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Kingston HyperX Cloud Core Review: Excellent headset for gamers and music aficionados on a budget


Kingston is a well-known computer memory brand manufacturer. Though they aren t purely into memory chips, they do support computer related products like headphones, gaming sponsorships1 and the like. Today we have Kingston s HyperX Cloud Core headset for review. We weren t particularly keen at first noting our lustreless experience with the previous Cloud Drone headset2. However, the Cloud Core headset is higher up in the ladder and looks a lot more interesting.

Build and Design: 8.5/10
The headset is really sturdy. The all metal frame is made of lightweight aluminium and can take a lot of beating.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Core Review: Excellent Headset For Gamers And Music Aficionados On A Budget

Kingston HyperX Cloud Core Review: Excellent Headset For Gamers And Music Aficionados On A Budget

The all metal frame

The lightweight design and memory foam on the headband as well as the leatherette ear cushions are very comfortable, certainly a lot more than the original Audio Technica M50. Funnily, the M50 weighs a little lesser but feels a lot heavier than this headset. It speaks volumes of the weight distribution and design.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Core Review: Excellent Headset For Gamers And Music Aficionados On A Budget

Kingston HyperX Cloud Core Review: Excellent Headset For Gamers And Music Aficionados On A Budget

The headband has a lovely feel to it

In the box, you get the headset with a shorter 1m cable that can be plugged directly into a laptop or used as a phone headset, a detachable mic, and a long 2m cable extension for desktops with separate mic and headphones capability. It is a thoughtful package that covers the essentials well. All cables are sturdy braided ones that don t entangle at all and can stand a lot of pulling and tugging.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Core Review: Excellent Headset For Gamers And Music Aficionados On A Budget

Kingston HyperX Cloud Core Review: Excellent Headset For Gamers And Music Aficionados On A Budget

All the accessories one needs to game

Performance: 8.5/10
The performance was tested on a Windows 10 desktop with onboard audio for the mic, for music with FiiO Q1 DAC + Amp and with/without DFX Audio enhancer. For gaming, Steam was used with multiplayer and co-op games.

From the gaming standpoint
The HyperX Cloud Core headset has very good sound. It does have a good wide soundstage to pick out those footsteps easier, though not as good as an open-ended headphone. The gun shots, the booms, and the voices all sounded really good and clean.

From the Music Standpoint
The headset is on the warmer side and sounds wonderful. It is well-balanced without skewing towards bass for cheap thrills. Objectively, the HyperX Cloud Core has enough bass but not too heavy and neither does it lean far too much towards mids (previous model HyperX Cloud Drone did). The highs aren t sibilant and mids don t feel too recessed. Soundstage is wide for a closed cup design.

Subjectively, I was impressed by the sound for the price and that too in a headset. Many headsets love to boost the bass to sound boomy and gimmicky but not the HyperX Cloud Core. I liked the sound and the lightness more than my very own old trusty Audio Technica M50 (which are studio monitoring class). Quite the shocker for me. Also, the M50 s do tend to lean a little more towards bass but not this headset. The M50 does have a narrow soundstage causing the music to come all from one spatial space whereas the Cloud Core has a much better soundstage.

Voice quality: 7.5/10
I loved the fact that the mic is detachable and can be easily manoeuvred towards your mouth, below or away as you deem fit.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Core Review: Excellent Headset For Gamers And Music Aficionados On A Budget

Kingston HyperX Cloud Core Review: Excellent Headset For Gamers And Music Aficionados On A Budget

The 3.5mm detachable mic

The quality is good, the mic catches all sounds including background noise, though sound cards nowadays use noise suppression to minimise the effect. Overall, listening to other players over the headset and more importantly, other players had no issue with the quality of the voice output. Though none of the players mentioned as to whether there was a change in quality, just a little louder due to the better positioning of the headset. Don t expect the mic in this cost to be of excellent quality, it is typically average but gets the job done well. I m a bit concerned with the detachable 3.5mm connector for mic as well as extendable cable, as experience has shown over time, these tend to get loose and cause static pop issues. However, there is no way to verify this during testing but something to be aware of nonetheless.

