GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined

We get our first taste of Fusion from AMD. How's it look? What can we do with the new platform? And has it got a future?
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, Feb 6 2011 11:18 PM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Package


Introduction

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 02 | TweakTown.com
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I'm going to be honest here when I say that I wasn't on the Fusion bandwagon from the start. I liked the idea behind it, but I wasn't sure if we would actually ever see it eventuate, or at least eventuate to a product that we would want to own.

Fusion is here, though, and it's time to decide if this is something that's going to line AMDs pockets with money, or will be a good idea that hasn't been executed well. Our first look at Fusion is going to come in the form of a retail board which will be hitting shelves soon.

The GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 is as you might've guessed a Fusion board based on the E Series of Fusion APU from AMD. They tell us that this is the "Value & Essential" series. We're going to get into all of that in just a few moments, though, as we take a look at the motherboard to see what's on offer.

What we'll first do is check out the package that GIGABYTE has got going on. Once that's done we'll have a closer look at the board itself, the features it offers and get a bit more technical with what Fusion is and what AMD wants it to do.

Then we'll get into the good stuff and find out what it can actually do, while at the same time having a bit of fun with it by throwing in a video card that's almost twice as long as the board itself. First, though, let's check out the package.


The Package

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The box itself is very GIGABYTE and looking at it we're seeing a lot of the stuff we've seen before, and in a sense you're really not seeing too much new. The thing is, though, when you start to consider this Mini-ITX sized box which is carrying a 17cm x 17cm board, has logos like USB 3.0, SATA 3.0, and the big stand out, DirectX 11 support, you find yourself thinking that there's going to be a lot packed on to this little unit. Turning the box over then goes on to describe some of the features in more detail; we won't cover that here, though.

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Since our board arrived a little pre-mature, we found ourselves with only two SATA cables and a driver CD that hadn't even been pressed yet. We did ask GIGABYTE what else would be included and the other extras are your standard ones like I/O Shield and the standard manual.

The Motherboard




Mini-ITX is a cool form factor. As we mentioned already, the board carries with it a very tiny 17cm x 17cm stature. You can pretty much cover everything in detail from just this shot, but let's take a closer look at what exactly is on offer.

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Across the bottom of the board we've got a single PCI-E x16 slot that will support pretty much any PCI-E based product. The important thing to know, though, is that the slot only runs at PCI-E x4. If you look in the above picture, you can see that only half of the slot is wired up. It's worth knowing before you throw in an expensive video card thinking it will run at its full PCI-E x16 speed.

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Above the PCI-E slot we've not only got four SATA ports, but four SATA 3.0 ports. This is indeed very cool, but it's a little unknown how much use the 6 GB/s bandwidth is going to get as the associated cost with SATA 3.0 SSD drives is quite expensive. At the same time, it's fairly safe to say that if SATA 3.0 wasn't implemented, we would've been asking ourselves why. If anything, it shows forward thinking.

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Memory support is offered in the form of two DDR3 slots that support a maximum of 8GB. At default 1066MHz DDR memory is supported, but of course higher speed modules can be used. GIGABYTE put their own touch on the board, though, and with a divider in the BIOS the memory can be overclocked to 1333MHz DDR.

Also here, we have our 24-Pin power connector and between that we've got the front panel ports and a fan header. It's worth knowing that you should utilize these before you install both the memory and the power connector. As I went to turn the board on, I realized it's been a while since I've used something that doesn't have switches on it, so I had to plug the power header into the board. It's doable with a little bit of effort, but easier if you unplug the 24-Pin power connector.

The Motherboard - Continued




Moving around again, we've got ourselves a CMOS battery and the ATX 12v power connector, and unlike a lot of boards we test these days, this is only a 4-Pin one and not the typical 8-Pin one we're used to seeing on higher end boards.

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In the middle of the board we've got a heatsink and a tiny little fan that brings fears of a squealing noise due to its small size. Fortunately, it's not like that, but we'll cover the noise in more detail when we get to our benchmarks.

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 10 | TweakTown.com


Under the heatsink sits two chips; the APU and the FCH. The APU takes care of the memory, has what we know best as the "CPU" built into it and carries the "GPU". Outside of that the APU, which in this case is "Zacate", or better known as the "E Series", also handles the monitor connectivity and memory support; in this case single channel DDR3.

Stepping down another level, we're dealing with the E350. That means we've got a 1600MHz Dual Core "CPU" which is known as "Bobcat" and a HD 6310 that's UVD3 capable and carries 80 Radeon Cores; memory support is up to 1GB, but this is pulled from your own systems RAM.

