Gigabyte’s Tiny Gaming-Capable PCs
A lot of things people do on their PCs do not require much power. A weak PC can still handle web browsing, text editing and most multimedia consumption tasks without a problem. Thus, there are netbooks or mini-PCs – systems using a weak CPU with integrated graphics in a small case and requiring little electrical power to run. Core gaming is usually a performance-hungry task, requiring a lot of graphical power. Without a decent dedicated GPU, netbooks usually cannot run most modern games.
This year, both AMD and Intel are releasing CPUs with more powerful iGPUs inside, making gaming without a separate graphics card an acceptable experience. Intel's most powerful offering, Iris Pro 5200 manages to get close to GeForce GT 650M performance, which is a level similar to desktop GeForce 8800 GT. While it is low performance these days, it can still run modern games on lower settings and is considerably more powerful than the GPUs in both the X360 and PS3. Intel only includes powerful Iris iGPUs in BGA packaged CPUs, which are fixed to the motherboard and cannot be purchased separately by consumers. Thus, they are mostly seen in pre-built PCs and laptops.
Gigabyte is using Intel CPUs with Iris Pro iGPU in one of the latest models of their BRIX barebones mini-PCs showcased at IDF. Marketed as "Pocket Gaming PC", those models are twice as large as other models, but can still be attached to the monitor's VESA mount at the back. This is not a replacement for a gaming PC, but a small machine that can run modern games at lower settings. These gaming BRIX models should appear in November and cost around £400. Those are barebones mini-PCs though, which do not include HDD, RAM and OS, which must be purchased additionally. Meaning, in a few years, as the target performance of multiplatform games shifts to the level of next-gen consoles, the Iris Pro 5200 will no longer be enough for decent performance. Thus, while gaming BRIX are good enough for games now, they are not future-proof at all. Still, if Intel makes another jump in their iGPU performance next year, we may see a very small Steam Box without a separate GPU soon afterwards.