Verdict and Price in India
This headset is a solid recommend. For a street price of Rs 3,600, you cannot get a better one at all. The entire Kingston s HyperX Cloud line other than the 40mm Drone headset has the same awesome sound quality though with varying prices due to differences such as 7.1 sound card in the Cloud II headset. Apparently, the sound performance should be of no surprise, the HyperX Cloud line is based on the famous QPAD gaming headsets3. The styling, the looks, and the sound are all the same! The interesting bit is that QPAD headsets aren t available in India at all, however, with Kingston merrily rebranding these we have no reason to complain and that too with a solid two-year warranty. This indeed is a good deal.

Tags: , , , , 45678

References

  1. ^ gaming sponsorships (www.hyperxgaming.com)
  2. ^ Cloud Drone headset (tech.firstpost.com)
  3. ^ QPAD gaming headsets (qpad.com)
  4. ^ (tech.firstpost.com)
  5. ^ (tech.firstpost.com)
  6. ^ (tech.firstpost.com)
  7. ^ (tech.firstpost.com)
  8. ^ (tech.firstpost.com)

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Origin Chronos VR Review


As we mentioned, our Chronos VR review unit was tricked out with one of Origin s custom paint designs… The finish is of exceptionally high quality, as you d expect for the £450 add-on price. Multiple designs are available, and Origin also does custom airbrushing, should you decide to take it to that level. The company furthermore offers standard metallic paint for an easier-to-swallow £250, in several different colors, and hydro dipping for £350. The no-charge option gets you an all-black, anti-glare exterior, like you can see in the Origin stock photo below. The case itself is also designed by Origin. In other words, if you like the looks of it, you ll have to pre-configure it through the company, as the chassis isn t available elsewhere.

The Chronos VR is a true SFF desktop, measuring just 11.8 inches tall, 13.8 inches deep, and 4 inches wide. “SFF” is a bit of a loosely defined term in the desktop world, as we noted earlier, so just realize that not all of them classified as such are this small, while others are smaller. For one, the iBuypower Revolt 26 we tested, also classified as an SFF, is considerably larger at 18x15x9 inches. The Chronos VR is also relatively light. As equipped in our test model, we measured it at just 13.2 pounds, which will be all the more impressive once we get to the Performance section of this review and see how the PC stacks up against much larger, heavier towers. (A standard mid-tower like the Acer Predator G67 can weigh 35 pounds or more.)

The Chronos VR s all-steel exterior has a number of unique features. For one thing, there s no such thing as right-side-up with this SFF. It can be used standing up on either end, or laid on either side. This orientation agnosticism is helped by four magnetic feet that you can detach and move to whichever side is touching your desk or floor. You can even rotate Origin s red, illuminated logo to match the desktop s orientation… Being able to set the PC on any of its four sides by design is also helpful from a VR perspective. Set it sideways like a DVD player, and you won’t have to worry about accidentally yanking on your VR-headset cables and tipping the system over.

The Chronos VR looks almost unassuming without custom paint, though the case window on the left side is a giveaway that this desktop isn t exactly a sleeper. The window is there to show off the graphics card… In our review unit, that amounted to the all-powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition8, by far the most beastly gaming-focused card available here in the middle of 2016. Our review unit also had red LED case illumination, which was a modest £20 extra. Origin applied it in a strip below the graphics card on the inside of the chassis, to give the graphics card a lava-like glow in low light… The case lighting is permanently one color (Origin also offers blue and green options), and it can t be turned off. We d like to see a software-driven approach with changeable colors, like Alienware offers via AlienFX in its recently rebooted Alienware Aurora (2016)9. We had no complaints about the quality of the lighting, though. It s nicely integrated and very visible in the dark. The lighting also showed through the various air holes in the chassis.

