Intel's Next Unit of Computing (NUC) may have helped pioneer the mini-PC as we know it today, but the chip giant's partners have since taken over the mantle with an array of similarly-sized solutions.
Gigabyte has been championing the mini-PC boom with a wide range of barebone Brix systems, and a quick glance at the company's current product stack suggests that there's an ultra-compact PC for everyone. And we aren't just talking mainstream systems for everyday tasks. Sure, Gigabyte has those readily available, but the Taiwanese outfit is also willing and eager to push the boat out with mini-PCs that deliver a whole lot more oomph.
Earlier this year we examined the Brix Pro, which touted desktop-class CPU performance in a diminutive form factor. Said system delivered impressive benchmark results, but Gigabyte reckons there's still room to manoeuvre and is raising the bar with a new Brix Gaming unit, priced at $800 (roughly £560 inc. VAT) and carrying the model number GB-BXi5G-760.
Put the model number and the green-on-black colour scheme together and you get a good idea of the kind of hardware this latest Brix PC is packing. You guessed it, inside the miniscule 59.6mm x 128mm x 114.4mm chassis resides an Intel Core i5 processor and, yep, dedicated GeForce GTX 760 graphics.
Build quality remains a cut above most of the competition as Gigabyte opts to use a metal chassis, and the exterior styling should be welcomed by anyone of a gaming disposition. Form factor is similar to the aforementioned Brix Pro, though a few subtle changes have been made - the Gaming unit is 2.4mm shorter in height and 13.6mm wider.
Connectivity options include a headset jack and dual USB 3.0 ports at the front, plus a further two USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, DC-in, dual mini-HDMI and a single mini-DisplayPort around back. What's handy is that Gigabyte includes mini-DP-to-DP and mini-HDMI-to-HDMI cables as part of the bundle, along with a USB thumbdrive loaded with all the relevant drivers, a VESA-compliant mounting bracket and an external 180W power supply. Funnily enough, the supply is almost as big as the PC itself.
It's on the inside that the Brix Gaming gets interesting. As with previous Brix units, this is a barebone solution that ships without memory, storage device or operating system. In order to add these parts, the user can gain access to the motherboard by undoing four simple screws on the base of the unit.
Opening up the chassis reveals a seemingly familiar layout. As was the case with the Brix Pro, a 2.5in drive tray is attached to the backplate and a SATA 6Gbps cable (power and data) is hooked up to the motherboard. Two SODIMM slots are easily accessible - these support up to 16GB (2x8GB) of DDR3L memory - and we can see a pre-installed AzureWave AW-CB161H mini-PCIe wireless card supporting AC WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. Just above the wireless card is a spare mSATA slot, giving the user a choice of two storage options.