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Gigabyte Brix S (2016, Core i5 Skylake)

The Brix line is available in a startling array of models and configurations. The Brix S model we are examining here is one of the midrange units within the overall line. The vanilla Brix (non-“S”) models are lower in profile, while this unit is a tad thicker to accommodate the 2.5-inch drive. Gigabyte also offers a Brix Pro4 series with higher-horsepower CPUs, and a Brix Gaming5 line, with modest dedicated AMD or Nvidia mobile graphics chips. The company also still offers its quirky Brix Projector6, which we reviewed a while back, a light-hitting Core i3 model with a built-in short-throw pico projector. In other words, you have scads of options if you re looking for a PC like this, never mind the models in Intel’s NUC and Zotac’s Zbox lines, among others. The various Brix-es support, in different models, USB 3.1/Thunderbolt, discrete GPUs, more (or less) powerful CPUs, 4K playback, and more. Most of these models, though, are in bare-bones kit form and require you to supply your own SSD, RAM, and OS. At this writing, the pre-built models come in only three Brix S configurations, outlined on this page on Gigabyte’s site7, along with a non-S “plain” Brix model based on a Pentium chip. The Core i5-6200U chip in the model we tested is mounted on the underbelly of a small motherboard that has components on both sides. When you first pry open the unit and remove the bottom cover (assuming you go with the same pre-built version we’re looking at here), you ll see the cable tethering the hard drive to the mainboard. You’ll want to detach that, with care, before digging further.

Gigabyte Brix S (2016, Core I5 Skylake)

This side of the motherboard houses most of the crucial components, including the wireless card (which is implemented via an M.2 interface), and the stick of RAM in one of the two SO-DIMM slots. The 802.11ac card is a dual-band adapter. Another M.2 slot, meant for M.2 SSDs, sits above the wireless card, so that any M.2 SSD you install will bridge over the Wi-Fi card. (You can see the M.2-drive mounting-screw posts nearby; it will take modules up to 80mm in length.) This M.2 slot supports PCI Express x4 drives, including models that use the NVMe protocol. As a result, it can accept the fastest M.2 drives currently available, among them the Samsung SSD 950 Pro8. (See our guide to the best M.2 SSDs9 for more info on understanding and shopping these drives.)

Gigabyte Brix S (2016, Core I5 Skylake)

The flip side of the motherboard is home to just the CPU and its cooling apparatus, and neither is upgradable. Not that you’d need to access this side of the motherboard, but to get to it, you have to unscrew the board from the chassis.

Gigabyte Brix S (2016, Core I5 Skylake)

The bottom of the chassis home to the 2.5-inch drive bay was in our test unit occupied by a Western Digital 1TB Blue drive, which spins at 5,400rpm. It offers capacious storage in exchange for poky, hard-drive-grade performance, but at least it was quiet in the course of our tests. Basically, the only main component in the Brix S that you can t upgrade down the line is the CPU. But so long as you keep your performance expectations in check, the Brix S should have some longevity, due to how easy it is to upgrade the rest of it. There s no way to add USB 3.1/Type-C ports, or any other type of connectivity, but Gigabyte sells other (bare-bones) models that include those types of ports, if that is important to you. The only downside to these upgrade options, of course, is that this system, which may seem inexpensive in its bare-bones or basic pre-built versions, suddenly becomes something that you ve dumped £1,000 or more into if you go the a la carte route. But in that regard, it s no different from any other PC: Performance parts cost money, and you have to upgrade a PC if you want it to keep running the latest software over time.

It should be noted, too, that only four screws hold the chassis together, and they are quite easy to remove. From there, it s just one more screw holding the motherboard in place, though there s little reason to remove the board from the chassis in the way we did for photos, apart from perhaps cleaning the CPU cooler. But the point is that upgrades are a cinch. Overall, the Brix S is easy to crack open, and well laid-out internally. You might expect a compacted mass of wires inside, but as you can see, the interior is quite clean, and it’s easy to figure out which parts go where.


ComputerShopper may earn affiliate commissions from shopping links included on this page. To find out more, read our complete Terms of Service10.

References

  1. ^ Next Unit of Computing (NUC) line (www.computershopper.com)
  2. ^ Brix Pro GB-BXi7-4770R (www.computershopper.com)
  3. ^ “Skull Canyon” NUC6i7KYK (www.computershopper.com)
  4. ^ Brix Pro (www.gigabyte.us)
  5. ^ Brix Gaming (www.gigabyte.us)
  6. ^ Brix Projector (www.computershopper.com)
  7. ^ outlined on this page on Gigabyte’s site (www.gigabyte.us)
  8. ^ Samsung SSD 950 Pro (www.computershopper.com)
  9. ^ our guide to the best M.2 SSDs (www.computershopper.com)
  10. ^ Terms of Service (www.ziffdavis.com)

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Asus Q524UQ Review – Laptop Mag

Don’t be fooled by the Asus Q524UQ’s good looks. Behind the £1,100 2-in-1’s dark-chocolate frame and pretty copper hinges are a giant bezel surrounding the 15-inch display; a slow, old-school HDD; and a mushy keyboard set too far back into the case. Those who want a ton of storage out of the box might like the 2TB hard drive (despite its lack of speed), and proponents of the new USB Type-C will enjoy Thunderbolt 3 compatibility, but there are far better convertibles in this price range. article continued below

Design

Man, oh man is the Q524UQ pretty. It’s made of a dark-chocolate-colored, brushed aluminum with copper accents that would should make most other laptops green with envy. The lid features the Asus logo and offers a peek at the top of the rounded copper hinges.