Ports are something that even small desktops seem to have in abundance these days. The front of the Chronos VR has two USB 3.0 ports, plus separate headphone and microphone jacks between them. The power button and a small reset button sit just above the ports. The rest of the ports are located at the rear. You’ll find two USB 2.0 ports at the top, four USB 3.0 ports below that, and two red USB 3.1 ports, all of them ordinary Type-A ports… There s even a PS/2 port for legacy devices. Below the Gigabit Ethernet port are the two wireless antenna connectors for Wi-Fi. The Asus motherboard supports 2×2 (MIMO) connectivity, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. That’s a lot of IT jargon that basically translates to Wi-Fi connectivity that should give you the best performance from cutting-edge routers and devices. Note: We didn’t connect the external antennae in the pictures, but you ll need to do so to get a reliable wireless signal.

The cluster of audio connections at the bottom of the motherboard comprises headphone, microphone, line-in, S/PDIF, and surround analog jacks. The motherboard has full-size HDMI and DisplayPort built in, but you’ll use the display connectors on the graphics card for gaming. Speaking of which, the EVGA-branded Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 in our review unit included three full-size DisplayPorts, a full-size HDMI port, and an old-school DVI… About the only thing missing here are any small, reversible USB Type-C ports, which are becoming increasingly common on today’s slim laptops, convertibles, and mobile devices. But if you plan on plugging any of those devices into the Chronos VR, that’s usually done via the traditional USB Type-A plug, anyway. And this system has 10 of those in total, including two of the 3.1 variety, which can provide extra power for charging laptops and the like.


Six Phillips-head screws held the windowed side of the Chronos VR in place on our review unit, though Origin told us production systems now have thumb screws. Three screws run along the front of the side panel, two along its back, and the last one on the panel s underside. This seems a bit excessive (most case doors are held on by just two screws), but we doubt the average Chronos VR buyer will have a reason to pop off the side panel on a regular basis. Still, if your system is outfitted as ours was, be careful when taking the side off, as the 120mm fan and radiator for the Origin’s Frostbyte 12010 sealed liquid CPU cooler is attached to the case door…

You can detach it by undoing the four screws on the outside of the panel. But as you can see below, you can get full access to the interior components without doing this… Just be very careful not to stretch or put pressure on the coolant tubes. We were pleasantly surprised to see that Origin s custom paint was applied throughout the interior, too. The deep red with metallic flakes looked stunning in person, and gave the Chronos a true custom look. Even the power-supply housing was painted red, along with the 2.5-inch storage drive cage under the graphics card. Attention to details matters at this price point.

The top right corner of our review sample housed the Corsair 450-watt modular power supply, which is a compact SFX unit… If you’re worried about wattage, a 600-watt power supply of the same model is offered in this chassis, for £30 extra. But impressively, the 450-watt model was enough to power the high-end components here, even when overclocked. Our review unit also had a 6x slim Blu-ray burner directly above it, but Origin told us this has been replaced in production systems with a tray for a 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch storage drive. So if you still have the need for an optical drive, you’ll have to opt for an external model. That won’t be ideal for everyone, but it’s a setup we’ve been using at home for years. Pulling a USB 3.0 drive from a drawer a few times a year when we need to access something on a spinning disk is a pretty minor inconvenience, especially if it lets you add another spacious drive for internal storage. The Mini-ITX motherboard is situated at the upper rear of the Chronos case, with the CPU waterblock taking up much of the surface area…

