Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX Page: 1

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Introduction

 

For nearly 3 years, Intel have been the undisputed champion of the entry level laptop/desktop market. With the release of a sub 20W CPU, built from the ground up with simplicity in mind, the chip giant successfully opened the realm of low cost ultra mobile devices. Moreover, millions of low income households globally have been given the opportunity to enter the digital world. “Fantastic” is what you might be thinking. Absolutely, the theory of low cost computing has proven to be very beneficial, but what about the technology itself? Let me explain.

 

To emphasise my point, I have switched off my Core i3 desktop and began to write this review on my Samsung NC10 (Single Core Atom) netbook. During its 26 month life, it has taken a brutal amount of abuse and at £300, I couldn't complain. It sits in my bag as light as a feather and with the right usage it will operate for as long as 8 hours. Sadly the problems begin when I explain what that usage is...

 

The netbook is most ideal for word processing, checking email and other trivial tasks such as music playback and general organisation. Then things start to get a little pear shaped when you access your web browser. The fact of the matter is that the internet is not a non-intensive environment anymore. Perhaps the fault of poorly developed software *cough* Flash *cough*, the poor little Atom is quickly brought to its knees. Visiting a retailer site such as www.aria.co.uk suddenly makes scrolling a slideshow, while video websites such as Youtube.com should not even be discussed – it simply doesn't bode well with Mr Atom. Now some of you might say that a Dual Core Atom would perform significantly better. We agree, however our testing with the Zotac NM10-DTX tells us that it is still pretty rubbish anyway.

 

Many may also think that I'm too quick to forget the initial outlay of these computers, but frankly I think it is irrelevant. There is absolutely no way that it is excusable for any computer to struggle with 2011's iteration of the internet.

 

Thankfully nVidia came to the rescue with their ION & ION 2 graphics technology. By incorporating a GPU derived from the GeForce 9400M series, team green were able to breathe life into the struggling Atom platform. This has been excellent for net-tops but not so great for the netbook. As the current generation Atom D410/510 processor must be paired with the NM10 chipset, the ION2 module must be implemented as a separate chip and not a replacement. To make matters worse, the GPU would require a further 13W over the existing configuration. The endgame? A system that is easier to live with but also more costly on a netbook battery.

 

Many moons later, we are pleased to say that AMD have returned with an all new architecture to take on the almighty Atom platform. Formally known as the Fusion processor family, the underdog have developed Single and Dual Core embedded processors. Today we will be looking at one of the first Fusion motherboards to enter the fray; ladies and gentlemen the Asus E35M1-M PRO.


Here's a brief overview of its specifications.

 

Motherboard ModelAsus E35M1-M PRO Motherboard
Form FactormATX
Processor Support

AMD E350 1.60GHz Dual Core Processor
(Embedded)                               

ChipsetAMD Hudson M1
Overclocking
Support
Yes
Memory2 x DIMM, Max. 32 GB 1333/1066 DDR3
Expansion Slots

1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 bandwidth) 
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
2 x PCI

Multi-GPU SupportNo
Onboard VideoCPU Embedded HD 6310
StorageM1 
5 x SATA 6.0Gb/s
1 x eSATA 6.0Gb/s
LANGigabit LAN
AudioRealtek ALC892 7.1
USB12 x USB 2.0 (4 x Back, 8 x Internal)
2 x USB 3.0 REAR
Firewire2 x 1394 (1 x back, 1 x internal)
Video I/ODVI, HDMI, VGA

 

Not too shabby! Aside the APU itself, you are provided with 2 DDR3 slots, PCI-Express 16x (@4x), 5 internal SATA 6Gb/sec, USB 3.0, Gigabit LAN and 7.1 channel sound. Pretty loaded for a basic solution.

 

Before we can start looking at the Asus E35M1, we will first need to examine the AMD Fusion architecture.



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

AMD Fusion APU

 

 

So what's the deal with the Fusion APU? Well, in very few words this diagram explains it all.


Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

 

As you would expect, the whole purpose of Fusion is about consolodating the number of separate system components into a single acceleration unit. It is pretty obvious that due to the overheads of each individual component, a module that amalgamates several aspects of functionality will be more efficient. But how exactly does it all come together?

 

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

 

Simply look above. A typical desktop computer will include a processor, graphics card and a defined core logic that could either be a single chip or fragmented into a Northbridge and Southbridge. In the case of the Fusion platform there are just two components; the AMD E350 APU and the Hudson M1 Southbridge.

 

Before I continue, I think it would be a good idea to tabulate some information about the AMD Fusion E350 and Intel Atom D510 platforms.

