Review – Gigabyte Brix GB-XM14-1037

06Feb14

I had some fun last year putting CohesiveFT’s VNS3 cloud networking solution onto Raspberry Pi. It gave us something to demo on at trade shows, and we could also give away Pis as part of promotions. The Pis were like geek catnip.

I’ll be using Pis again for Cloud Expo Europe later this month, but we’ve recently added Docker to VNS3, and that won’t run on a Pi. I needed something with an x86 processor, but it would be good to have something (nearly) as portable as the Pi. The Intel NUC looked like a good place to start, but sadly the low end (Celeron and i3) ones lack an ethernet port. NUCs with ethernet turn out to be a bit pricey (and I didn’t need the power of the i5 NUC I bought myself), which is why I turned to the very similar Gigabyte Brix range.

Brix vs NUC

The Brix and NUC are very similar. Both come without RAM or SSD, and can take up to 16GB and an mSATA device of your choice. Both also come with little mounting plates for the Vesa holes on the back of some monitors (if they’re not already used by the monitor stand).

+WiFi – the NUC comes with an empty miniPCIe socket for WiFi, though the antenna cables are there and ready. The Brix comes with a WiFi card installed.

+Power cable – a slightly bigger box meant room for the ‘cloverleaf’ cable missing from the NUC.

-USB sockets – the NUC has 2 USB2 on the back and a USB3 up front (plus internal headers for more if using a different case). The Brix only has one USB2 at the front and another one at the back.

-DisplayPort – the NUC range comes with a variety of display outputs. Mine has two DisplayPort and one HDMI (which is something of overkill for such a small machine, but I guess people doing bespoke display applications might need 3 screens). The Brix has one of each flavour.

The power button is on the right (the NUC’s is on the left), and there’s no HDD activity light. The chrome edging makes the Brix case more attractive.

Performance

I’m running Ubuntu on the Brix rather than Windows, so it’s quite possible that a leaner OS is making up for a weaker CPU. Whatever’s going on it feels plenty fast enough.

Sadly I’ve not been able to run Geekbench, so no hard numbers other than the Passmark score of 1731.

Hardware wise I’ve put in a single 8GB stick of RAM (so there’s a spare slot if I’d like to upgrade later) and a 120GB mSATA SSD (both from Crucial).

Cost

The barebones kit was £145.99, RAM was £55.17 and the SSD was £62.69 giving a total cost of £263.85.

Installation

Ubuntu 12.04 Server went on from USB without any issues (and really quickly). Sadly I hit problems with KVM, which stopped me from getting the config I desired.

Switching to Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop (daily build) was painless, and means that I now have KVM running the handful of VMs I’d like to have for demos.

I had to go into the BIOS to enable Virtualisation support (which I also had to do on the NUC and on my new Dell Server). It totally beats me why machines still ship with this disabled by default.

Noise

The Brix has a fan like the NUC, but seems to run it far less frequently. There’s a little burst of activity when first starting up, and it comes on when pushing the CPUs hard (e.g. with a VM installation) but it’s otherwise nearly silent (and discernibly quieter than the NUC).

Conclusion

I think the Brix will make an excellent trade show demo machine, and it would probably also be a decent home lab server for somebody playing with virtualisation. I wonder if we’ll see a an OpenStackBrix take on the EucaNUC?



One Response to “Review – Gigabyte Brix GB-XM14-1037”


  1. 1 Gizmo2 first impressions | Chris Swan's Weblog

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