The Asus Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard comes standard in the Chronos VR, as our review unit was so equipped. Origin also offered a pricier Asrock Fatal1ty Z170 board as of this writing for £29 extra, which primarily nets you more speedy USB ports and a single reversible USB Type-C connector. The Chronos VR is also offered with Intel X99-based motherboards, if you want to join the six-or-more-cores club with Intel s “Broadwell-E” processors like the Intel Core i7-6900K11. Ourselves, we’d strongly suggest sticking to Z170 boards and chips like those found in our review configuration if you’re mostly interested in gaming. The benefits of Broadwell-E mostly come into play only when editing massive video files, doing similarly heavily threaded time-consuming tasks, and building systems with multiple graphics cards and PCI Express-based storage drives. The Chronos VR’s case caps the video-card count resolutely at one. The Mini-ITX board in our review configuration of the Chronos VR is by nature compact, as it needs to be in an SFF desktop. Consequently, it has limited expandability. The Asus model here had only two memory DIMM slots, as opposed to the usual four or even eight on a larger high-end motherboard. They were both occupied by 8GB Kingston HyperX DDR4-2666 modules. The board tops out at 32GB via two 16GB DIMMs. Furthermore, only one PCI Express x16 graphics card is supported. (It s not like another would fit inside the case, anyway.)

The internal wiring is relatively well-managed. Cables are tied off where they should be. A few extra cables are present, but they re tucked mostly out of sight. The power-supply cables are sleeved for a clean look… Origin offers only modular power supplies for this system, which helps keep the number of unnecessary cables to a minimum.

Storage is one of the Chronos VR’s strengths. It can take up to two traditional 3.5-inch drives, one of which sits under the graphics card, and the other above the power supply. The 3TB Seagate drive in our review unit was mounted under the graphics card, held to a bracket with four screws. The bracket itself was then connected to the case via another four screws. You ll have to remove the graphics card, and then all the mentioned screws to get the drive out. It s far from a tool-less arrangement, but it took us less than 10 minutes to practice a 3.5-inch drive swap. If you don’t want a desktop-size drive for maximum storage, up to four 2.5-inch, 7mm-height drives can fit in the bracket under the front of the graphics card where our hard drive was held. The bracket is almost impossible to see with the video card in place, but it’s under the “GTX” in the picture below… Some of the power supply s extra cables were nestled in there in our review sample, so adding drives after the fact might require a little wire rerouting. Two spare SATA cables were included, though you ll need to supply screws to secure the drives. And keep in mind the motherboard has only four SATA ports, some of which may be occupied depending on your configuration choices.

Our Chronos VR was equipped with an M.2-style SSD, specifically a 512GB Samsung SSD 950 Pro12, but we were stumped as to where it was located. Our fruitless visual searching finally led us to look up a diagram for the Asus Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard13, where we discovered that the M.2 slot is on the underside of the motherboard. You d more or less have to remove the motherboard to change it, making upgrades complicated. But at least there are easier-to-access options should you want to add some SATA-based storage. The graphics card is connected to its PCI Express x16 slot via a ribbon extender, so it can sit parallel with the motherboard… Removing it is a delicate operation. A riser-type bracket at the front holds it firmly in place. Remove the two screws securing the bracket, and then the two securing the graphics card s case connectors at the other end. (You ll need a short screwdriver to get at the latter two, as they re right up against the edge.) The Chronos can fit a standard double-wide graphics card, like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition in our review unit.

As is generally the case with SFF systems housing high-end hardware, it s a tight fit inside the Chronos VR, so upgrades aren t quite as quick as we d like. But it s hard to complain. For an SFF desktop as compact as this one, it offers an exceptional degree of expandability. Every bit of available space is used wisely.


