Gigabyte E350N-USB3 Page: 1

Gigabyte E350N-USB3

Introduction

 

Very recently we managed to place our grubby hands on the Asus E35M1-M PRO motherboard; one of the first of many to include the new AMD Fusion "Zacate" 18W Dual Core processor. As you can see, our overall verdict about the platform itself was fairly straight forward. Great GPU performance for general purpose, a processor that is a reasonable amount faster than the existing Atom range and acceptable Power Consumption/Thermal Characteristics to boot. However we did have some reservations about the motherboard itself in that it was of thee larger Micro ATX form factor. Lets be honest here. We are dealing with an embedded system that is designed to suit small chassis configurations, so why bother with mATX? Thankfully another AMD Fusion motherboard has arrived, which could well be what many of you are after. Ladies and gentlemen, the Gigabyte E350N-USB3.

Motherboard ModelGigabyte E350N-USB3
Form FactorMini ITX
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)

Multi-GPU SupportNo
Onboard VideoCPU Embedded HD 6310
StorageM1 
4 x SATA 6.0Gb/s
LANGigabit LAN
AudioRealtek ALC892 7.1
USB4 x USB 2.0 (4 x Back, 4 x Internal)
2 x USB 3.0 REAR
Firewire2 x 1394 (1 x back, 1 x internal)
Video I/ODVI, HDMI, VGA


The E350N USB3 follows a similar specification set to the previously reviewed E35M1-M PRO. Naturally due to its Mini ITX form factor, it does lack a little in the expansion slot department, however with a single x16 size slot, 4 x SATA 6.0Gb/s and plenty of USB ports, you would be crazy to complain. That said, the inclusion of integrated 802.11x WiFi would have really hit the spot.



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Gigabyte E350N-USB3

A Closer Look...

 

Exciting no? Gigabyte certainly think so, flamboyantly boasting the E350N's "333" feature set of USB 3.0, high speed charging for Apple iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch and of course full SATA 6.0Gb/sec through its four RAID compliant ports.

Gigabyte E350N-USB3     Gigabyte E350N-USB3

Inside you will find a fairly standard accessory set - I/O shield, Driver CD, 2 x SATA cables and a fairly comprehensive manual.

Gigabyte E350N-USB3

Let's cut to the chase and show you the product itself. Unlike the new Gigabyte P67 lineup, motherboards such as these do not feature the updated black colour scheme. Needless to say however, the E350N USB3 is far from revolting...as far as inanimate electronic components are concerned anyway.

Gigabyte E350N-USB3    Gigabyte E350N-USB3

The board layout itself is usable enough. SATA cables are not particularly accessible with an expansion card fitted however those with the foresight to connect redundant cables in advance will not be troubled by this.

All in all there seems to be a sufficient number of I/O interfaces all round however as we had mentioned earlier, integrated WiFi and even Bluetooth would have been the icing on the cake. Particularly when 802.11n is common in many homes now and Gigabyte convenience features such as proximity hybernate (a feature, that puts your computer to sleep once your phone is out of range) command an external bluetooth adapter.

Note that Gigabyte have done away with e-SATA. We expect a number of manufacturers to follow suit on space saving boards such as these. Really, with two 5.0Gb/sec USB3 ports in place, you are unlikely to miss it.

Gigabyte E350N-USB3     Gigabyte E350N-USB3

Naturally with a motherboard of this size, there are size constraints to adhere to when designing its heatsink module. The end result is a fairly spartan solution, with a low density arrangement of fins and a 40mm fan that has left us rather concerned. How noisy could it be? Lets find out.



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Gigabyte E350N-USB3

Testbed


AMD Fusion E350 APU
Gigabyte E350N USB3
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

 

BIOS

 

Gigabyte E350N-USB3    Gigabyte E350N-USB3

Gigabyte E350N-USB3

Unlike the E35M1-M PRO, this little Mini ITX wonder misses out on EFI BIOS support. This means no GUI for you prospective buyers, however in all honesty...does it matter?

The BIOS contains just about all that anyone might need. Aside a basic set of overclocking parameters, boot priority/onboard device information and live temperature/voltage data, Gigabyte also include a convenient BIOS update tool known as Q-Flash.

 

Temperature & Noise

At its worst, the 40mm fan of doom was rotating at around 3000RPM. This was not particularly bad and even though it wasn't silent, there was hardly any motor noise. It may have been a lapse of concentration however during the testing phase I had pressed the power toggle button on our testbed only to realise that the E350N USB3 was actually powered on already. The end result was foolishly shutting the machine down amidst a 90 minute PC Mark Vantage run. Sheer idiocy and fatigue aside, you should take this as a sign that Gigabyte's active cooling solution is nowhere near as bad as it may appear.

The temperatures are alright as well with highs of just 55c.

Power Consumption

 

From a Power Consumption perspective, the E350N USB3 was in line with the previously tested Asus E35M1-M PRO. Fairly acceptable.

Overclocking

 

This particular sample may have been able to beat the E35M1-M PRO's max bootable base HTT of 110 with a max of 115MHz, we experienced OS crashes from as little as 108-110MHz. We eventually found a stable max of 105MHz; hardly worth the trouble,



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Gigabyte E350N-USB3

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. 

