Gigabyte BRIX as an HTPC

Hello folks, this post is about the Gigabyte BRIX (model GB-XM12-3227 rev 1.0) barebone computer. I bought this mini PC in order to transform it into an HTPC computer. I’ve managed to install Ubuntu with XBMC on it, so I will detail here the steps in case it may help some people out there.

Hardware

Here’s my hardware setup :

  • mSATA disk : Crucial SSD M4 CT128M4SSD3 128 GB
  • 8 gb memory : 2 X Kingston KVR1333D3S9/4G
  • In the box : Intel Core i3-3227U CPU @ 1.90 GHz, mini PCIE Wifi card (RTL8188CE), Power supply cable
  • External Drive : Seagate Expansion Desktop 3,5″ 3TB USB 3.0

Different OS tested

Once I was with my BRIX on hands, I tried to install different Ubuntu based OSes.

To make a bootable usb key, I suggest you to use the Unetbootin app (macOS, Linux and Windows compatible).
To do so, follow the official tutorial at : http://doc.ubuntu-fr.org/unetbootin

XBMCBuntu 12.2

I’ve tested the ISO xbmcbuntu-12.2.Intel-NVIDIA and the install didn’t worked for me. The command line installation stoped at some point and my TV displayed : No Video Input.

Ubuntu 12.04

I’ve tested the official 64 bits version (xforcevesa and nomodeset grub options added), and the install stucks at

Ubuntu 13.04

Tested with the official 64 bits version (xforcevesa and nomodeset grub options added), and the install went as expected.

Gigabyte BRIX running Ubuntu 13.04

Gigabyte BRIX running Ubuntu 13.04

Devices drivers

Wifi

The RTL8188CE WIFI card got installed natively without any problems with Ubuntu 13.0.4

mSata

Disk seems to be responding well, here are the quick benchmarks I’ve made :

/dev/sda:
Timing cached reads: 11322 MB in 2.00 seconds = 5666.05 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads: 1106 MB in 3.00 seconds = 368.64 MB/sec

External Seagate Expansion Desktop USB 3.0 Drive

External disk seems to be working as well as the mSata. No problems until now.

/dev/sdb:
Timing cached reads: 11420 MB in 2.00 seconds = 5715.07 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads: 478 MB in 3.01 seconds = 158.69 MB/sec

Memory

Memory detected and installed correctly. lshw output :

slot A :
description: SODIMM DDR3 Synchronous 1333 MHz (0,8 ns)
vendor: Kingston
slot: ChannelA-DIMM0
size: 4GiB
width: 64 bits
clock: 1333MHz (0.8ns)

and

Slot B :
description: SODIMM DDR3 Synchronous 1333 MHz (0,8 ns)
vendor: Kingston
slot: ChannelB-DIMM0
size: 4GiB
width: 64 bits
clock: 1333MHz (0.8ns)

Wake on Lan (WOL) support

Using the ethtool Unix tool, I’ve checked that the network card supports WOL.

Gigabyte eth0 Wol support

Gigabyte eth0 Wol support

Update 1

Regarding the WOL functionality, here’s the answer I got from Gigabyte.

Dear XX,
After confirming with related department, GB-XM12-3227 (rev. 1.0) support Wake on LAN (WOL) function.
Regards, GIGABYTE

Update 2

Following Phil Wiffen’s great advise (check his article), I disabled the ERP support in the BIOS and the WOL functionality worked as it should.

I can now Wake-UP from the suspend, hibernate and poweroff states.

BIOS Update

I’ve installed the latest BIOS provided by Gigabyte (F5) without problems.
Please note that since I’ve the version F5 installed my Samsung TV has some trouble when it comes to display the BIOS settings screen. If I needed to guess, I would say it’s related to the resolution which the BIOS uses (1024×768).

I cannot be responsible for any damage you could do to your BRIX device. My advice is :

Don’t update the BIOS unless you know what you’re doing. Avoid doing it if not needed.

How to

Since Gigabyte doesn’t provide linux compatible tools for flashing you will need a DOS environnment to perform the flash.
The simplest choice you have is to use FreeDOS.