The base Chronos desktop with an Intel Z170-based motherboard started at £1,385 when we wrote this in late July 2016. That gets you the basic case, the same 450-watt power supply and Asus Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard as in our review unit, an Intel Core i5-6500 quad-core processor with liquid cooling, a 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 95014 graphics card, 8GB of RAM, a 120GB SSD, and Windows 10 Home. The Chronos is relatively expensive for what s offered at that price point. If that s all your budget can handle, you can get more for your money opting for a mid-tower like the Alienware Aurora (2016), which we configured with a Core i7-6700 processor and GeForce GTX 970 graphics card for less, or Origin s own Neuron mid-tower15, with the excellent AMD Radeon RX 480 (8GB)16. You could also, of course, look into the DIY route. Either way, it d be a shame to buy the Chronos without decking it out a little, at the very least going for one of the faster graphics-card options. A not-insignificant £626 of our £3,250 review unit (that’s on top of the base price, which includes a GeForce GTX 950) went toward the single fastest video card available as of July 2016, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition. A slew of other AMD and Nvidia graphics cards were also offered, with prices in between. The Chronos VR config starts at £1,746, and it includes the Core i7-6700K17 and AMD Radeon RX 480. Overclocking for both the processor and graphics card is included in the VR config, too, as was the case with our review unit. If you re going for the base Chronos, Origin charges £75 for processor overclocking, and £50 for graphics-card overclocking. You could always do this yourself, if you’re experienced and willing to put in the not-insignificant time involved. The Asus motherboard s BIOS was left completely open for tweaking in our review unit. The Chronos base Core i5-6500 quad-core processor (that is, in the non-VR model) is more than capable of handling today s games, but it doesn’t offer Hyper-Threading technology for splitting those cores into eight threads for enhanced processing oomph. And if you plan to overclock, you ll want to opt for one of the K -series unlocked processors, like the Core i5-6600K18 or, better yet, the top-dog Core i7-6700K in our review unit. Ours was overclocked to 4.6GHz from the 4GHz base clock. That s a higher overclock than we ve seen from mainstream brands like Alienware, whose 2016 Aurora we tested with the same CPU had it overclocked to “only” 4.2GHz.

For even more CPU performance, you can, as we noted before, get the Chronos VR with an Intel X99 chipset motherboard, and Broadwell-E processors up to the 10-core/20-thread Core i7-6950X. That s as extreme as you can currently get in a consumer system, but it also adds £1,462 to the asking price for the chip alone per Origin’s configurator. And gamers won’t really benefit unless, perhaps, you’re the kind of “mega-tasker” that Intel talks about in its promo materials for that chip: those who like to game while, say, rendering video in the background, capturing live game play to a drive, and live-streaming to Twitch or YouTube. And for all that, you’d be better off (or at least your wallet would be) by offloading some of those tasks onto a second modest PC. The GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card in our review unit was also overclocked. We observed its core boost up to 2,088MHz while gaming, whereas the standard card goes only to 1,734MHz. The card’s GDDR5X memory was also overclocked a bit, from 1,251MHz base to 1,321MHz. For memory, the 16GB of DDR4 RAM that our unit arrived with was plenty for gaming. It was two 8GB DIMMs of Kingston HyperX, running at 2,666MHz. That s fast, but Origin also offered 2,800MHz and 3,000MHz options up to 32GB (using two 16GB DIMMs). 16GB is plenty for modern gaming, as of mid-2016, and should be for the foreseeable future.

As we illustrated in the previous section, the Chronos VR offers impressively expandable storage for a desktop of this size. You can get up to two 3.5-inch drives, or four 2.5-inch drives, plus a single M.2 Type-2280 (80mm-long) SSD. Our review unit had a 3TB 3.5-inch drive, plus a 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2 SSD. As we pointed out before, the M.2 drive is located on the motherboard s underside, at least on the Asus Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard in our review unit, therefore making future boot-drive upgrades complicated. (The motherboard must come out to access it.)

Outside of EVGA s PrecisionX graphics-card tweaking software, our Chronos VR arrived with a clean install of Windows 10 Home. Top-grade gaming PCs generally don t have bloatware or trials installed, even from major brands, but it s always a relief to behold a clean OS.


