Gigabyte's BRIX Mini PCs Get Skylake Processors

Today we have Gigabyte BRIX S Ultra Compact PC Kit in the hot seat. This isn't the Gigabyte BRIX S BXi5H-5200 Ultra Compact PC Kit that we reviewed last year, but rather the Gigabyte BRIX S BSi7H-6500 Ultra Compact PC Kit. This is one of the many revamped Gigabyte BRIX models that debuted at CES 2016! Gigabyte updated the exterior to have an arguably improved brushed aluminum finish and also updated the inside to include the latest Intel 6th Generation Core 'Skylake' processors along with M.2 PCIe SSD storage support. Gigabyte Brix Gigabyte offers a wide number of BRIX models, but you can simplify things by understanding that the new 2016 models only have three processor models to pick from: Core i3-6100U, Core i5-6200U, or Core i7-6500U. Once you figure out the processor that you want you then need to select if you want just one M.2 PCIe SSD storage slot on the board or the M.2 slot the ability to use a 2.5" SATA III hard drive. The models that support just an M.2 storage drive are less expensive and the enclosure is just 1.4-inches in height versus the models that support both drive formats that is 1.8-inches in height. If you go shopping for a Gigabyte BRIX, the model numbers that have an 'H' in them are the taller models that support both drives types.
Intel Core i3-6100U Price Intel Core i5-6200U Price Intel Core i7-6500U Price
 GB-BSi3-6100  $284.99  GB-BSi5-6200  $359.99  GB-BSi7-6500  $539.99
 GB-BSi3H-6100  $279.99  GB-BSi5H-6200  $379.99  GB-BSi7H-6500  $529.99
One would think that pricing would be higher for the models that support two drives as it has a 2.5" drive tray, SATA data/power cable and an enclosure with more material, but it appears that those models are usually priced below the sleeker models that offer fewer storage options. It just goes to show that companies are clearly charging a premium for going small! The model that we are looking at today is the GB-BSi7H-6500, which features the mighty Intel Core i7-6500U dual-core processor with Hyper Threading. This processor has a base clock of 2.5 GHz and with a peak turbo frequency of 3.1 GHz.  The TDP on this processor is configurable between 7.5W and 25W and it appears that Gigabyte adjusted this one to operate at 15W. [caption id="attachment_180629" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Gigabyte Brix S GB-BSi7-6500 PC Kit Gigabyte BRIX S GB-BSi7-6500 Ultra Compact PC Kit[/caption] This 'PC Kit' is more or less a barebones kit that comes with an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 module pre-installed and wired up, but it lacks a storage drive of any kind, DDR3L memory kit (DRAM) and lacks the operating system. The GB-BSi7-6500 already costs $529.99, so if you had to buy the remaining components you'll be spending well north of that figure to get this kit running. We'll be using a Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD ($322.57), G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (2x4GB) 1866MHz DDR3L SO-DIMM kit ($39.22) and Windows 10 Pro ($98.90). That puts the build cost at right around $990, so you can expect to spend right around a grand if you want load this up with a high-end M.2 PCIe SSD with NVMe support and a decent memory kit. [caption id="attachment_180632" align="aligncenter" width="645"]GB-BSi7-6500 The Key Components Included In The GB-BSi7-6500 Box[/caption] The Gigabyte BRIX S models come with a VESA mounting bracket and mounting screws for that and 2.5-inch drive if you are getting an applicable model. You also get a driver disk and an owners manual, but the important things are pictured above. That would be the BRIX unit itself, the 3-prong mickey-mouse power cable and the 65 Watt FSP Group AC to DC power adapter (model FSP065-REBN2). The external power brick measures 108 x 49.2 x 30mm in size and meets Energy Star EPS2.0/ErP lot 7 specifications. [caption id="attachment_180634" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Gigabyte BRIX S BSi7-6500 Front Panel Dual USB 3.0 Ports & Audio In/Out Are Located On The Front Panel[/caption] The front panel on the BRIX has two USB 3.0 ports as well as standard sized jacks for your headset and microphone. Gigabyte is using a Realtek ALC255 audio codec The power button is the black triangular shaped button on the top housing cover. The power button features a white LED light that isn't too bright, which is a good thing as we didn't see an option to disable it in the BIOS/UEFI. [caption id="attachment_180635" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Gigabyte BRIX S BSi7-6500 Back I/O Panel The Rear I/O Panel and CPU Cooler Hot Air Exhaust Vent[/caption] The unit features an HDMI 1.4a port and a Mini DisplayPort 1.2 for display connectivity. This means that this model of the BRIX supports a maximum display resolution of 3840x2160 at 60Hz on the Mini DP and 4096x2160 at 24Hz on the HDMI. This model features Intel HD Graphics 520, so the refresh rate might be an issue as you won't be gaming at Ultra HD resolutions on this system with integrated graphics! The good thing about Intel HD Graphcis 520 is that they support the DirectX 12 API and OpenGL 4.4 specifications. You also have two more USB 3.0 ports, the RJ45 Gigabit ethernet port for the Intel i219V controller, kensington lock and the power port. [caption id="attachment_180636" align="aligncenter" width="645"]BRIX GB-BSi7-6500 Bottom 4 Philips Screws In The Feet Give You Access To The BRIX S Guts[/caption] On the bottom of the unit you'll find four rubber feet that have Philips screws inside them that hold the bottom cover onto the BRIX. You can also make out the two screw holes in the middle of the cover for the standard VESA mounts that supports both 75 x 75 and 100 x 100 mm mounting configurations. Let's take a look inside the Gigabyte GB-BSi7H-6500 BRIX S Ultra Compact PC Kit!

