Taking advantage of the efficient operation of Ivy Bridge, Intel accompanied its third generation Core processors with a new small form factor platform called the Next Unit of Computing (NUC), whose first wave was powered by Core i3 and i5 Ivy Bridge parts, the mounted on one was an ultra-compact 4×4 "motherboard – significantly smaller than the Mini ITX standard.

While we welcome SFF machines from industry heavyweights like Intel, the company's NUC products were grossly overpriced, starting at around $ 400 for a full build based on the Core i3. Even today, a barebone version of the i3 NUC ​​system still costs nearly $ 300, without storage, storage, WiFi, and an operating system that could easily add a few hundred dollars.

When Intel realized this problem, it introduced an option based on the 1.1 GHz Celeron 847. However, this chip is terribly slow and at $ 180 the barebone box it contains is still not a particularly good value. To date, we can safely say that NUC is a cool idea that has been hampered by poor hardware choices and unattractive pricing – a trend that Gigabyte hopes to surpass with its new NUC offerings.

Gigabyte's pint-sized "Brix" systems are available in four different processor configurations, including the 1.8 GHz Celeron 1037U, 1.9 GHz Core i3-3227U, 1.8-2.7 GHz Core i5-3337U, and 2-3 , 1 GHz Core i7-3537U. These seem to be much more powerful than Intel's lineup, and that's certainly enough to warrant our attention, but it's worth noting that Brix also offers more USB 3.0 ports and out-of-the-box WiFi.

Granted, the Brix system powered by the Core i5-3337U is faster than all of Intel's NUC options, but at $ 420 it is also more expensive – a sum that is well over 500 after purchasing memory, storage and an operating system US dollars increased. We think 8GB of 1600MHz SO-DIMM RAM, a 128GB mSATA SSD, and a copy of Windows 8 Professional seem to fit right, and they add an additional $ 330.

With total building costs in the range of $ 750, it's easy to question the value of Gigabyte's new offering. Keep in mind that you can buy a Core i5-3337U-based laptop from Dell or Asus for under $ 600 that has a similar set of features, just in a mobile package instead of a tiny box. For additional perspective, the core parts of our entry-level gaming desktop cost around $ 600.

Gigabyte BRIX in detail

As mentioned earlier, Brix systems have four different processor options: Celeron, Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7. We tested the $ 420 Core i5 version (XM11-3337), which is $ 100 less than the i7 model and $ 100 more than the i3. On the outside, there isn't much to tell, especially since this computer measures only 114.4 x 107.6 x 29.9 mm (4.5 x 4.24 x 1.18 ").

In the lower left corner is a USB 3.0 port that encompasses the front panel connectivity. This is integrated in an aluminum cover that wraps around both sides and the back.

On the glossy black top cover, Gigabyte's name is in the upper left corner, and in the opposite position is a chrome power button that glows blue when the system is active.

Most of the action is on the back, including an HDMI out, Thunderbolt (DisplayPort), USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and a power jack. There is also a Kensington lock slot to secure the system if you are in an open office environment, for example.

With the support of HDMI and DisplayPort, the Brix can power two displays at the same time, increasing its profitability for productivity purposes. The HDMI port only supports a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1200 on our Dell 30 "display, while DisplayPort runs at the native resolution of 2560 x 1600.

There are small air vents on the back and sides of the case, while four small rubber feet are screwed to the base plate that can be removed to give access to the storage and storage areas.

Once inside, you will see a pre-installed 802.11n Wi-Fi Mini PCIe module. Above is the mSATA slot and there are also two SO-DIMM DDR3 slots.

The other side of the board contains the CPU, chipset (Intel HM77), and the battery, although you never need to see this side of the board. With the SSD and RAM we reinstalled the base plate and started installing Windows, for which an external optical USB drive together with a bootable operating system CD or (preferably) a bootable USB USB stick with a Windows Copy is required.