Asus Q524UQ Review - Laptop Mag
Opening the laptop reveals a 15.6-inch display surrounded by a thick, chunky bezel; a fully island-style keyboard with a number pad; and a black, aluminum deck.At 5 pounds and 15 x 10 x 0.9 inches, the Q524UQ is sized comparably to other 15-inch 2-in-1s. The Samsung Notebook 7 Spin1 (5 pounds, 14 x 10.1 x 0.8 inches) isn’t as wide but is just as heavy. The Dell Inspiron 15 70002 (4.6 pounds, 14.9 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches) is just a tad lighter, and the 15-inch variant of the HP Spectre x3603 (4.2 pounds, 14.8 x 9.8 x 0.6 inches) is the lightest of the bunch.

Asus Q524UQ Review - Laptop Mag
Just like other bend-back 2-in-1s, the Q524UQ’s 360-degree hinges lets the machine switch among four modes. You can use it just like your regular laptop, fold the lid all the way around to make a tablet, and use the device in tent (an upside-down “V”) or in display mode (with the keyboard face down and the display pointed toward you).

MORE: Best 2-in-1s (Laptop/Tablet Hybrids)4

The model we reviewed had a design flaw: The right side of the palm rest in laptop mode wasn’t flush with the rest of the laptop, causing the computer to wobble a bit when I pressed down on it. This happened on the majority of desks and tables I tested the computer on, but not all of them. When I rested my hands on the deck for typing, the weight of my right wrist kept the system from wobbling.

Ports

A strong selection of ports lines the sides of the Q524UQ. On the left side of the laptop are the lock slot, a proprietary port for a subwoofer that comes in the box, an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack.

Asus Q524UQ Review - Laptop Mag
On the right are a Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output and the power jack.

Display

The 15.6-inch, 1080p touch screen on the Q524UQ is sharp, but it’s dim and its bezel is huge and reflective. When I watched a 1080p trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, rebel jumpsuits were appropriately orange and I could see every speck of dirt on them. But in darker scenes, I spent far too much time looking at my own image because of how reflective the glass is. It’s no worse than most other convertibles, but the giant, reflective bezel exacerbates the issue.

Asus Q524UQ Review - Laptop Mag
The Q524UQ’s display covers an excellent 108.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut, surpassing the mainstream notebook average of 91 percent. The Spectre x360 was even more vivid, at 119 percent, while the Notebook 7 Spin5 and Inspiron 15 had less impressive hues, at 72 percent and 62 percent, respectively. The panel is precise, with a Delta-E score of 0.7 (zero is best). The category average is far higher, at 2.3, and the Spectre x360 was worse, with a score of 4.1. The Inspiron 15 (0.9) and Notebook 7 Spin (1.8) also fared worse than the Q524UQ.

All those colors would be great to look at if the screen were brighter. The Q524UQ measured an average of 258 nits on our light meter, which falls under the 15-inch laptop average of 264 nits. However, none of the competition beat the average: The Inspiron 15 (244 nits); Spectre x360 (246 nits) and Notebook 7 Spin (260 nits) were all on the dimmer side.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keys have 1.44 millimeters of vertical travel (just shy of the 1.5mm we prefer) and require 70g of force to press down. They felt a little mushy while I typed, but there was little flex in the chassis. I was able to hit 108 words per minute (which is within my average range of 100-110 wpm), with my standard 2 percent error rate, but it wasn’t a comfortable experience.

Asus Q524UQ Review - Laptop Mag
The keyboard is set 4.6-inches back from the notebook’s edge, which required me to reach farther than I’m used to when I typed. The touchpad is a luxurious 2.8 x 4.1 inches and was extremely accurate when it came to navigation. Gestures in Windows 10 like scrolling, pinching to zoom and hiding apps with a swipe to show the desktop all worked without issue. The touch screen was quick to respond when I used it in tablet, tent and display modes.

Audio

The Q524UQ produces loud, clear sound, but this audio is sorely lacking in the bass department. When I listened to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” the vocals and guitar were clear and the drums were crisp, but I couldn’t hear the song’s erratic bass line at all. The built-in speakers were loud enough to fill our small conference room with the song. When I listened to the song again with the included external subwoofer, the audience was far more balanced (including a bass with plenty of power) and was louder than any laptop speaker could be on its own.Bang & Olufsen’s ICEpower app comes preinstalled on the computer and includes a list of different speaker presets. I found that the best option is to leave it on the default Music Mode.