Inside The Gigabyte GB-BSi7H-6500 & The BIOS

Since the Gigabyte GB-BSi7H-6500 comes without a storage drive and the memory kit, you must open it up and install the necessary hardware. Removing the base plates four Philips screws is simple enough and once the cover is removed you'll be greeted with this: [caption id="attachment_180638" align="aligncenter" width="645"]BRIX GB-BSi7-6500 Inside The BRIX GB-BSi7H-6500 With The Bottom Cover Removed[/caption] The two slots for your DDR3L 1.35V memory kit are easy enough to find and then above that there is the 2.5-inch SATA III drive power/data cable taped down to the motherboard. If you don't plan on installing a 2.5" drive right away you can just remove this cable. Where do you put the 2.5" drive? There is a tray located in the bottom cover that you can secure a 7mm or 9.5mm thick 2.5" drive to. Finally, there is a M.2 slot that is located just to the right of the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 wireless card for your PCIe SSD. [caption id="attachment_180642" align="aligncenter" width="645"]BRIX GB-BSi7H-6500 Inside Checking Out The GB-BSi7H-6500 CPU Cooler![/caption] We removed the entire MKLP7AP REv1.2 motherboard from our system and found just the a CPU cooler to be of interest on the bottom. [caption id="attachment_180641" align="aligncenter" width="645"]GB-BSi7H-6500 Fully Assembled GB-BSi7H-6500 Fully Assembled[/caption] Here is a shot of the GB-BSi7H-6500 with the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD ($322.57) and G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (2x4GB) 1866MHz DDR3L SO-DIMM kit ($39.22) installed! [caption id="attachment_180643" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Gigabyte BRIX S BIOS Gigabyte BRIX S GB-BSi7-6500 BIOS[/caption] Our GB-BSi7H-6500 model came with pre-production BIOS/UEFI F3 installed, so we updated the American Megatrends BIOS from F3 to the latest version right now and that just happens to be version F5. There is no desktop update utility included with the BRIX models since it's basically a notebook interface, which is really disappointing as that means there isn't too much you can adjust. [caption id="attachment_180645" align="aligncenter" width="645"]afudos Updating The BRIX BIOS WIth a Bootable USB Drive & AFUDOS![/caption] To update the BRIX you'll need to make a bootable USB drive and run AFUDOS with the appropriate .bin file from Gigabyte's support page.
UPDATE 04/10/2016: Gigabyte informed Legit Reviews over the weekend that some of the issues that we later encounter with this model was due to the way we flashed the UEFI. Gigabyte said that you must use the Intel Flash Programming Tool (FPT) (FPT.EXE) and not AFUDOS. The best way to do this is to run 'FLASH.BAT' that will execute the command 'fpt.exe -SAVEMAC -f image.bin' and 'fpt.exe -GRESET'. The Gigabyte BRIX team is looking into including flashing instructions and are talking internally if they can remove AFUDOS from the directory since it doesn't work. 
BRIX-BIOS-NVMe We found some minor flaws in both the F3 and F5 versions of the BIOS. The Samsung SSD 950 PRO NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD wasn't properly supported in the F3 BIOS version, but luckily was in version F5. The F5 version had some minor issues that F3 did not though. An example of this was our memory was showing up as 0MB in version F5, while it showed up as 8MB in F3. It also only ran our 1866MHz memory kit at 1600MHz and we couldn't adjust the multiplier manually, so that was upsetting. We ran across several little quirky things like that with the BIOS. BRIX-BIOS-CPU At the end of the day the BIOS was good enough to get by with. dvmt You can't overclock the processor or set the memory timings, but you can select the OS you want to optimize for (Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1/10) as well as the Dynamic video memory technology (DVMT) allocation of system memory for use as video memory. UEFI We changed the OS Selection settings under the Advanced menu to Windows 10 and installed Windows 10 Pro version 1511 build 10586 without any issues at all with UEFI boot enabled. The Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 wireless card driver installed during the installation process and we were able to jump online straight away.