  1. Get a usb pen drive and format it to FAT32
  2. Use UNetbootin to install FreeDOS on it (you can download FreeDOS directly from the UNetbootin app)
  3. Download the executable file into a Windows computer and extracts the contents to a temp folder. You should have three files (ex: AFU303.exe, flash.bat, HM3AP.F5)
  4. Copy these three files to the pen drive (don’t put in a folder)
  5. Modify the BRIX bios settings in order to accept the boot from the usb pen drive
  6. Once you’have boot on FreeDOS, launch the flash.bat and it will start the flash process (it took me approximately 3 min)

48 Responses to “Gigabyte BRIX as an HTPC

  • Did you get everything to work I am in the process to installing openelec but no sound no remote support.

    Looking for alternative.

    • Everything working perfectly 😉
      I also had some issues with the sound through HDMI.
      Depending our your configuration, you need to play a little bit with XBMC & Ubuntu audio options.

      Regarding the remote support, I think that there is no HDMI CEC support. But you can still buy a Flirc dongle : http://flirc.tv/

    • I just installed openelec (generic version) with the core i3 brix, everything works out of the box:
      – sound (stereo, dts, ac3, 5.1)
      – video (1080p without any freeze)
      – wired connection
      – wifi connection (i am using wifi n when i put the brix in the bedroom)
      – connected on my nas through cifs
      – ssh
      and it is incredibly fast

      • Thanks for the blog post.
        Using a Gigabyte Brix GB-BXCEH-2955 with 8Gb RAM and current Openelec with Kodi.
        Works like a charm and runs superfast.
        I am only missing the option to use Steam, which only exists for 32-bit machines for Openelec at the moment.
        I want to stream games.
        So I heard it works with KodiBuntu, but I have my film collection running with Openelec already.
        Do you happen to know, if it is possible to install Kodibuntu without moving movie, tv show and music files already on the HDD (1TB disk)?
        Best,
        abc

        • The question was meant for the author of the blog.
          Best,
          abc

        • Well, in my case, Ubuntu is installed on the internal SSD mSATA of 128 GB and my Kodi Library is on a external 2TB HDD.

          Once you have two independent partition or disk, you’re free to change the OS.

          In fact, if you partition the internal SSD, you could have both OpenElec and KodiUbuntu installed at the same time and sharing the same Kodi Library.

          • Thanks for the info.
            I gues the disk (I use an internal 1TB disk) will be wiped completely during the partition process?
            If so, I’ll go through the collection first and install KodiBuntu later.

            Also yetsreday, I decided to preorder the Steam link for streaming games, it’ll come mid October or November but seems to be the solution I was loking for (except that it is extra hardware).
            Best,
            abc

  • Hi,
    Good find for WOL, have you can use it ?

    • Hi,
      Still didn’t manage to make WOL working.
      But I’ve got serious doubts that there is some default WOL support like Gigabyte is claiming.

  • I was able to get Wake-on-LAN to work from a Windows computer by specifying the following:

    wolcmd

    For my system, the command was:

    wolcmd 192.168.1.10 255.255.255.0 8900

    I used this tool: http://www.depicus.com/wake-on-lan/wake-on-lan-cmd.aspx

    I’ve blogged about it briefly

    Hopefully you can transplant that information into Linux and get it to work from there 🙂

  • This device has Intel HD graphics card, not Nvidia. You have used the wrong ISO file to install xbmcbuntu. I think you should try xbmcbuntu-12.2.Intel-AMD.iso instead

    • Well, it’s not AMD neither right? So why should I use that one?
      Anyway, my system is now working perfectly and I don’t intend to format it.
      If you’ve succeeded on installing XBMCbuntu on the BRIX with that ISO, I will gladly update this post.
      Regards.

  • Hi JMG,

    Can you please provide more detail on how you got the audio working on the BRIX?

    I have just installed XBMC 12.2 Intel-NVIDIA ISO.

    Thank you.

