Gigabyte announced a new lineup of its Brix family of computers at Intel’s Developer Forum taking place this week in San Francisco. The star of the show was a new model with Intel Iris Pro graphics, powerful enough to take on Nvidia’s GT650M mobile graphics processor.
Gigabyte says that the new Brix models are still in development and there are no launch dates available just yet. The Iris-packing Brix will launch at a starting price of $499 for the barebones system – you’ll still need to add in your own memory, 2.5-inch hard drive, operating system, and an mSATA SSD if you prefer.
The Iris Pro version will start at around $599, although all pricing at this point is tentative. Intel says that the new Brix mini-computers should be shipping in December 2013.
Iris graphics is Intel’s latest addition to their processors. The GPU is built into the same silicon as the CPU, putting it in the same class as AMD’s APUs. However, the Iris graphics cores add a lot to the final price of the processor, with the Iris Pro-packing Core i7-4750HQ only found in the most expensive systems starting at $1000. Of that, $440 goes to the processor.
In terms of raw performance, the Iris Pro graphics come up pretty close to the discrete GT650M from Nvidia. Most hands-on experiences with Iris Pro have left reviewers impressed at the performance differences between Iris graphics and the HD4600 graphics found in most Core i7 and Core i5 Haswell processors. Most games run well at 720p, with only a handful managing 1080p without any issues.
Why is Iris Pro so special? The top-end version of the graphics family, called GT3e, includes 128MB of eDRAM, similar to the Xbox One’s 32MB of eSRAM. Intel says they’ve gone for 128MB for future-proofing and the eDRAM is accessible to programs and developers as an extremely fast cache and is system-managed, as opposed to requiring software developers to code in support for it purposely.