BRIX BSi7H-6500 Performance Testing

cinebench The Gigabyte BRIX S BSi7H-6500 Ultra Compact PC Kit with the Intel Core i7-6500U processor scored 44.30  FPS on the OpenGL benchmark, 328 points on the multi-core CPU test and 130 points on the single-core CPU test. skydiver In 3DMark we scored 3,983 points in Sky Diver, the benchmark for mid-range PCs, specifically 17.96 FPS in Graphics Test 1 and 17.04 FPS in Graphics Test 2. x265 On the x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit video encoding benchmark we found the Gigabyte Brix S was capable of 7.20 FPS with regards to the average frame rate for encoding HD (1080p) video in the new H.265 / HEVC format. handbrake We ran Handbrake 0.10.5 and used the Big Buck Bunny 1080P 60 FPS movie as our test file. We were able to complete the transcode with an average speed of 23.17 FPS in 27 minutes and 25 seconds. aida64 AIDA64 v5.70 beta showed that the dual channel 1600MHz DDR3L memory had 10-10-10-28 1T timings and was capable of 24,185 MB/s read and 24,626 MB/s write speeds with a latency of 71.9 ns. 6500u-skylake cpuz-bench The benchmark included in CPU-Z showed we had a single thread performance score of 1536 and a multi-thread performance score of 3411. ciphershed CipherShed v0.7.4.0 shows that the Gigabyte Brix S had a mean score of 1.9 GB/s on the AES Encryption test. jetstream We ran the JetStream v1.1 JavaSctipt on Google Chrome 49 and found an overall score of 172.91. 7zip The 7-Zip 15.14 benchmark test showed that the Intel Core i7-6500U Processor in this system had a total rating of 9699 MIPS and handled compression tasks well.
A quick run of CrystalDiskMark v5.1.2 showed the performance of the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB storage drive was pretty epic. Sequential read speed to be 1565 MB/s and the sequential write speed was 1443 MB/s. The Random 4K read speed was 55 MB/s and the 4K random write speed was 166 MB/s. bootracer test The last performance test that we wanted to run was Bootracer 5.0 to see how fast the system is able to boot Windows 1o Pro 64-bit. We found that the Gigabyte BRIX S BSi7H-6500 Ultra Compact PC Kit takes 4 seconds to get to the logon screen and it took a total of 18.7 seconds to get up and running on the desktop when using the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD. This is a pretty quick boot time! Let's take a look at power consumption and CPU temperatures on the Gigabyte BRIX S BSi7H-6500.

Power Consumption and CPU Temperatures

[caption id="attachment_180642" align="aligncenter" width="645"]BRIX GB-BSi7H-6500 Inside Checking Out The GB-BSi7H-6500 CPU Cooler![/caption] We aren't sure how energy efficient the Gigabyte BRIX S BSi7H-6500 is, so we figured we'd take a look and see how much power the system uses. brix-power-consumption We found the the entire system was consuming 8.6 Watts of power from the wall outlet at idle and just 1.2W at sleep. When watching Youtube 1080P videos we averaged 12.7 Watts of power draw. When running the AIDA64 System Stability test the system power consumption topped out just shy of 40 Watts. One interesting thing we noted is that when the system had troubles with sleep mode. If Windows 10 Pro went to sleep on its own or if we manually put the system to sleep it wouldn't wake back up. We had to hold the power button down in order to get the system to shut off. We reported the issue to Gigabyte and they are looking into it! aida64 stress test AIDA64 reported that the Intel Core i7-6500U processor idled at 0.440V with a core temperature of 38C. With the built-in AIDA64 stress test we found that we got up to 85-87C on the two CPU cores at 0.552V. The noise level of the CPU coolers fan wasn't too bad, but you could certainly hear it spinning at nearly 5,300 RPM. At idle the fan was pretty much inaudible a normal environment. We used the standard stress test with GPU included in our ~17 minute test. Let's wrap this review up!