 

ConfigurationAMD Fusion E350
+ M1 NB
Intel Atom D510
+ NM10 NB
Intel Atom D510
+ nVidia ION 2
CPU TDP /W18W


13W                                                                           

13W
NB TDP / W


5W                                          

2W
2W                                   
GPU TDP / WIncluded in CPU 
Included in CPU13W

 

So to summarise, there are three entry level options on the market today; Atom, Atom with ION and AMD Fusion. The Atom D510 + NM10 platform is the least power hungry but truly lacks from a performance perspective, ION2 brings reasonable power to the table but at a power consumption penalty, while the E350 Fusion option looks to provide the best of both worlds.



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

A Closer Look

 

Another day, another Asus box. The design theme may not have changed much however we would rather see a starving marketing department over a cash throttled R&D division.


Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX      Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Inside you will find the usual suspects; a manual, I/O shield, Q Connector and two SATA cables. More than enough to bring your new computer to life.

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Underneath the false floor you will find the E35M1-M PRO motherboard. As you can probably tell, it is of Micro ATX form factor, although Asus have decided to not exercise the full 9.6" x 9.6" size allowance. If it cuts the overall cost of the board without losing functionality, we really do not mind.

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX      Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Feature rich is definitely a term to describe this product. Despite being an entry level platform, Asus have provided 5 internal SATA 6.0Gb/sec ports at your disposal with scope for up to 14 USB ports, of which 2 are of 3.0 standard.

You won't be lost for video outputs either as the E35M1 should agree with any user, from the cheapskate with the 15" CRT on DSUB, through to the HTPC user with the 50" 1080p HDTV.

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX      Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX


Interested in what lurks underneath that big blue heatsink? Turn over...



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Under The Hood...


First of all I would like to point out that Asus does bundle an 80mm cooler with this motherboard. Concerning? We'll soon find out when we place the system under heavy load...

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX      Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Oops, I accidently stripped the motherboard of its cooling solution. I suppose we have no choice but to have a look.

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX      Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Beneath the aluminium finned cooler lies the Fusion E350 APU and the Hudson M1 Southbridge. We were particularly impressed by the level of integration inside the APU. Don't forget, inside that die lies a dual core processor, a memory controller and 80 Stream Processing units.

Finally let us walk you through our testbed specifications before we show you the BIOS and get testing.

Testbed


AMD Fusion E350 APU
Asus E35M1-M PRO Motherboard
G.Skill Flare RAM @ DDR3-1333 7-7-7-20
XFX Radeon HD 5670 1GB GDDR5
Samsung Spinpoint F1 320GB Hard Disk Drive
BeQuiet Dark Power Pro 750W PSU

Let's get cracking shall we?



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

BIOS

Like most of Asus' latest releases, the E35M1-M comes with a graphic EFI BIOS. The intention is to accomodate for both novice and advanced users.

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Asus have done this by offering two versions of the BIOS - EZ and Advanced. Above is the simple EZ version, which contains everything a basic end user may ever need to look at. Fancy verifying that a memory upgrade has been acknowledged? Sure, the stats are all on display. Need to change your boot device? Just look for the logo that looks like your boot device and the job is done. 

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX      Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

However given that this is a website originally set up for PC Enthusiasts and Overclockers, you will probably find yourself feeling a little patronised by the EZ BIOS. Never fear however as you can switch to Advanced mode in two clicks.

You may (or may not be) surprised to discover that overclocking is supported by this motherboard. We will soon find out how far the E350 APU can go.

Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

A final BIOS feature to showcase is Asus' latest iteration of the EZ Flash utility. While similar to the previous edition, the EFI BIOS combined with mouse functionality makes navigating folders for a new BIOS a total breeze.

Overclocking

So we finally set about overclocking the Fusion E350. We first started off with the Automated (TurboV) utility, which awarded us a 3MHz increase in base frequency and consequently a 48MHz overclock overall. Feeling a little underwhelmed we then took matters into our own hands.

 

Despite our best attempts, our processor refused to budge any further than 1728MHz (a base clock of 109MHz). Our best guess is that the memory controller and the link between the APU and the Hudson M1 cannot tolerate higher base frequencies.

Ho hum, let's look into Temperatures and Power Consumption.



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Temperature & Noise

So earlier we mentioned that the E35M1 comes bundled with a fan. But does it really need it?

The short answer seems to be no. The 80mm fan may bring idle and load temperatures down significantly however we found the embedded cpu/motherboard configuration to operate passively without any fuss. However depending on the environment your system finds itself, it may be wise to mount it anyway. An example of this could be 24/7 usage in a small chassis, that's mounted inside an AV rack.

Power Consumption

We then took note of the system's power consumption. The figures were definitely not on a level that we were used to..!