    Cody

    • Hi Cody,

      As far as I remember, I did nothing special in order to get the sound working. In my XBMC Audio settings, I’ve the folowing :
      Audio output : HDMI
      Speaker Configuration : 5.1
      Boost volume level on downmix : yes
      Dolby Digital capable receiver : yes
      DTS capable receiver : yes
      AAC capable receiver : yes
      Multichannel LPCM capable receiver : yes

      One thing that I did after having the sound working was to install the intel driver (but I don’t thing this is mandatory).
      Steps can be found here : http://www.webupd8.org/2013/05/intel-linux-graphics-installer.html

  • Alexandros
    4 years ago

    Hi, nice tutorial.
    Is there any way to connect to a terminal server(2008R2) and redirect my card reader to the remote connection?
    I use this card reader(http://www.hidglobal.com/products/readers/omnikey/3021-usb), it seems to work on Ubuntu but doesnt work on my remote connection.

  • Hi,

    Just brought the Brix and trying to setup WOL. I followed the instructions but cant seem to do it.

    I think the problem is I am using Logmein to use WOL and it doesnt work. What do you use to Wake up the computer when it is powered off.

    Thanks

    • Hi Arwin,

      Are the rights WOL ports opened in your router ?
      Is the ERP option off in the BIOS ?
      Have you tried with hibernate and sleep instead of powering it off ?
      There are some tools out there that allows you to wake your computer on from the local network. You can use them to do some tests. This would definitively exclude issues with the router / NAT.

  • Very interested in getting one of these. Do you know if it supports pxeboot? booting nfs root off the network with no hard drive would be great.

    Maybe one in every room! 🙂

  • To answer my own question the GB-BXi3H-4010 which i bought can PXE boot as well as take a 2.5″ sata drive. Some nice new models available now. They are briliant.

  • Hi!
    I have sound problems on my Brix using Ubuntu 13.10. Distortions with “ticks” every half second and a little bit of noise.

    I’m running HDMI via the TV to the surround receiver. I get sound both stereo and 5.1 (it looks like I only get 5.1 soemtimes though!?).

    Anyone that have similar problems? Any solution?

    —-
    GIGABYTE BRIX I3-3227U
    GIGABYTE 4GB DDR3 SO-DIMM
    INTEL 525 SERIES MSATA SSD 120GB

    • Have you tried another HDMI cable ? Try turning off any others devices that are around ?

      My HDMI is plugged into the TV. The sound is then sent to the home cinema via a optical cable. But it also works if a plug the HDMI directly on the home cinema.

      • I’m experiencing this same issue today after a reboot. I’m updating Ubuntu and the packages to see if it’s related. After updating, I unplugged and replugged the HDMI Cable. Problem disappeared after that. Hope it will help.

        • I’ll check with another HDMI cable, but sometimes switching between stereo and 5.1 removes the noise. That is, until I start an application which uses sound 🙁

          And yes, my configuration is similar. HDMI to TV and TV-sound to surround receiver using an optical cable.

          • I tried with another HDMI cable but there was no improvement.

            Something that point to disturbance between video and audio is though that when the screen locks and after some seconds, when I assume the driver for HDMI video signal shuts down, the ticking noise disapears. Probably the audio driver also shuts down. If I leave music on using rhythmbox and let the screen blank out, the music continues WITH tiching noise.

  • Hello,

    Have someone tested wake on USB with a MCE USB remote ?
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Just incase someone else gets the same problem as me and needs to reset the BIOS to defaults on the XM12, but has a blank screen:

    To reset first press DEL key every second for around 10seconds on boot (to enter the BIOS settings)
    Next press LEFT ARROW once
    next press DOWN ARROW twice then ENTER twice (which resets BIOS to default)
    finally press UP ARROW twice then ENTER twice (to save and exit)

    This was after I ticked the wrong settings in the BIOS and had a non booting machine with a blank screen. Luckily I had a second device which I could use to find out how to reset the bios.

  • Steven Nijholt
    3 years ago

    Hi All,

    First Jean-Michel thank you for your detailed explanation/blog about the Brix!

    I’m thinking about buying the Gigabyte BRIX GB-BXI5-4200. I’m a movie and series enthusiast and I would like to know whats your experience with the performance of the Intel HD Graphics chip.
    I read different stories about it and most people do not recommend this chip bus the overall performance of the Intel i5 chipset is pretty impressive.