Gigabyte BRIX S BSi7H-6500 Final Thoughts and Conclusions

Gigabyte BRIX S BSi7-6500 Front Panel The Gigabyte BRIX S GB-BSi7H-6500 was a pretty impressive little system with solid CPU performance and very nice aesthetics. The build construction was good and the CPU cooler fan didn't sound like a dust buster. Our overall experience using the system was positive, but it better have been since this little system costs roughly $1,000 they way we had it configured. The GB-BSi7-6500 costs $529.99 and then we finished off the bare bone system by adding the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD ($322.57), G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (2x4GB) 1866MHz DDR3L SO-DIMM kit ($39.22) and Windows 10 Pro ($98.90). At $991 this certainly isn't the cheapest desktop system around, but it packs a ton of features with good performance in an enclosure that is 46.8 mm x 112.6 mm x 119.4 mm (1.84" x 4.43" x 4.7") in size.
--- Update 04/10/2016 - Updating the BIOS/UEFI with the INTEL FPT and not AFUDOS fixed the issues below ---  We did run into some BIOS issues though that soured the mood a bit. Our G.SKILL Ripjaws 8GB (2x4GB) 1866MHz DDR3L memory kit wasn't properly detected on this system and would only run at 1600MHz. Gigabyte advertises the GB-BSi7H-6500 supporting DDR3L memory kits at 1600/1866/2133 MHz at capacities up to 16GB (2x8GB). A larger issue was one with the wireless card where it would sometimes be there when the system was turned on and then other times it wasn't there. The only 'fix' we could find was to reboot the system until the wireless card was detected and able to work. Sometimes it would take just one reboot and other times it would take multiple reboots. [gallery ids="180677,180681,180678"] The last and likely most critical issue that we ran into was a sleep mode problem where the GB-BSi7H-6500 wouldn't successfully come out of sleep on our Windows 10 Pro installation with all the latest updates. This means you have to hold the power button down to get the system to turn off and possibly lose some data or corrupt something on the storage drive. To be fair Gigabyte has a list of supported M.2 PCIe SSDs and the Samsung SSD 950 Pro isn't listed. The older Samsung SSD SM951 OEM drive is listed as being supported though. Gigabyte hasn't updated the list of supported drives since October 2015, so it's roughly 6 months old. In fact, the entire Windows 10 driver support page for the GB-BSi7-6500 hasn't been updated in nearly 6 months and many of the drivers listed are out dated. At the end of the day the GB-BSi7H-6500 is nice, but we ran into a few quirks that hurt the user experience of the system. If you spent $990 and got the same exact setup that we have we think you'll be frustrated with the issues we encountered. The supported drive list also hasn't been updated in six months, so how do you know what drives really work and which ones do not? The Samsung SSD 950 Pro came out the day after the Gigabyte M.2 support list was last updated. It would be nice to see the drives that have issues listed as well. Hopefully this article will get Gigabyte to update the support lists, driver page and maybe even get the BIOS team to go back and look into some enhancements! If Gigabyte can nail down the issues we encountered we'd easily give this system the thumbs up as the performance and platform were great when it worked properly!
Updated Conclusion - 04/10/2016 After spending a couple days and nearly 20 e-mails with Gigabyte, we came to the conclusion that the wirless connectivity issues and the inability to come out of sleep mode was due to how we flashed the UEFI. We used the AFUDOS utility that was included in the UEFI file directory on Gigabyte's site, but found that utility doesn't work. You must use the Intel Flash Programming Tool (FPT) to update this series of Skylake powered BRIX models. One we simply updated the UEFI with the right utility the Windows sleep mode issue was resolved as was the wireless connectivity being missing on some system boots. The only issue that remained was the G.Skill G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (2x4GB) 1866MHz DDR3L SO-DIMM kit (part number F3-1866C11D-8GRSL) was limited to 1600MHz with CL10 timings. That kit of memory is a couple years old though, so there is likely an SPD incompatibility issue. Our performance numbers remained the same before and after the UEFI update, so it appears using the wrong flash update tool just harmed system stability. Update 7/3/2016: It appears that Gigabyte still has not updated their website or provided the proper Intel Flash Programming Tool to their customers. We have reached out to them again begging them to update their files! Legit Bottom Line: The Gigabyte GB-BSi7H-6500 has solid performance numbers, but we ran into some issues that hurt the overall user experience.