Close enough it seems as the two Fusion APU motherboards kickstart our testing regime with near identical scores. As we had previously shown, the Atom D510 simply can't keep up here.

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

Tables can turn and this is certainly what happened with the CPU Multimedia test. A little fun fact for you all; these scores are ~10% of that produced by AMD's range topping Phenom II X6 1100T BE processor.

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.

 

Another win for the Atom but does that really make it the better processor?

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.

Photoworxx swung things around again. These sorts of processors are less than ideal for regular image editing usage and the scores represent that rather well.

CPU ZLib

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

Another win for the AMD Fusion APU. Once more, the two models are evenly matched.



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Gigabyte E350N-USB3

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.

Quite clearly one of the Intel Atom's saving graces is its Hyperthreading Technology, where performance scaling pushes beyond 2x from Single to Multithreaded mode.

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.

 

The same holds in CinebenchR10. However the greater multithreading ability of the Atom is soured by its horrific single core 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.

Memory Bandwidth

The Memory Bandwidth test will closely examine memory transfer rates.

 

As mentioned in the Asus review, one clear observation is that memory bandwidth on this Fusion platform is definitely on the low side, even with the RAM cranked up to the maximum frequency permissable (1333MHz)

Hard Disk Performance

 

Luckily a pint sized platform doesn't necessarily mean poor HDD performance. The inclusion of SATA 6.0Gb/sec ports makes these embedded systems a viable option as a RAID server.

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, with performance comparable to all other chipsets we've trialled including the bigger SB850 southbridge.



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Gigabyte E350N-USB3

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.

As has been mentioned previously, the new HD 6310 seems to perform admirably well with 1080p Flash playback. Unfortunately it does seem to be a few notches behind nVidia's ION; hopefully later drivers will further optimise performance.

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.


A similar story with Microsoft's HD testing suite. The video playback was certainly fluid and indistinguishable from a high end system. From a high definition playback perspective, the E350N-USB3 would have little trouble for basic HTPC duty.

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.

Although this is a synthetic benchmark, it does show very promising results. Whether you wish to consider this as a fair test of the HD 6310's capabilities is another question.

Unsurprisingly both motherboards are on par with each other.

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.

 

Impressive work all in all, showing the Atom + ION platform trailing by a fair margin.



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Gigabyte E350N-USB3

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.

These are not brilliant 3DMark Vantage scores by any means but it will most certainly do for its intended purposes. Also note how the Radeon HD 5670 is held back by the processor and possibly to a smaller extent, the effective bandwidth of the PCI-Express platform

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.

The answer is admirably well. Yes there are one or two seconds here and there where you're left with a slideshow but for most of the part, framerates remained well above 20. Hope for older hits as well as children's games? Absolutely.

DiRT 2

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

DiRT2 was a lot less successful. The dreadful performance even with a dedicated graphics card really proves the limitations of the little Zacate Dual Core processor.

Let's wrap this one up.



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Gigabyte E350N-USB3

Conclusion

 

On the basis that the E350N-USB3 is built on the exact same platform as the Asus E35M1-M PRO we tested two weeks ago, it comes to no surprise that from a performance perspective there is very little to show. As you could have guessed, they perform near enough the same; better than the Intel Atom, acceptable GPU performance and very good load power consumption. I suppose the best way to describe the E350N-USB3 is to discuss what we didn't like about the Asus.

This was briefly discussed during the introduction but we must stress that the optimal form factor for AMD Fusion is Mini ITX. The whole purpose of buying into this platform is its great thermal/power characteristics and the performance that it delivers for its insignificant footprint. This sort of equipment is there to be used inside a budget desktop, laptop, network attached storage or at most, a home theater pc. You shouldn't really need more than 4 SATA ports, nor do you need more than one expansion slot. If you do, then you're probably better off buying an AMD Athlon II for £50 and a reasonable enough AMD 785G/880G board for under £70. It really is as simple as that.

Speaking of price, this was another gripe of ours. Weighing in at nearly £120, the Asus E35M1-M PRO had a significant feature set. However this price combined with its form factor left it swimming with much bigger fish - this is not good at all.

Returning to the Gigabyte E350N-USB3, it does solve one of the above issues in that it is Mini ITX. That's right, shove this board into a low profile MITX case with a passive 65W power brick and away you go. It can even be placed in a chassis that can be bolted to your flat screen monitor's VESA mount. Discrete low power computing for a very small outlay.

What we are less sure about right now is pricing. As it stands, there is no official price for the board in the UK. However on the basis that the E350N USB3 has a smaller feature set than boards such as the E35M1-I Deluxe (Mini ITX, Fanless Heatpipe, WiFi, Bluetooth equipped), which can be found for ~£115, we are hoping to see the board retail between £80-100. Within this price range the E350N USB3 is a gem.

Pricing factor withstanding, we were impressed with what Gigabyte had to offer; a very capable solution for the masses.

The Good
-
Mini ITX Form Factor
- Quiet
- Atom killing performance

The Mediocre
- No WiFi/Bluetooth

The Bad
-
None

Bronze 

 

Thanks to Gigabyte for the sample on test today, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums