AMD’s new platform for the low-power computing segment, the Fusion was announced at CES this year and products based on the new Brazos platform are already coming out. We’ve received two solutions, one from MSI called the E350IA-E345 and the Gigabyte GA-E350N-USB3, which we’ll be reviewing today.
New platform, first of the many choices to come
For those who haven't heard of the Fusion, the processors aren’t designed to take on the 6-core Phenom II processors, but they’re geared at UMPCs, low-power desktops and netbooks. Both the motherboards we’ve received use the AMD E-Series 350 APU. AMD is calling the new processors Accelerated Processors or APUs. The E-350 runs at 1.6 GHz and runs two Bobcat cores. Like the Intel Atoms, they’re sold as a solution – processor and board with cooling.
The Gigabyte E350N-USB3 board is a mini-ITX board with the trademark blue coloured PCB. There’s a hefty heatsink and fan seated on top of the processor, which seems overkill for a low-power processor such as this. Features such as SATA 3 and USB 3.0 are a nice change from other low-power platforms we’ve seen in the past which are usually limited in some way or the other. Space is a constraint but a PCI-E x16 sized slot has been squeezed into it but sadly, it only functions as a PCI-E x4 slot. Users shouldn't be setting up high-performance PCI-E x16 cards anyway as the low-power APU would be quite limited as far as performance for high-end gaming card is concerned.
Plenty of connectivity options
External connectivity options are plentiful as well. Apart from the D-Sub and DVI ports for video, there’s also a HDMI port which is handy for HTPCs, something this board is likely to be used for.
Design and layout
The mini-ITX format doesn’t leave a lot of space to play with, so the end result is a pretty cramped board. All the space has been efficiently used with the 24-pin power connector lining one side of the board and the two DDR3 memory slots placed close to it.
PCIe x4 slot
The PCI-Express slot is left out of the way of the RAM slots and the SATA ports too are placed above the PCI-E slot so there's no mess with the card blocking the slots. In terms of expansion, there’s no space to add more than a single card, which most likely will either be a high-quality audio card or an internal WiFi adapter. The board uses solid state capacitors and Gigabyte brands this board as an Ultra Durable 3 board, something common on some of their higher-end boards.