As power users, we have a tendency to pursue raw power and performance over everything else. Octocore CPUs are better for everyone, because who couldn’t use more cores? A graphics card with a heatsink so large and heavy that you can hear your motherboard’s PCIe slot crying—any self-respecting enthusiast better have at least two. Oh, and power supplies? If your PSU isn’t 80 PLUS Adamantiumcertified, you’re doing it wrong, obviously.
We kid. The magnificent machines you see at LAN parties and exhibitions are great, of course, but great PCs can come in all shapes and sizes. This is the main reason why GIGABYTE’s BRIX mini PCs are so compelling. No one will mistake a BRIX for your primary gaming system, but these tiny kits are so good in so many situations that they deserve your attention. Whether you’re interested in building a capable home-theater PC or you need a computer that will vanish behind a monitor, BRIX is ready to go to work, and now it’s better than ever.
GIGABYTE has been building BRIX barebones systems for a few years, and the GB-BSi5-6200 is proof. At only 1.35 x 4.43 x 4.7 inches (HxWxD), or 0.46L, the new BRIX is one of the smallest in the company’s stable of mini PCs. On top of that, the GB-BSi5-6200 sports a refined, brushed aluminum exterior that’s a far cry from the glossy plastic we’re used to seeing from similar mini PCs.
Speaking of the exterior, it’s a small thing, but we’re pleased about the absence of LEDs on the GB-BSi5-6200’s front panel. Too often we see HTPCs with bright, constantly flickering LEDs that distract your eyes and detract from the overall HTPC experience. Instead, the GB-BSi5-6200 locates its power button on the top panel, so the only LEDs on this BRIX don’t face forward. The overall design keeps the BRIX attractive but also subtle. As far as overall aesthetic, we can confidently say that this is the slickest BRIX we’ve ever seen.
Despite its size, the GB-BSi5-6200 packs quite a bit of punch, and that’s thanks in large part to the system’s Intel 6th Generation Core i5-6200U. Part of the processor family formerly code-named
“Skylake,” the Core i5-6200U is one of the latest Intel processors designed for laptops and, naturally, mini PCs, so it’s a perfect fit inside the GB-BSi5-6200.
Intel made the Core i5-6200U to do its job without turning up the heat. With a TDP rating of 15 watts, the CPU’s power draw is practically microscopic compared to traditional desktop processors. Because of the 6200U’s miserly power consumption, GIGABYTE is able to make a couple of design choices that lets the BRIX maintain its ultra-thin profile. First, the 6200U only requires a tiny heatsink in order to receive adequate cooling, and the processor’s low power needs lets GIGABYTE use an external power adapter, keeping a bulky internal PSU out of the picture.
The Core i5-6200U doesn’t pull a lot a lot of power from the wall, but that doesn’t mean it pulls its punches. It has a base clock of 2.3GHz, and as thermal loads dictate the 6200U can ramp up
to 2.8GHz in Turbo mode. With two physical cores and Hyper-Threading the 6200U is a capable multitasker, as well.
Equally important is the Core i5-6200U’s Intel HD Graphics 520 integrated graphics core, which is the engine that makes the GB-BSi5-6200 work as a terrific HTPC. The 6200U’s GPU is the reason this BRIX supports 4K resolutions over both its HDMI (4,096 x 2,160 at 24Hz) and Mini DisplayPort (3,840 x 2,160 at 60Hz) outputs. And of course, the HD Graphics 520 core supports Intel’s long list of specialized video features, including Intel Quick Sync Video, Intel InTru 3D Technology, Intel Clear Video HD Technology, and Intel Wireless Display. In short, there’s very little video content the GB-BSi5-6200 can’t handle.
Don’t overlook the GB-BSi5-6200’s gaming potential, either. Although no one is positioning the HD Graphics 520 graphics core as a replacement for a TITAN or a Fury, this BRIX isn’t designed to replace your high-end graphics card . . . or your gaming console. In videogames that have lighter 3D rendering requirements, though, the GB-BSi5-6200 is a superhero. It’s a great way to play the
legion of indie games on Steam that don’t have demanding system requirements, and the BRIX should be able to let you replay your old favorites in 720p (and possibly 1080p). The GB-BSi5-6200 should also have enough graphics muscle to deliver a playable experience in popular MOBAs, such as DOTA 2 and League of Legends. The system’s two front panel USB 3.0 ports let you connect wireless dongles for gaming controllers, keyboards, and mice (or simply make a direct connection with wired peripherals), too.
Instead of stuffing GB-BSi5-6200 with hardware that a particular enthusiast may not want, GIGABYTE produces this BRIX as a barebones system, letting builders put together a mini PC that meets their needs. Storage is a good place to start. In addition to a new fleet of CPUs, the Skylake platform also makes available up to 12 lanes of PCIe 3.0, which readies the GB-BSi5-6200 for the deluge of PCIe SSDs that are expected to arrive in the first half of this year. (Some are already available, although your choice of manufacturer is somewhat limited at the moment.) With a PCIe SSD, the BRIX will fly, booting and launching apps in seconds. By using such a setup as an HTPC, we couldn’t be surprised to see the GB-BSi5-6200 ready to go before the TV. Of course, the GB-BSi5-6200 is backward-compatible with SATA-based SSDs, too. Regardless of which bus you choose to get on, you’ll need to use an M.2 2280 SSD with the system.
New PCIe-based SSDs still come at a relative price premium. If you want to make this BRIX fast on its feet while still including enough storage for your media collection, one smart approach would be to take advantage of the GB-BSi5-6200’s rear I/O panel. By using one or both of its USB 3.0 ports, you could connect the BRIX to a massive external hard drive (or two). Anyone with a NAS box can use it to funnel their movies and music to the BRIX via its Gigabit Ethernet port, as well, so there are plenty of ways to give the GB-BSi5-6200 access to terabytes of
storage even if you choose to leave its local storage light and quick.
The GB-BSi5-6200 is just as appealing if you’d rather use it in the office than in your home theater stack. It has a built-in 802.11ac wireless module (that also supports Bluetooth 4.2), which means you can set it up anywhere within range of your wireless network. The GB-BSi5-6200’s VESA mounting bracket lets you attach the BRIX to a pair of VESA mounts—either 75 x 75mm or 100 x 100mm—effectively reducing its space requirement to nothing. For enthusiasts who love a clean desk, attaching the GB-BSi5-6200 to the back of a monitor, connecting it to a wireless network, and using wireless peripherals is about as close to perfection as possible.
Bringing your gamer-in-training to a LAN party? The BRIX is a good option that lets you avoid hauling another fullsized PC. True, you’d need to bring a bit more muscle to handle games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 or Star Wars: Battlefront, but we’d expect the GB-BSi5-6200 to hold its own in other wildly popular games, including Minecraft, Hearthstone, as well as the previously mentioned MOBA titles. Or, cut your kids out altogether and use the BRIX as your portable gaming PC.