide at hand, but your choice in components will affect the performance of the system. (For the record, we tested the Brix with a 180GB Intel 530 mSATA SSD, a pair of 4GB/1600MHz SO-DIMM DDR3L modules from Micron, and Windows 8.)
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.