Low Cost Hypervisor for Home Lab

By | 10 Oct 2015

BRIXI have been wanting to expand my lab capabilities at home with out adding more noise and keeping equipment footprint to a minimum. Looking around I settled on Gigabyte BRIX as a low power Mini-PC, selecting it over the Intel NUC, MSI Cubi, and Asus VivoPC/Mini due to availability, cost (here in AU) and hardware features including the amount of memory supported, 4x USB3, and Mini-Display port.  While there are other options in the Mini-PC range and always the potential argument for a HP MicroServer or Dell T series server, the desire to have a quiet, small, and energy efficient PC capable of running 2 or more VMs such as Exchange or SharePoint for testing purposes.


  • GIGABYTE BRIX  (GB-BXi5-5200)
  • 250GB mSATA SSD (Samsung 850 EVO MZ-M5E250BW)
  • 16GB RAM2x8GB DDR3L-1600 Dual Channel SODIMM 1.35V (G.Skill F3-1600C11D-16GRSL)


I was going to do an unboxing with photos of the memory and SSD install process but it was so simple and quick I didn’t bother. From picking up the screwdriver to fully complete in less than 5 minutes.

Choosing a OS / Hypervisor

mshv-overview-300x128This may been more time consuming that selecting the hardware.  After researching and reading multiple blogs and forums I opted for Microsoft Hyper-V over VMware ESXi as it seemed to have better driver (specifically NIC) support.  I do have access to appropriate licensing for either hypervisor so this did not weigh into the decision. ESXi from reading just had too much time invested in workarounds to get running with all the hardware vs. Windows Server. In an effort for a quick and now solution (also running purely Windows VMs) I opted for Windows Server 2012 R2 Update with the Hyper-V role allowing for a full Windows Server desktop and 2 to 4 VMs depending on load.

BRIX Windows System Info

Concluding Thoughts

Overall I have been presently surprised with the hardware for a low cost solution with the ability to run a Hypervisor.  I am currently running the following without issue or performance limitations (note this would not meet production environment needs but is fine for a small lab):

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Update (full GUI) with Hyper-V Role
    • Windows Server 2016 CTP3 with Active Directory Domain Services/DNS Roles
    • Windows Server 2016 CTP3 with Exchange 2016 (RTM)
    • Windows Server 2016 CTP3 with SharePoint 2016 IT Preview and SQL 2014 SP1
    • Windows 10 with Outlook 2016

Almost tempted to build another one.





2 thoughts on “Low Cost Hypervisor for Home Lab

  1. John Bruett

    hey did you ever try the windows 2016 TP install directly on the Brix unit? I just got burned by lack of network driver support on the Intel Nuc and wanted to see if there was any similar issue on the Brix.

    1. Max Post author

      Hi John, I have not yet attempted a direct install of the Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview, but now that TP4 is released I am tempted to give it a go (check for an update in about a week). My Gigabyte BRIX uses a Realtec GB LAN and Intel Wireless, the LAN worked out of the box, but the wireless needed the Intel drivers (downloaded directly from Gigabyte choosing Windows 8.1 for 2012 R2). Gigabyte does have both Realtec NIC and Intel WiFi drivers for Windows 10 64-bit on there site. I assume if Windows did not plug-and-play the devices I could use those without issue on Server 2016. I am not sure of the version of NUC you have, but these drivers might be worth a shot: https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/25517/LAN-Intel-Gigabit-Ethernet-Controller-driver-for-Intel-NUC


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