Gigabyte E350N-USB3 ReviewIndybird - April 17, 2011
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In the last year or two, there has been a strong increase in demand for media PCs and components. Up until recently, a powerful media PC consisted of a desktop processor, micro-ATX motherboard, and a low-end graphics card. The problem with this setup is price, physical size, and power consumption. On the other hand, you also have the recent increase in popularity of net-top computers. The advantage of these, of course, are the exact shortcomings of traditional media PCs — they are cheap, very small, and consume less power. The first company to find the sweet spot between these two extremes was NVIDIA with the introduction of its ION platform in 2009. The idea behind ION was to pair a slower but low-power processor like the Atom with a dedicated graphics processing unit. While this all sounds great in theory, the ION and even the ION 2 platform were not really capable of playing 1080p video reliably.
On the other side of fence, AMD is, timewise, not far behind Intel and NVIDIA. Just this January, AMD released its Fusion platform that combines a CPU and GPU into a single chip known as the APU (Accelerated Processing Unit). In just the last month, we have seen an influx of Fusion products intended for system builders. Today we have Gigabyte's offering in this department, the E350N-USB3. Gigabyte has a long-standing reputation of making high-quality, full-featured motherboards at all price points. The E350N-USB3 is one of Gigabyte's first motherboards to fit the bill for a low-power media PC. After taking a look over the features, you realize Gigabyte definitely did not skimp in this department — you've got onboard USB 3.0, four SATA III ports, and two DDR3 DIMM slots. The E350N is sizing up to be quite a board, so let's take a closer look.
The E350N comes in Gigabyte's typical sleek bright white and light blue themed box. Gigabyte's "333 Onboard Acceleration" is prominently displayed on the front of the box, reminding consumers that the E350N has USB 3.0, USB Power 3x, and SATA 3.0. Also displayed on the front are other features like Ultra Durable 3 and DirectX 11. Around the back you get very detailed descriptions of all the features of the board. Strangely missing from the front, back and sides of the box are detailed technical specs of the motherboard.
Inside the box you'll find your basic accessories, including a detailed manual, installation guide, driver CD, two Gigabyte-blue SATA cables, and a very clean labeled and color-coded I/O shield. The board itself comes wrapped in a simple anti-static bag.
With the contents of the box examined, we can move on to the board itself.