Mini-ITX motherboards review - Part 1: Integrated CPU
11 November 2012
Excerpt: The smaller microATX format has been gaining in popularity, but if you know for sure that will only need a single expansion slot, you can go with an even more compact format, Mini-ITX. The number of these small motherboards have steadily increased over the past few years. In a series of three articles we will look at a total of 20 models. We will soon publish reviews of Mini-ITX boards with AMD Socket FM1 and Intel Socket 1155 processor sockets.
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 Mini ITX Motherboard / CPU Combo
OverClock Intelligence Agency
17 April 2011
Summary: Gigabyte's GA-E350N-USB3 is a nice AMD alternative to Intel's Atom / ION combination that worked as-advertised here today.
In our real-world analysis, the E350N performed nicely as a HTPC. It was able to process 1080p video from YouTube smoothly with CPU utilization maxing out around 60% once the clip was fully queued up. Trying to watch the stream while it was still being queued up would max the CPU out at 100% and playback was sluggish.
Excerpt: Home theater systems and such have become a widespread phenomena. As technology becomes more and more affordable and even the low end systems have the juice to keep up with HD and Blu-Ray playback, there has never been a better time to buy one of such systems. At the expense of sounding like some sales commercial, I really do believe that it is in fact true.
Conclusion: That said, the AMD E-350 Fusion APU was designed with low level of processing in mind, while at the same time providing enough power to easily handle HD video content. Thus the E-350 APU is the perfect processor for HTPCs. Once you have a motherboard like this, you only need additional ram, a minimalistic PSU (400W and below will do nicely) and terabytes of hard disk space, because that’s the main function here; watching HD movies.
Summary: First let’s talk a little bit about the AMD Fusion platform. When discussing this platform it is important to keep in mind that, like the Atom platform, the Brazos architecture is designed to be low powered and cost effective.
Summary: If you've been following along since page one, you'll already know the answers to the questions we posed at the start of this review. For everyone who skipped over my eloquent prose, carefully constructed charts, and pretty graphs, I'll recap.
The Hudson M1 platform hub isn't nearly as flashy as the APU that makes up the heart of AMD's first Fusion offerings. However, this tiny core-logic component is stacked with 6Gbps Serial ATA ports and second-gen PCI Express lanes.
Summary: For a near all in one solution, the Gigabyte GA-E350N-USB3 did an excellent job at mild computing tasks. Video playback was completely smooth and stable, both up-converted and with Blu-Ray playback. Low resolution, low quality gaming worked well. However, the newest DX11 titles won't run optimally. Normal, everyday tasks like web browsing and email worked flawlessly.
The Brazos platform has to be looked at in the context of the market at which it is aimed.
Pros: Near All-In-One Solution, Tiny Form Factor, Low Power Consumption, Low Temperatures, Perfect HD Video Playback, On/Off Charge, 2x Copper PCB, USB 3.0, PCI-E Slot
Conclusion: Gigabyte has taken the encouraging step of using AMD's newest technology and brought it to bear on the desktop. The Brazos platform encompasses a low-power CPU and DX11-capable integrated graphics on one chip, brought together under the firm's Fusion APU initiative. Strapping in the top-line E-350 Zacate CPU - two cores and a 1.6GHz clock speed - together with a Radeon HD 5450-like IGP clocked in at 500MHz, the recipe for low-power computing is made all the tastier by...
Conclusion: So was the AMD Fusion APU worth waiting for? As a replacement for the Intel Atom/ION platform, the E-350 APU certainly works well, though we did expect the CPU part to perform a bit better than just 20% faster than the aging Atom N330. In some ways the E-350 seems to have the same issue as the Atom/ION combo: an imbalance between the power of the CPU and the GPU.