There are three primary fans in the Chronos, plus the one in the graphics card. The Frostbyte CPU cooler s 120mm fan is attached to, and exhausts air out of, the left side panel. The second exhaust is the single fan in the video card, pushing air out the rear. For intake, the Corsair power supply has a 92mm fan, which pulls air in through the right side panel into the chassis. The other active intake is the front-mounted 80mm fan, an Enermax model. This fan primarily blows air through the 2.5-inch drive cage, at the bottom of the chassis front. The Chronos VR isn t silent, though it falls somewhere south of noisy, which is impressive given the case’s small size and powerful, overclocked components. The fans collectively create a muted hum that is audible across a typical living room. But we didn’t note much shifting pitch to the sound, so it s unlikely to bother most people. The hum was relatively consistent, as well, even when we were running our benchmark tests. The GeForce GTX 1080 s fan was the only one we observed audibly increase in RPM. But since the video card sits directly next to the Chronos VR’s side window, it somewhat blocks the sound of the card’s fan from carrying very far. The GTX 1080 ran at normal operating temperatures in our Chronos VR. We used GPU-Z to observe it topping out at 89 degrees C after an extended gaming session. This is a typical peak operating temperature for the Founders Edition card.


ComputerShopper may earn affiliate commissions from shopping links included on this page. To find out more, read our complete Terms of Service19.

References

  1. ^ Alienware Alpha R2 (www.computershopper.com)
  2. ^ Intel Core i7-6700K (www.computershopper.com)
  3. ^ Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition (www.computershopper.com)
  4. ^ Samsung SSD 950 Pro (www.computershopper.com)
  5. ^ Intel Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition (www.computershopper.com)
  6. ^ iBuypower Revolt 2 (www.computershopper.com)
  7. ^ Acer Predator G6 (www.computershopper.com)
  8. ^ Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition (www.computershopper.com)
  9. ^ Alienware Aurora (2016) (www.computershopper.com)
  10. ^ Frostbyte 120 (www.originpc.com)
  11. ^ Intel Core i7-6900K (www.computershopper.com)
  12. ^ Samsung SSD 950 Pro (www.computershopper.com)
  13. ^ Asus Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard (www.asus.com)
  14. ^ 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 950 (www.computershopper.com)
  15. ^ Neuron mid-tower (www.originpc.com)
  16. ^ AMD Radeon RX 480 (8GB) (www.computershopper.com)
  17. ^ Core i7-6700K (www.computershopper.com)
  18. ^ Core i5-6600K (www.computershopper.com)
  19. ^ Terms of Service (www.ziffdavis.com)

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review


Gigabyte, one of Taiwan’s top IT companies, is best known for its motherboards and graphics cards. Much like Asus1, it has tried to diversify beyond PC components into ready-built products such as laptops and even accessories. However, at least in India, Gigabyte2 hasn’t had nearly as much success breaking out of its mould. The company’s relatively low-key approach means that few people even know that it sells a line of mini PCs.

We have one of those products, the Brix S BXi3H-5010, in for review today. Building on Intel’s NUC concept3, it’s just about palm-sized but has a surprising amount of flexibility and power. If you don’t want or need a full-sized PC tower but still need more than a laptop can deliver, a mini PC like this might just be perfect for you4.

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review

Look and feel
The Brix S is a neat little palm-sized black box with a glossy top. It’s subtle enough to not stand out, while still looking interesting. You could place one of these on your desk – it’s small enough to fit on the pedestal of some LCD monitors – or mount it in a variety of ways including hanging it off the back of a monitor or TV. It’s smaller and less obtrusive than many routers and desktop hard drives, and could easily be mistaken for an accessory.

However, it does require an external power brick which is around the same size as the ones which come with mainstream laptops. You’ll also have to deal with wires when you need external devices such as hard drives. At least you can use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth input devices without any dongles, making the Brix S suitable for spaces where cable clutter would be a problem, such as a living room.

