Regardless of your load-out, the core of the Brix GB-BXi7-4500 remains the same for everyone. Its beefy, Ultrabook-class Core i7-4500 processor is soldered onto the tiny motherboard. (No upgrading for you!) That's a big-time (albeit mobile) processor, and it showed in PCWorld's testing gauntlet.
The NUC's dual-core Core i5-4250U outpaced many of the desktops and all-in-ones we've tested recently, specialized high-end rigs aside. The Brix's dual-core Core i7 bested it in many chores. The Brix shines at everyday tasks like crunching numbers, editing images, or shifting around chunks of data, and I never once encountered an irritating bout of lag.
Beyond that, Gigabyte's microcomputer boots into Windows 8 like greased lightning — only 13.6 seconds from power-up to full-on work, one of the best times yet — and it absolutely sips energy, with power usage topping out at a mere 12.5 watts. If you're looking for a powerful, economical business PC, the Brix GB-BXi7-4500 can definitely fit the bill.
...As long as you're not planning to get down and dirty with multimedia, that is. The Brix's integrated Intel HD 4400 graphics encode video at somewhat plodding rate, far behind the pace set by Intel's NUC, which has more potent HD 5000-series graphics. The Brix's audio encoding times were similarly middle-of-the-pack. And don't even think about using this as a gaming machine, though it handles high-definition video just fine.
To Gigabyte's credit, the Brix never overheated, and the internal fan was consistently quiet, no matter how hard I pushed the machine. Considering the tiny size of the system and the power of its processor, that's impressive indeed.
A small box for many pretty pennies
Intel's NUC won me over with its small stature and oversized performance, and the Gigabyte Brix is even smaller and speedier. That makes it a clear winner, right? Not so fast.
This pint-sized powerhouse has a plus-sized price tag: The basic kit is street-priced at $510, but that doesn't include the price of the components missing from the bare-bones build. Between memory, a copy of Windows, and a pricey mSATA SSD, you're probably staring at a final system cost north of $800 (that's for 8GB of memory and 240GB of storage.)
Yes, you're paying a steep price premium for the small footprint and raw power of the GB-BXi7-4500, especially when you consider that you can build a perfectly acceptable home theater PC for under $500. The just-as-diminutive NUC kit costs nearly $200 less and offers more than enough performance for most people. Or you could spend $100 more and get Gigabyte's own Brix Pro GB-BXi7-4770R. That mighty mite is powered by an Intel Core i7-4770R processor and features Intel's best integrated graphics, the Iris Pro 5200. You'll still need to supply your own storage, memory, and OS, but that system offers a much more attractive price-to-performance ratio (it's street-priced just $100 higher).
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