We bring you good news from the Intel booth at CES – except instead of pure Intel content, it’s actually an update from Gigabyte in relation to Steam machines. Exhibited at Intel’s booth at CES 2014, Gigabyte’s new Steam machine is the next step in the evolution of what Intel references as the NUC (Next Unit of Computing) – which we first broke news on at PAX East 2012. Intel Product Marketing Engineer Mark Chang explained the relationship between Intel and its partners like this: Intel builds reference board designs like the NUC and then the manufacturers take the models and get creative. While this Gigabyte product, dubbed the “Brix Pro,” isn’t brand new, seeing it running SteamOS and DotA2 flawlessly was new to us.
The product has two versions, with the cheaper one starting at $500 – we were not given a number for the more expensive model. The less expensive iteration features an Intel Core i5-4570R, Iris graphics (5200), 128MB eDRAM (embedded DRAM on the Iris processor), an Intel wireless card, and connectivity for 2 SO-DIMMs and up to 4 drives. The drive configuration is pretty impressive considering the small space. There are 3xmSATA connectors and one standard SATA connector.
Note that system memory and storage are not included in the above listed price. On the bright side, that means you get to open it up and enjoy the hardware inside when you go to install those components. The outside offers users access to 4xUSB 3.0 ports, an RJ-45 Network Interface, an SPDIF optical audio port, an HDMI port, and a mini DisplayPort. The more expensive model is essentially the same unit with a more powerful Core i7 4770R.
Many of the components in Gigabyte’s SteamBox are simply the next logical step in the product cycle from the original NUC. Where Gigabyte differed was in the CPU choice and the cooling solution. Intel’s original reference design was about half the height of the Brix Pro and used low power CPUs. The CPUs used in this Steam Machine are essentially BGA versions of the desktop models; we were told both are 65W TDP. These more powerful CPUs require better cooling, and Gigabyte’s answer for that was to use the top 50% of the case for the thermal solution, which includes a fan.
If you’re considering putting a SteamBox in your living room but you don’t want a full-sized computer sitting next to your TV, Gigabtye’s offering may be exactly what you’re looking for. The demo model, which had an actual haptic Steam controller attached to it, was quiet and its size made it unobtrusive. Gigabyte’s Brix Pro performs best at 1080 for gaming, but thanks to the platform and mini DisplayPort, it can produce 4K output. Stay tuned for more SteamBox-related information as we’ll probably post more on components for a DIY build.
- Patrick "MoCalcium" Stone.