Performance

The Q524UQ comes with 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6200U CPU, 12GB of RAM, a 2TB and 5,400-rpm HDD, and an Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU with 2GB of VRAM. The result is a fine multitasking machine, albeit a slower one than competitors. I had 30 tabs open in Chrome (including one streaming a 1080p episode of Last Week Tonight from YouTube) and experienced no lag at all. Asus’ 2-in-1 earned a score of 6,943 on the Geekbench 3 overall performance test, falling under the mainstream average of 7,923. The Notebook 7 Spin (Core i7-6200U; 7,132) had a better score than the Q524UQ but was still below average, while the Inspiron 15 (Core i5-6200U; 6,499) and Spectre x360 (Core i5-6200U; 6,376) performed worse.

Unfortunately, the traditional HDD in the Q524UQ crawls. The laptop took 1 minute and 42 seconds to transfer 4.97GB of mixed-media files, a rate of 49.9 megabytes per second. The mainstream average, which includes a number of laptops with SSDs, is 135.5 MBps. The Notebook 7, with both a 1TB, 5,400-rpm HDD and 128GB SSD was also on the slower side, at 77.4 MBps. The Inspiron’s SSD was also slower than average, at 122.6 MBps, while the Spectre x360 beat the average and the competition, with a speed of 149.7 MBps. The Q524UQ completed our OpenOffice spreadsheet macro, which involves matching 20,000 names and addresses, in 4 minutes and 3 seconds (the exact same time as the Notebook 7 Spin). The mainstream notebook average is 4:42, and the Spectre x360 fell just behind, with a time of 4:31. The Inspiron 15 was even slower, at 4:47. The Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU isn’t powerful enough for intense gaming like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or Doom. Q524UQ users are more likely to see performance bumps while working with Photoshop rather than trying to play Metro: Last Light. The Q524UQ notched a score of 96,640, surpassing the average of 78,223. The Notebook 7 Spin also beat the average, with a score of 88,956, while the Spectre x360 (64,632) and Inspiron 15 (64,067) fell behind.

Battery Life

The Q524UQ may be physically flexible, but its location has to be fairly stationary (and near a charger).

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life6

It lasted 5 hours and 53 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuously browsing the web over Wi-Fi, That’s shorter than the mainstream average of 6:34 and the exact same time as the Notebook 7 Spin. The Inspiron 15 survived for 6:55 and the Spectre x360 endured for 8:27.

Webcam

The 720p webcam on the Q524UQ is fine for some Skype calls, but it’s not accurate. When I snapped a selfie with the camera, my mint-green shirt appeared teal blue, and some of the detail in my face, like my dimple, just barely showed up.The camera is compatible with Windows Hello, so you can log in using your face. In my tests, this worked perfectly in both bright and low-light situations.

Heat

The Q524UQ will stay nice and cool no matter which mode you use it in. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from Hulu, the Q524UQ reached 91 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom, 89 degrees between the G and H keys, and 82.5 degrees on the touchpad.

Software and Warranty

The Q524UQ comes with a ton of software preinstalled, most of it bloatware. The junk includes TripAdvisor, Music Maker Jam, Flipboard, Candy Crush, Twitter, Netflix, Evernote and Foxit PhantomPDF. Asus’ own software includes Installation Wizard for installing Asus’ own tools and drivers, Live Update to check for the latest improvements and bug fixes, Splendid Utility to adjust the display’s color temperature, and WinFlash to update the BIOS. Asus’ Giftbox includes a number of sales on software and subscriptions, like 20 percent off the Adobe Creative Crows and 50 percent off of a one-year subscription to The New York Times. Dropbox is preinstalled on the computer and comes with 25GB of free space for six months. Asus sells the Q524UQ with a 1-year warranty.

Configuration

There is only one configuration of the Asus Q524UQ, and it is exclusive to Best Buy. The £1,100 model comes with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6200U CPU, 12GB of RAM, a 2TB and 5,400-rpm HDD, and Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics with 2GB of VRAM.

Bottom Line

When I first saw the Asus Q524UQ and its gorgeous design, I immediately thought I was going to love this computer. But looks can be deceiving, and I was wrong. Its thick, reflective bezel; oddly placed, mushy keyboard; and slow HDD make for a 2-in-1 that’s better to gawk at than actually use.

For £1,150, you should buy the 15-inch HP Spectre x3607 for its 8-and-a-half-hour battery life, powerful speakers and attractive (but more conventional) design.

References

  1. ^ Samsung Notebook 7 Spin (www.laptopmag.com)
  2. ^ Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (www.laptopmag.com)
  3. ^ HP Spectre x360 (www.laptopmag.com)
  4. ^ Best 2-in-1s (Laptop/Tablet Hybrids) (www.laptopmag.com)
  5. ^ Notebook 7 Spin (www.laptopmag.com)
  6. ^ Laptops with the Longest Battery Life (www.laptopmag.com)
  7. ^ HP Spectre x360 (www.laptopmag.com)

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