GIGABYTE is attacking the NUC sized form factor with seemingly every idea on the market.  This is a good thing in a market that loves innovation.  We have seen the original BRIX, BRIX 2 updated with newer processors, and Ganesh published part one of this BRIX Pro review earlier this week, part two coming shortly.  So while I am not at CES, I have been monitoring the airwaves for information and one of the units that stood out is the BRIX MAX, a Haswell based BRIX running Android aimed at being a NAS Server for the home.

Image courtesy of PC Perspective

The BRIX MAX is a large BRIX, with space adjustable for four 2.5” drives.  Colin from GIGABYTE stated that the BRIX can enable four 1TB drives, although 2.5” drives now come in 2TB versions, so I would be interested if it can fit the larger size drives.  Reports vary on what CPUs are going to be available inside, but GIGABYTE is saying they will come equipped with IRIS Pro graphics solutions.  Interestingly enough, the chipset is also a discussion here, as in order for GIGABYTE to fit four drives in they would have to be using either SATA ports on board or a backplane to fit the drives into, similar to what some chassis do.

From other images we can see an IR receiver on the front, gigabit Ethernet and HDMI on the back, as well as a variety of USB ports.    The fact that GIGABYTE are quoting Iris Pro graphics means that the system seems overly powerful for what it needs to do, which can suggest many things: users can install another OS and use the device as a normal PC, users can use the BRIX to transcode if needed, there is scope for HTPC duties and so on.  Along with Ethernet, the unit is quoted as supporting 802.11n, although I might imagine that could be bumped up to dual band 802.11ac by the time it hits the market.

GIGABYTE is using this initial demo model at CES to gauge the reaction of media and of readers alike, and are welcome to suggestions/opinions and requirements that any AnandTech readers have.  I know Ganesh mentioned something about making the drives hot-swappable would be good, which I can see the point of!  Personally I would make sure that it is able to fit the slightly taller 2TB 2.5” drives, and RAID 5 and 6 should be standard options in my opinion.  Perhaps an eSATA with port multiplication should be here as well.  GIGABYTE would love to hear your comments!

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  • lwatcdr - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    I would drop Android. I know it is the new hotness but for now the does not make sense for a NAS. Frankly this hardware is just an odd mix. It looks like a NAS crossed with HTPC. As a NAS I would think something like FreeNAS would be a good solution. As an HTPC Android makes some sense if you can get Amazon to release Amazon video for Android.
    To the best use of this would be to add a really good 802.11 ac NIC and some extra ethernet ports and make this into a combo wifi router, HTPC, NAS, and even a casual gaming system. You plug it into your cable modem, sent it up as a router, turn on the NAS and plug it into the TV and stereo. On box for those three jobs.
  • Aikouka - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    Honestly, I think it's interesting and maybe even a step in the right direction, but ultimately, I think it's not a good idea. To me, the biggest problem is that it uses 2.5" drives instead of 3.5". You mentioned that 2TB 2.5" drives are available, but in my recently searches, the biggest that I've found are 1.5TB. The problem that you run into is pricing. The 1.5TB drive is about $120, but I paid $150 for a 4TB drive. Why would I spend $30 less for nearly 1/3 the storage space?

    Another problem is that it uses HD 5200 (Iris Pro) graphics, which means it's probably going to be similar to the Brix Pro series. The Brix Pro series costs $500-650, which if it's priced similar, that would be rather ludicrous for such a limited, diskless NAS.

    However, if you want a very small DVR with a lot of integrated storage space, this might be your ticket.
  • hrrmph - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    The 2.5" 2TB drives are WD20NPVX and are $175 at Amazon.

    They are expensive - you are paying for miniaturization and niche product.

    I use them in quad-pack racks to get 8TB in a single 5.25" bay.

    By comparison, the external drive version of these is WDBMWV0020BBK-NESN and costs $115.

    I'm expecting a 3TB version of the 15.0mm height drives to become available in 2014.
  • Aikouka - Saturday, January 11, 2014 - link

    Ah, thanks for the correction. I must have missed that one! Out of curiosity, what are you using to attach power to all the drives? In my experience putting two 2.5" SSDs close to each other was just a pain to plug in the connectors. One solution that I considered was buying a SATA power extension that goes 1-to-4 and repositioning the middle 90-degree, pass-through plugs to be closer together.
  • DanNeely - Monday, January 13, 2014 - link

    Looking at enclosures on newegg, it appears they all have an intermediate backplane so you slide the drives into the 4 in 1 enclosure and then connect power/data to the back of the fixed mounting unit instead of directly to the drives. As a bonus, this means you only need to connect 1 or 2 power cables instead of 4.
  • Zandros - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    It is a very interesting space. Mr Cutress, do you think you or Ganesh would be able to dig up some more info on BRIX Fanless (Bay Trail-M)?
  • beatmech - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    definitely interested.
    how the android apps goes along to cover NAS or HTPC functions will be very interesting topic for a follow up article.
  • creed3020 - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    Wow, nice a concept Gigabyte! Please bring this to market.

    The recently released WD Red NAS 2.5" drives would be a great fit or even the the 2TB 2.5" Green drives. I could load this up with 4 drives and have a nice 3 or 6TB RAID5 array just humming along. The decrease in form factors is just awesome and as a current Synology NAS owner I do like seeing smaller footprint NAS products.

    I also question the need to go Android. If this is truly a NAS then it's better mirror what others are doing in the market and go with something Linux based. I trust DSM installed on my NAS without any doubts, it is rock solid and I measure uptime in months or years.

    I am also an avid HTPC user and builder. All of my builds run XBMC and with my previous comments this would be easier to execute on Linux than Andriod. The HDMI port is a dead giveaway as this concept could easily converge two items into one which we are already seeing from Synology, Netgear, etc. As they try to combine Evansport into new NAS products which can double up as an HTPC.

    As another reader already mentioned make this physical case stackable and we can put multiple units on top of each other. Or as already mentioned make a 4/5 bay eSATA enclosure for native expansion of the volumes or for additional volumes. Another stackable accessory could be a small UPS with an LCD to provide reliability. On the pricier end of things we should not lose sight of NAND and the increasing density of NGFF drives. There could be an option for one or more SSDs to increase performance.

    I am really enjoying seeing the SFF market evolve and these products are going the right direction!
  • Conficio - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    First, this is the right direction! Second, why Intel & Android for a NAS?
    I'd be interested in a really low power NAS or a medium power NAS + Media computer with on the fly transcoding for different devices, but then why Android?
  • bryanb - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    I think using android is an excellent alternative. Most home NAS units rely on a webserver interface to control the file server setup. Many of these interfaces, like the Synology DSM, have evolved into a full desktop GUI. So, if the end result you are shooting for is a desktop, why not just use the already-created android desktop? Android also gives you the bonus of hundreds of already existing apps to play video, manage your audio collection, etc.

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