    Can it render (any) full hd maybe 2k and 4k video without re-rendering the image. I like to watch the movies in the highest possible quality.
    Can anyone tell her/his experience with the video rendering for MKV, Blu-ray, (ec. >720p images) with DTS-True HD.

    I have used the Apple TV2 with xbmc but didn’t work well for HD images. Actually really bad. 😛
    Now I’m using the Xtreamer Prodigy Silver HD works OK for now but the performance is not great for the newest HD movies in Blu-ray.

    What I have read is pretty impressive but I can find any detailed experience about the Graphic performance.
    I hope there is anyone who can help me so I can decide if I should but the Brix for my Home Cinema.

    Thank you in advance!

    BR,

    Steven

    • I decided to use my own Ubuntu with XBMC installed on it because at the time I didn’t succeed with the install of XBMCbuntu. But I thing this is as today already solved.

      Regarding performance I don’t see any issue with my 1.9 ghz Core i3. I only watch full HD MKV with 5.1 audio movies and the BRIX is always on 45% max of the 4 CPUs. My version don’t make a lot fan noise. The noisy thing here is the external DD drive spin sound.

      Indeed I have, from time to time, issues with the GPU intel driver (which is natively supported by Ubuntu). Once you got the whole system running smoothly, I discourage you to update the major version of the system (like I did going from Ubuntu 13 to Ubuntu 14).

      In the overall I’m quite happy !

      Here are some screen for the CPU Load :
      Idle (XBMC idle, SickBeard idle, Couchpotato idle, Deluge downloading) : Idle
      Up (XBMC reading full hd mkv, SickBeard idle, Couchpotato idle, Deluge downloading) : Running

      • Steven Nijholt
        3 years ago

        Thank you! You made my day.

        I just ordered my Brix!

        Do you reccomand to install openelec or ubuntu?

        Steven

        • I suggest XBMCBuntu if you want to have more apps running on it and if you want more control over it.
          Openelec if you just want openelec running on this machine.

          My Ubuntu have a lot of stuff on it, XBMC is just the visible front.

  • Hi Jean-Michel!
    Im thinking about buying the exact same Brix as you! (the i3 version).
    Can you confirm that the i3 is really enough to run XBMC with 1080p movies?
    Are the movies/series you are running located on a network storage or locally attached?

    I just wanted to make sure I spend my money on something that actually works 🙂

  • Sylvain
    3 years ago

    Hi,
    I am trying to make work WOL on my BRIX (i3) but it does not work.
    “Are the rights WOL ports opened in your router ?”
    What do you mean exactly ?
    “Is the ERP option off in the BIOS ?”
    Yes
    “Have you tried with hibernate and sleep instead of powering it off ?”
    I can not try hibernate but sleep is not working too.
    “There are some tools out there that allows you to wake your computer on from the local network. You can use them to do some tests. This would definitively exclude issues with the router / NAT.”
    What are their names ?

    Thanks a lot.

    Sylvain

  • Hi,
    thanks for great blog post !
    I have another question about WOL.
    I tried everything like you wrote, but I’m not able to wake up the brix from s5 state. When I suspend the computer (i suppose that is S3) I’m able to wake it up.

    I have ERP disabled, i tried also wireshark to monitor wol packet. Brix is receiving it.

    Do you have any idea what is wrong ?

    Another thing, have you tried WoWLAN ? Wireshark is also receiving magic packet, on wireless interface, but it will not wake up even on S3 state.
    Thanks.

  • Lakis Papadopoulos
    2 years ago

    Does the Brix support Wake on AC Power restore (or Restore Last state on AC power Loss)?.

    Thank you.

    • Well, i’m AFK right now, but I do record seeing an option on bios called : “action on power restore”. Mine is set to “power on”.

  • Hi,

    i am using a brix 2955 and was happy with the ERP disabled Option until i stumbled upon the following Problem.
    I need ERP disabled for wol to work but this also enables any Form of power on by device.
    Hitting a key on the keyboard vor plugging in an USB stick will power on the brix. In some cases a plugged in USB disk will even prevent the brix from powering down and cause an immediate reboot.

    Does anyone else experience this?

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