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review

There’s a Gigabyte logo towards the back of the top, and a power button nearer to the front which glows blue when the device is switched on. The front panel has two USB 3.0 ports and a 3.5mm audio socket so you don’t have to reach around the back just to plug in a pair of earphones. There are two more USB 3.0 ports on the back, along with a Gigabit Ethernet port, a Mini-DisplayPort, an HDMI output, a DC power inlet, and a Kensington lock slot. That last touch is important, since a thief could just unplug one of these and slip it into a bag or jacket pocket. We would have liked at least an SD card slot, and maybe USB Type-C keeping future devices in mind, but the Brix S does have a lot of flexibility the way it is, especially the ability to drive two displays simultaneously. You get a VESA mounting bracket and two bags of screws in the box, so you won’t have trouble installing a hard drive and getting started. However, drivers are supplied on a CD which is pretty much useless – Gigabyte could easily have tossed in a small USB drive instead.

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review

Specifications
Gigabyte sells multiple versions of the Brix S in India, with the most important difference being the CPU, which is soldered down and cannot be upgraded. You add your own RAM and storage, so you aren’t limited on those fronts at the time of purchase or later on. As its name suggests, the BXi3H-5010 is based on an Intel Core i3-5010U CPU, which is essentially a 15W laptop processor based on the 5th generation 14nm Broadwell architecture. It’s soldered to the Brix’s tiny motherboard and requires a cooling fan. The CPU has two physical cores with Hyper Threading, and runs at 2.1GHz but does not support Intel’s Turbo Boost tech feature which pushes clock speeds up when possible.

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review

Intel’s HD 5500 GPU is integrated, and should do well for basic needs. You can run two displays, but resolution support isn’t the same across both outputs; only the mini-DisplayPort can handle 4K at 60Hz while the HDMI port tops out at 2560×1600 unless you don’t mind the refresh rate dropping. Barebones PCs don’t usually need to push such high-res displays, but it’s worth noting if you’re thinking of HTPC usage with a 4K TV. You have to add your own RAM and storage – the Brix S has two laptop-style SO-DIMM DDR3L slots which lie flat against the motherboard, and each can handle low-power modules of up to 8GB. On the storage front, you can take advantage of a low-profile mSATA slot on the motherboard as well as a 2.5-inch SATA bay on the lid. This is a surprisingly flexible arrangement, and so you can have a speedy SSD to boot from as well as a high-capacity hard drive for storing lots of files.

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review

A very thin SATA cable comes already attached to the motherboard with a non-standard connector, and the 2.5-inch bay is on the removable base. You’ll have to plug the drive in and stretch the wire from the motherboard to the base, and then carefully screw the two back together. We’re a bit concerned about the long-term integrity of this cable, because replacements won’t be easy to find. Gigabyte also lists a few models, simply named Brix, which dispense with the 2.5-inch drive bay. These might be appealing if you’re fine with mSATA storage only and want a smaller box that’s easier to tuck away. There’s also a PCIe-only M.2 slot which is pre-populated with the Brix’s Wi-Fi ac/Bluetooth 4.0 module. The antennas are internal, and we would have liked at least the option of external ones to boost reception.

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review

Setup and performance
It’s really easy to pop the base off the Brix S; all you need is a medium-sized Philips-head screwdriver. You’ll see the tiny four-inch-square motherboard mounted approximately two-thirds of the way inside – this arrangement leaves space on the other side for the CPU, cooling fan, and components which don’t need to be accessed. All the slots on the bottom are easy to deal with, and you could have your RAM and SSD in place within seconds.

We used a single 4GB Kingston DDR3L module (supplied by Gigabyte for the purpose of this review) and a slightly aged 160GB Intel X25-M SATA SSD to reflect entry-level hardware choices. This particular drive is 7mm thick but it fit comfortably even with its 9mm shim attached, which means that 2.5-inch hard drives will fit just fine. Installing an SSD is a bit difficult thanks to the tiny screws provided and relatively awkward mount placement, but this is usually a one-time job. The Brix S’s BIOS is a surprisingly old-school text-only affair, and hopefully you won’t have to deal with it much. Options include the ability to turn power on via a USB keyboard which is nice if you’re planning to mount the Brix S out of reach behind a monitor or desk. Hopefully, you have a monitor or TV with built-in speakers or at least a 3.5mm passthrough for sound coming in over DisplayPort or HDMI. If not, you’ll have to have an audio wire plugged into the front of the Brix S at all times.

