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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  • hpascoa - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    They lost me at "Android". Otherwise it looks like an interesting concept. I wonder how difficult it would be to bypass Android and install another OS.
  • Ktracho - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    I'd be tempted to use it as a NAS/my personal desktop at home. I'd consider running Windows in a VM for email, web browsing, and other light duties, which is the bulk of what I do at home, and run the NAS part under Linux, or even Windows if I were using HyperV. In any case, this would allow me to reboot Windows whenever I install software updates, without having to worry about messing up the NAS side. I currently have two separate computers for this purpose, so this would save a lot of physical space (and energy), and I have to confess I don't use my desktop PC all that much, though it's still critical enough to have it around.

    As far as HTPC, I'd prefer something that can also do gaming so I don't need both a console and a HTPC. For this purpose, I'd look for something that can run, say, some OS with integrated grapihcs for the HTPC side, and Windows in a VM with a dedicated graphics card for the gaming side. (I'm actually thinking of converting my daughter's mini-ITX box for this purpose when she goes to college.)
  • GiggityGoo - Friday, January 10, 2014 - link

    This is almost great, almost. I've been looking for a system like this, but it's not quite there.

    Frankly, I don't understand why more OEMs don't make a HTPC/NAS hybrid. Both really need to be on 24x7 to be most useful - why buy and power 2 systems?

    However, Android??? It really needs to be available with Windows 8. Win 8 has good drive pooling/redundancy options built in, and can have media servers like WMC and Plex installed. (And a system like this could actually do transcoding without choking) Not to mention the multitude of Windows apps out there that would be useful in this kind of setup, like CrashPlan, home automation software, OwnCloud (or similar), etc.

    Second, but less important, why 2.5" drives? Make it 3.5" - it's not that much bigger and anyone using 4 drives would appreciate the extra storage.
  • fteoath64 - Monday, January 13, 2014 - link

    Here is where Intel can also innovate in teh cpu department by making a Haswell chip with a dual BayTrial cores in them!. So one can have 6 cores running fairly independly serving NAS (BT cores) and quad Haswell doing gaming. When the gaming is over, the Haswell cores shutdown and the NAS runs on just BT cores thus drawing the least power possible yet still functional for other devices on the network.
    I would like to see the Haswell cores serving games to tablets in the network so it would enable compelling play even on low-end tablets.
  • fteoath64 - Monday, January 13, 2014 - link

    On second thought, Gigabyte might as well mimic the Apple design form by making round cylinder with a FLAT front face, the back might be rounded with ports but the front being flat allows for nicer LCD panel displaying temp, fan speed, drive activity, drive % filled, cpu usage. Then docking a 4 inch thick module would extend the PCIe bus (plus power distribution). ie BRIX base unit. Dockables are : NAS Unit 4 bay 2.5inch or 2 Bay 3.5inch, I/O unit dock with USB3, card readers. A GigE Hub and wireless dock for 7 GigiE ports and 802.11ac wifi. Game port dock with 8 USB2 ports dock!. PCIE backplane extended to each dock module with larger module using PLX bridge chip and possibly I/O controllers/buffers.
    Intel might just use TB2 internal connectors to extend PCIe bus to the docks but it will be mighty expensive unless just price the TB chips low and sell BT chips with the docks.
  • dotpointer - Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - link

    I know this article is more than a year old, but I have some comments on this invention.

    First of all it is a very good idea and it is quite unique. I have recently tried to find something similar to Gigabyte BRIX MAX without much luck. All you can get as of middle of 2015 is either too big, weights too much, does less and costs too much (like a regular 3.5" disk NAS) or must be spread over multiple devices (like a normal BRIX/NUC with external disks).

    For us who want to get rid of the old clunky tower-format home or small office server this would be a step forward. Not even the Raspberry/Banana Pi branch seems to be able to compete - there are simply no NAS cases for the Pi variations and even if there were you are limited to USB 2.0 storage connections.

    That was the good part. The bad is cooling. I have tried a Gigabyte BRIX BXBT-1900, which is a BRIX with space for a 2.5 inch SATA drive in the bottom. Like a MAX, but with only one drive. With a 2.5 inch HGST drive loaded and without any extra cooling are the temps at about 43-45 C in idle, and at lighter work 47 C. This is not dangerously high but enough to be concerned in longer terms of usage. To ease the situation I have placed a extra 80mm fan outside the case which blows in from the side vents which lowers it to about 35 C.

    Now this is with ONE drive. Just imagine what temperatures there will be inside the MAX with 4 drives! In the BXBT-1900 the situation is self-explained, there simply is no fan at all and there is no vents for the drive.

    So, for the MAX, if it ever will be released, I hope they have made something for the disk cooling situation. Making it 3 cm longer in some direction or so is not the whole world if a fan is mounted that makes the disks stay cool.

    For Android I just say no. If I buy this with a disk I would just resize the Android partition to a minimum and then install Debian or another Linux distro. Just do as with the other BRIX - sell it without disk and RAM.

    As a bottom line, release it! I will not play corny Android games on it, I will use it as a more competent NAS device.
  • dotpointer - Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - link

    Correction, there is a fan in BXBT-1900, but it is only for the chipset and graphics and it does not reach the disk. Banana Pi/Pro has eSATA connection and there exist BanaNAS cases, but then you need a 3D printer to make them.

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