 

 

All in all we found our entire testbed system to consume less than a single halogen downlighter under full load. It may seem a little high for a "net-top" however one should also bear in mind that an optical drive and a mechanical hard disk drive was also connected.

Good news all around thus far. But how well does it really perform in our benchmarks? Well there's only one way to find out.



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

CPU Performance

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC.

CPU Arithmetic

The CPU arithmetic test ascertains the processor's capabilities in terms of numerical operations. Two subtests named Dhrystone and Whetstone are carried out respectively. This is not a measure of latency and thus higher is better.

First benchmark in, the CPU Arithmetic test secures the AMD platform a rather clear victory. Is this a clear sign of things to come?

CPU Multimedia

The CPU Multimedia Test focuses on CPU based operations that may occur during multimedia based tasks. The magnitude of the score depends on the processor's ability to handle Integer, Float and Double data types

 

Ahem, the plot thickens as the tables turn in a big way. Clearly the Brazos APU loses out in the aforementioned multimedia instructions.

AIDA Extreme Edition

Returning to its roots by re-estabilishing the AIDA name, the latest iteration of the popular benchmark suite now includes optimisations over previous editions. With this in mind, remember not to compare these results against those conducted with older Everest software. 

CPU Queen

 

CPU Queen is all about branch prediction and the penalties that, well "misprediction" can bring.

 

The Atom D510 wins again, with a fair margin. This is really not what we expected. That said, it is not unreasonable to expect the CPU Queen test to follow a similar trend to SiSoft Sandra's Multimedia benchmark.

CPU Photoworxx

PhotoWorxx as the name may suggest tests processors by means of invoking functions that are common to Photo Manipulation including Fill, Flip, Crop, Rotate, Difference and Colour to B&W conversion. 

 

The E350 flexes its muscles with quasi photoshop operations. Neither platform are ideal for this but it is a clear win regardless.

CPU ZLib

This is an integer based benchmark that will test the CPU and Memory by means of the CPU ZLib compression library. 

 

Wrapping up our AIDA64 benchmarks, the AMD E350 strikes back yet again. Next we will cover WinRAR and Cinebench performance followed by tests pertaining to the E35M1-M PRO's Memory and Southbridge subsystems.



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

WinRAR

 WinRAR's embedded Benchmark focuses on the processor's File Compression capability. During day to day computer usage, file decompession and compression are two very important functions. Let's see how our Atom system performs.

 

The AMD Dual Core processor may have an edge in single core operation but the Atom's Hyperthreading Technology returns to save the day in this particular instance.

CinebenchR10

Cinebench is a popular image rendering benchmark. Known for it's multithreading ability, this will surely be an interesting means of testing this dual core and hyperthreading capable Atom.

A similar story is depicted in Cinebench, however AMD still retains a win overall.

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC.

Memory Bandwidth

The Memory Bandwidth test will closely examine memory transfer rates.

 

Our experience with embedded systems in general is that memory bandwidth tends to be abysmal, however we found the E350 APU to output a new low with both Integer and Float throughput at less than 2GB/sec.

Hard Disk Performance
 

You needn't be a sad panda for long as the Hudson M1 chipset helps the AMD platform secure a win with HDD Read performance that matches full fat chipsets such as SB850 and the (ahem, faulty) P67 PCH.

HDTune


We complement our memory and storage subsystem tests with a read test using HDTune. Hopefully the results correspond with SiSoft Sandra. 

Indeed they do, as they show the Hudson M1's ability to keep one of today's Hard Disk Drives running at their optimum pace.



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

 Adobe Flash HD - Youtube.com

Watching Flash based High Definition video is often more tasking on a system than you'd be led to believe. Without Flash Player 10.1 which enables GPU acceleration, many systems would have otherwise ground to a halt. Let's see how our test setup performs here.

Unlike some of our previous Flash HD endeavours, we are pleased to report no issues. Using only the E35M1-M's hardware for this test, it was possible to playback 1080p video with less than 50% usage. The playback itself was fluid and without stutter.

 

Microsoft HD Video Suite

Microsoft's HD Suite contains a variety of 720p and 1080p video clips. We selected one 1080p Video Clip and gauged performance on the basis of CPU utilisation and fluidity.


Again, the E350 APU accomplishes it's mission without kicking up a fuss. Our FRAPS frame rate counter showed a consistent 60fps reading throughout.

 

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC.

GPGPU Test

The GPGPU test leverages CUDA and OpenCL to determine the ability of today's stream processor based GPUs for general purpose computing. 

While synthetic benchmarks such as these aren't the best representative of actual performance, it is quite likely that the APU's HD 6310 GPU can take on nVidia GeForce GPU's with up to 32 CUDA cores.

