Gigabyte BRIX Pro And Intel Iris Pro Graphics Review

Power, Thermals and Noise

This is where things get a little dicey for the Gigabyte BRIX Pro.  Since the system is so tiny, it's a challenge to keep Intel's Core i7-4770R, which is a multi-chip module with its CPU/GPU core and eDRAM cache, cool with a limited thermal solution area to manage heat dissipation.

In fact, under any sort of serious load, the barrel fan on board the Gigabyte BRIX Pro spins up to an annoyingly loud whine.  Simply put, the BRIX Pro's low profile and diminutive mechanical design is a polar opposite of its acoustical signature. Because it's so small, coupled with the CPU, GPU and Memory horsepower on board, its fan has to spin up very high to expel heat well enough for stable functionality.

And so, to scope thermal and power performance under pressure, we fired up Intel's own Extreme Tuning Utility to see what was going on with respect to clock speeds and temperatures.  Then we measured current draw, at idle and under load, with a power meter.

System Thermal Management and Acoustics
Subjective and Measured Performance

If we just ran Intel's CPU stress test in the Extreme Tuning Utility, you can see that core temps ramp up to 100ºC and the CPU actually doesn't throttle.  We should point out that we pulled down the latest BIOS for the BRIX Pro and it does help with fan speeds and max Turbo Boost settings such that throttling under heavy load is less of an issue now, versus when the system was first released.  However, if we load the CPU with Prime95, even after just a couple of minutes, the CPU throttles hard to over 45% of max clock speed and pulls back to a little under 3GHz.  The system remained stable while throttling but regardless, the Gigabyte BRIX Pro wasn't designed with a cooling solution capable of handling the full load of a Core i7-4770R at its top factory specified clock speed.

And herein lies the rub.  Looking quickly at our power consumption testing at idle and load, you can see that the Intel Core i7-4770R-power BRIX Pro just sips power when it's sitting idle; it manages to stay under 20 Watts.  However, load up the system as we did and it consumes over 85 Watts.  The Core i7-4770R has a Max TDP of 65 Watts according to Intel specifications.  We're well beyond that here and though, in many respects, the chip is more power-efficient than even AMD's latest midrange integrated APU, the 65 Watt max TDP cooling solution that was designed in for the BRIX Pro just doesn't cut it. For comparison, the other reference systems tested here have full desktop-sized cooling solutions employed.

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