GIGABYTE BRIX GB-BXi7-4500 Review: Intel Core i7 in a UCFF PCby Ganesh T S on October 9, 2014 7:00 AM EST
Over the last couple of years, the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) has emerged as one of the bright spots in the troubled PC market. Intel kickstarted the category with their Sandy Bridge NUC kits in early 2013. Recognizing the popularity of this segment, other vendors also began to promote similar products. GIGABYTE targets this market segment with an extensive lineup of products under the BRIX brand. Late last year, GIGABYTE sent us their high-end vanilla BRIX, the GB-BXi7-4500. Unlike Intel's top-end Haswell NUC (based on the Core i5-4250U), this BRIX family member brings a Haswell i7 ULV processor into the UCFF market. Since the sample arrived along with the Iris Pro-equipped BRIX Pro, the GB-BXi7-4500 fell off our radar. Recently, we had the chance to subject the unit to our suite of benchmarks (as part of a comparison study against the Bay Trail-based GB-BXBT-1900).
Similar to other BRIX units, the BXi7-4500 comes barebones. An important point to note is that the GB-BXi7-4500 doesn't support 2.5" drives. So, users will need to bring in a mSATA SSD along with suitable DDR3L SO-DIMM sticks. At the beginning of the year, mSATA SSDs carried an unreasonable premium over 2.5" drives, but the situation is much better now. Avoiding support for a 2.5" drive allows GIGABYTE to reduce the height of the kit. We configured the review unit to end up with the following components.
|GIGABYTE GB-BXi7-4500 Specifications|
|Processor||Intel Haswell Core i7-4500U
(2C/4T x 1.80 GHz (3.0 GHz Turbo), 22nm, 4MB L2, 15W)
|Memory||2 x 8GB DDR3L-1866|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Disk Drive(s)||Plextor PX-128M6M 128 GB mSATA SSD|
|Networking||1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x1 802.11n/BT 4.0 mPCIe|
|Audio||Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)|
Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 8.1 Pro x64
|Pricing (As configured)||$490 (barebones) + $256 (DRAM + mSATA SSD)|
|Full Specifications||GB-BXi7-4500 Specifications|
The BXi7-4500 kit doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but does come with a driver CD. In recent kits, GIGABYTE has moved to USB keys for the drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers downloaded off GIGABYTE's product support page. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 65 W (19.5V @ 3.43A) adapter, a US power cord, a VESA mount (along with the necessary screws), a driver CD and a quick-start guide.
The gallery below takes us around the hardware in the unit.
We have used A-DATA mSATA SSDs in our previous UCFF reviews. In order to make readers aware of other alternatives, we chose to go the Plextor route this time around. We configured our unit with a Plextor PX-128M6M 128 GB mSATA SSD (sporting a Marvell 88SS9188 SSD controller) for the boot drive and put in two Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz DDR3L SODIMMs for the DRAM.
In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the BXi7-4500 against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the BXi7-4500 when we come to those sections.
|Comparative PC Configurations|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-4500U||Intel Core i5-4250U|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 4400||Intel HD Graphics 5000|
|RAM||Corsair Vengeance CMSX16GX3M2B1600C9
9-9-9-24 @ 1600 MHz
|Crucial CT51264BF160B (Micron 8KTF51264HZ-1G6J1)
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
(128 GB, PCIe Module mSATA 6Gb/s, 19nm, MLC)
|Intel SSD 530 Series
(180 GB, PCIe Module mSATA 6Gb/s, 20nm, MLC)
|Wi-Fi||Realtek 8723AE Wireless LAN 802.11n
(1x1 802.11n - 150 Mbps)
|Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
(2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps)
|Price (in USD, when built)||$746||$680|
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dakishimesan - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkOne other thing – even though the Mac Mini is 7.5 in.² as opposed to the 4.5 in.² of this computer, the Mac Mini has an integrated power supply.
Samus - Friday, October 10, 2014 - linkI do agree the mobile i7 is a waste of money. It always has been. It's super shady how Intel promotes their ultramobile i5 and i7; they're nothing like their desktop equivalent.
It's funny that Baytrail is the only true quad-core (physical) ultramobile CPU Intel has.
dakishimesan - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkOver the last couple of years, the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) has emerged as one of the bright spots in the troubled PC marker.
dgingeri - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkMost importantly: can it run WoW and STO at a decent framerate?
Wilco1 - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkSo how is it possible for a CPU with a claimed 15W TDP to use 30W extra from idle to full load???
MrCommunistGen - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkI assume there are a number of factors involved. In no particular order:
1. Power measurements are at the wall so we're accounting for PSU efficiency as well
2. With Intel's Turbo, as long as the thermals aren't out of control, the CPU can exceed its TDP
3. The CPU isn't the only component that can draw more power when the system is under heavy load. The obvious component that comes to mind is the system fan. In a system with power consumption this low, fan power draw becomes relevant.
MrCommunistGen - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkI meant to explicitly state that I did not intend for my 3 bullet points to be taken as an exhaustive list...
Mentally ballparking the numbers, these factors seemed to add up well enough to account for the extra 15W over TDP. My thought process basically stopped there.
Wilco1 - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkYou're right there are other aspects besides the CPU but eg. the D542050WYKH also has a CPU with a claimed 15W TDP and it also has a fan, memory, turbo, power supply inefficiencies etc, and yet it manages to use 10W less. So how do you explain the difference?
mmaenpaa - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkIt would be nice to see review of GB-BXA8-5545 with the same components. I believe the barebones version (no memory & no SSD) is about 250$.
bleomycin - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - linkMaybe I missed it but there was no mention of fan noise or bios fan control options? I have a 2nd generation i5 brix and would never buy one again due to the non-existent bios fan controls. I have to use speedfan under windows or fancontrol under linux to keep this thing within reasonable audible limits just for running xbmc. My nuc systems handle all of that just fine in the bios.