PCMark Vantage

PCMark Vantage is Futuremark's flagship "System Wide" benchmark. With a large focus on day to day operations, it's an excellent means of judging the capability of a computer as a whole.

 

We finish this set of benchmarks with another win for Team AMD in this system wide test.



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

 Gaming Performance


This is without doubt a bit of a curve ball for a product of this nature. We may well be gearing the entry level platform for failure on applications that it wasn't designed for, however we felt that it would be an interesting means of trying to determine the limitations of the HD 6310 GPU and the extent to which the E350 APU can bottleneck (*GAG*) a dedicated graphics card.

 

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is Futuremarks flagship gaming oriented benchmark at present and is considered to be a demanding one at that. Our tests were carried out under the "Performance" prefix.

So it came to no surprise that the little Brazos Dual Core would not fair particularly well in this intensive benchmark. Moreover it was clear that the processor as well as the PCI-E 4x interface was holding our Radeon HD 5670 back by up to a third. However, to be closing in on P1000 marks with an embedded system is quite impressive.

Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead is a very popular hit and should be an interesting choice to take our testbed for a spin. Let's see how well it performs.

 

Thankfully it isn't all doom and gloom, where we find the Asus E35M1-M PRO based system performing similarly to a Core i3 + H55 based configuration.

That said, the dreaded processor hold up continues where the inclusion of the Radeon HD 5670 only yields a 4fps increase in framerate. 

DiRT 2

DiRT2 is a very recent race driving game, known for it's Direct X 11 support.

We are pretty horrible people for abusing this system with a full fat DirectX 11 game, but we do prove our point yet again that the little E350 cannot cope with anything as computationally heavy as this.



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Asus E35M1-M PRO Micro ATX

Conclusion

 

After much testing it is now time to come to some sort of decision about Fusion and the E35M1-M PRO Motherboard

We began our testing with the expectation that the Brazos platform would offer performance that exceeded the Atom D510, provide graphical abilities to a similar level to nVidia's ION2 and with a lower power consumption to boot. With this in mind, the E350 and Hudson M1 pairing has succeeded.

Across a number of synthetic benchmarks, the little 1.60GHz processor was not far off scores made by desktop CPU's such as the 2.70GHz Sempron 140. As silly as it sounds, this is a very good achievement for an 18W processor.

The embedded Radeon HD 6310 performs admirably well for one with just 80 stream processing units. Clocked in with similar performance to graphics cards such as the GeForce 9500GT, we believe that this integrated GPU will compensate for just about any multimedia scenario where the Fusion E350 proves inadequate.

One could say that the full impact of the entry level APU is not known as the list of OpenCL compliant programs are still small, although growing at a handsome rate. However when day to day applications such as Flash 10.1 utilise GPU acceleration, the little Radeon HD 6310 is a true life saver.

In a nutshell, the Asus E35M1-M PRO is everything a typical Atom Dual Core + ION offering is, but noticeably better. Those who wish to use the board as a HTPC or NAS box will be pleased by the flexible storage options and the passive/low noise operation. Also we have shown that 1080p is doable with no trouble at all.

So given an identical price tag, would we choose an AMD Fusion Net-Top or Netbook over an Intel Atom? Absolutely.

Is Brazos up to scratch with a fully fledged desktop computer? No, not really. Even when bundled with a decent GPU and 4GB RAM, there is still a very subtle lack of urgency in system response even when navigating/scrolling on (albeit very poorly coded) websites. It is certainly not a nuisance or obtrusive however it is a constant reminder that you are working from an embedded platform.

Particularly for uses where low power consumption is essential, these minor niggles are very easy to forgive. However make no mistake in thinking that an E350 APU has any chance of giving a similarly priced AMD Athlon II + AMD 880G combination a run for its money.

This does bring us to another point and that is price. The E35M1-M PRO may have an exotic feature set but it has also artificially increased the value of an otherwise entry level platform. If we could ask for anything, it would be a stripped down dual core Brazos board on Mini ITX for well under £90. On the basis that the intended RRP of this platform was from $99, we also think that this is what AMD had in mind as well.

The final verdict? A fantastic platform for a Home Theater PC, NAS Box or secondary laptop/desktop. Thus far Asus have set the bar high for any other APU Motherboards that we receive in the future.

The Good
- Quiet Operation
- Atom beating performance
- Competitive Power Consumption
- Scope for HDD expansion
- SATA 6.0Gb/s and USB 3.0

The Mediocre
- Integrated WiFi - almost essential on a board such as this?
- mATX could have been mITX

The Bad
- None

 

Bronze

 

Thanks to Asus for the sample on test today, you can discuss your thoughts in our forums.