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review

We installed Windows 10 off a USB drive and downloaded all the latest drivers from Gigabyte’s website. The Brix S booted within seconds and had no trouble running day-to-day tasks. We were pleased to note that its fan was never loud enough to be noticeable. We felt a persistent sluggishness at first when launching apps and opening files, but soon discovered that this was down to our HDMI-connected 4K Asus PB279 monitor defaulting to a 29Hz refresh rate even at 1920×1080. Not many people would dig through four levels of Windows dialog boxes to identify this problem, but it is a big deal. When we manually raised the refresh rate to the standard 60Hz, the difference was like night and day, and responsiveness improved dramatically.

4K video plays smoothly with CPU usage barely ever exceeding 15 percent, but you won’t be getting the full experience since you can’t do 4K at 60fps over HDMI . This tells us that the Core i3 version of the Brix S mini PC isn’t suitable for HTPC use with 4K TVs. If you have a more modest full-HD screen and don’t mind 4K videos being downscaled, you should be fine.

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review

We ran a number of benchmark tests, although keep in mind that performance will vary greatly depending on what kind of RAM and storage each Brix S is outfitted with. PCMark 8 gave us 2,326, 2,295 and 2,954 points in the Home, Work and Creative tests respectively. POV-Ray ran its benchmark in 9 minutes, 43 seconds, and CineBench R15 cave us 209cb points in its CPU test. These numbers are on par with what we’ve seen from current-day thin-and-light laptops such as the Asus ZenBook UX303UB5. We had no problems handling multiple heavy Web pages, Office documents, and media files in common formats. Graphics scores were on the low side – 3DMark warned us that there might not be enough graphics memory to run the base Fire Strike test, but it did ultimately finish with a score of just 500. Unigine Valley was choppy at the Medium quality setting at 1080p, and we recorded an average of 7.8fps. We tried running the extremely light Tomb Raider (2013) but were disappointed with the averages of 11.5fps at 1920×1080 and 21.3fps at 1366×768, even with the quality turned down to Normal. If you want to play 3D games, you’re going to need to step up to the higher configurations.

Gigabyte Brix S BXi3H-5010 Review

Verdict
We’re very pleased with the Brix S overall, based on its price and its capabilities. This is no high-end compact gaming desktop or HTPC, but it is a solid machine for productivity. You could outfit a school’s computer lab, provide desktops for office workers, or even come up with creative mods and projects using it. Home users can surf the Web, enjoy HD movies and music, and get all their work done without needing a hulking desktop tower.

The Brix S is more upgradeable than a similarly configured laptop, and you have the pleasure of using a large monitor and a regular desktop keyboard and mouse. It’s also incredibly portable. You’ll have to factor in at least another Rs. 5,000 for a reasonable amount of RAM and storage, plus the cost of a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and OS license if you don’t already have them. You could also pay more for the models with a Core i5 or Core i7 processor. If you like what Gigabyte has to offer with the Brix S, keep in mind that Asus, Zotac and Intel itself have similar products on offer, so shop around and choose the one that’s right for you.

Price: Rs. 22,500 (Core i3)
Pros

  • Small and unobtrusive
  • Looks good
  • Flexible RAM, storage and connectivity
  • Easily upgradable

Cons

  • Slightly convoluted setup process

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 4.5
  • Performance: 3.5
  • Value for Money: 4
  • Overall: 4

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References

  1. ^ Asus (gadgets.ndtv.com)
  2. ^ Gigabyte (gadgets.ndtv.com)
  3. ^ NUC concept (gadgets.ndtv.com)
  4. ^ a mini PC like this might just be perfect for you (gadgets.ndtv.com)
  5. ^ Asus ZenBook UX303UB (gadgets.ndtv.com)
  6. ^ Android (play.google.com)
  7. ^ iOS (itunes.apple.com)

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