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Gigabyte E350N-USB3 Review

Indybird    -   April 17, 2011
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Conclusion:

Four years in the making, the first desktop iteration of AMD Fusion has proven to be quite the platform. Having reviewed and personally used other low-power media PC platforms, I approached AMD Fusion with skepticism. Previous platforms of this nature still couldn't quite play full HD video and definitely couldn't perform any intense processing like 3D gaming or photo editing. Upon firing up the Gigabyte E350N-USB3, I was surprised to find myself with a very capable system. Full HD video was a breeze — I encountered no stuttering or lag during playback through HDMI. In addition to more CPU intensive tasks, I was even able to do a little tiny bit of 3D gaming. This is all thanks to the AMD Zacate E350 CPU and HD 6310 GPU crammed into the APU.

Aside from the amazing power-to-performance ratio from the Fusion APU, this board comes well equipped in the feature department. The two most noticable features are the integrated USB3.0 and SATA III. These, along with 4x PCI-Express acceleration, are provided by the AMD Hudson-M1 FCH chip, which complements the APU perfectly. Speaking of the 4x PCI-Express acceleration, Gigabyte provides system builders with a PCI-Express x16 slot (4x electrical) capable of running full-sized graphics cards (or any other standard PCI-E card).

What stood out to me was a feature that is unique to Gigabyte's Fusion board — a full-featured BIOS complete with overclocking. On top of just being able to overclock, it actually proved to be very worthwhile. The E350N scored significantly higher in CPU and graphics tests once the processor and memory were overclocked. This left me terribly curious as to the full processing power of the HD 6310 GPU, as it not only appears to be severely CPU-limited on this platform, but it also didn't take kindly to any overclocking itself. Last, but not least, the board supports full DDR3 RAM, which is a huge plus because it is not only lower power, but it is also the current standard for memory.

Unfortunately, this board was not without its weaknesses, namely connectivity ones. There were three very common connections missing from this media-oriented board — Bluetooth, eSATA, and Integrated WiFi. The exclusion of integrated bluetooth isn't a dealbreaker, but many other boards at the E350N's level come with this feature. Next was the lack of eSATA, a more surprising omission. External storage is not uncommon for a media PC, and though it does have USB 3.0, eSATA enclosures are currently far more common. However, the strangest feature missing from the E350N was integrated WiFi. At this point in time, integrated wireless on a platform such as this is almost required. Not having it integrated means that either the PCI-Express slot or one of the few external USB ports will be occupied if wireless connectivity is necessary. The other glaring ommision was RAID support, a feature that is typically desired in a media PC.

Overall, the Gigabyte E350N was a very positive experience. The amount of performance squeezed out of such a small form-factor, lower-power system is truly astounding. Despite missing a couple key connections, such as WiFi, the board still had countless other great features. Being able to overclock and have something to show for it really made me feel like I had a quality performance product. This board was purposely designed to be at the core of a media PC and it truly shows in its performance, power consumption and feature-set. The Gigabyte E350N-USB3, with the AMD Fusion chipset at its core, genuinely allows you to have the best of all worlds in a media PC.

 

Pros:

  • Fast for its power consumption and size
  • Capable of 1080p video
  • Decent 3D performance
  • Low power consumption
  • Well-priced
  • Good BIOS features
  • CPU and RAM overclocking
  • PCI-Express x16 Slot
  • Full-size DDR3 DIMM

 

Cons:

  • No WiFi
  • No Bluetooth
  • No eSATA
  • No RAID support
  • Only six USB ports on I/O Panel
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