The FCH which is known as "Hudson" takes care of the PCI-E lane, USB 2.0 and 1.1, SATA III, HD Audio and Hardware Monitoring. AMD best describe it in an image that's in the reviewers guide, which you can see below. APU = CPU + GPU integrated on a single die. Fusion Controller Hub or what is known as Hudson covers peripherals. It's kind of Fusion Client Architecture in a nutshell.

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 22 | TweakTown.com


I could literally go on for hours about the technical side of things, and what you could possibly do with it. We won't go into that kind of detail here today, though.

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 11 | TweakTown.com


Of course, we can't move on without seeing what's on offer in terms of connectivity. We've got six USB ports; four are 2.0 and two are 3.0 . We've also got a mouse / keyboard PS/2 port, 10 / 100 / 1000 network port (via Realtek 8111E chip) and for audio we've got both Analogue and Digital (via Realtek ALC892) on offer.

Connectivity for video is offered in the form of a VGA port, Single-Link DVI-D port that supports up to 1920 x 1200 @ 60Hz along with a single HDMI port.

BIOS & Overclocking




Getting into the BIOS, you're not going to find yourself confused and confronted with anything too different thanks to the Award system being very well known by a lot of users.

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 12 | TweakTown.com


Your option list is fairly standard, but we'll go through the list and cover what each section lets us does as we go along. We'll skip M.I.T. for just a second, though.

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Standard CMOS Features offers, well, your standard CMOS features.

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 15 | TweakTown.com


Advanced BIOS options let us do things like set the boot order and if you want to enable Cool & Quiet control. Up the top, though, we've got the IGX Configuration.

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 16 | TweakTown.com


What the IGX Configuration does is let us adjust the internal GPU options, the amount of memory we want it to take up to 1GB as well as the ability to adjust the core clock on the GPU. At Auto and 4GB of memory installed, the GPU was assigned 384MB of memory.

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 17 | TweakTown.com


Moving back and going to Integrated Peripherals, we have all the options related to our SATA, USB and LAN ports.

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Power Management gives us the standard run down of power options.

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PC Health Status gives us a run down on temperatures, fan speed and voltages.

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Moving to M.I.T. - you can see all our options related to the CPU and memory. We're able to set the memory divider we want to use which starts as low as 800MHz DDR and goes to 1333MHz DDR. We've also got all our voltage options and the ability to overclock the CPU via the Host Clock option.

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Looking at the DRAM Configuration we're able to set stuff like timings. At AUTO it will just follow the SPD.

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Because we can, and the fact that GIGABYTE offer the option, we chose to overclock our little Fusion board. We didn't do too much; we gave our CPU a little more V-Core and bumped the Host Clock to 105 and set the memory divider to x.6.66.

This resulted in our CPU going from 1600MHz to 1681MHz and our memory went from 1066MHz DDR to 1399MHz DDR.

Test System Setup and Comments


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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: GIGABYTE, Sapphire, Kingston, Mittoni and Corsair.

There are two things I need to stress before we start looking at some of the benchmark numbers. The first; this isn't the final revision of the board and some small tweaks may be offered before it hits retail shelves. Of course, we're not going to promise extra performance when we can't test it, but it's something worth noting.

The second is that a lot of benchmark programs don't officially support the Fusion platform, so again not everything could be going as strong as, well, it could. The market the Brazos platform is aimed at which consists of the C and E series isn't exactly your competitive gamer demanding the highest detail and frame rate. It felt like such a waste, though, especially since we overclocked, to not put the system through some of our benchmarks.

Since there was also that juicy looking x16 PCI-E slot available, it seemed like a waste to not have a bit of fun and throw a HD 6970 in it. Of course, you have to remember that while the card fits with no issue, the slot itself is only wired up to support x4, so it will of course impact performance. The other thing is we're only dealing with a 1600MHz CPU that is cooled with a tiny fan which also takes care of the built in GPU. So clearly we're not going to be dealing with a power house of a CPU, So take our HD 6970 benchmarks as a bit of fun, which is exactly what they are.

Let's get started!

AIDA64 Benchmarks


AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com
Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Overclocked you can see we've got a bit more performance when it comes to the read and write performance on the Cache.

AIDA64 Benchmarks - Continued


AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com
Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 32 | TweakTown.com


GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 33 | TweakTown.com


USB 2.0 performance is even across the board. As for SATA performance, it's best when everything is left alone. Overclocked, it drops back a little, but if we throw our own VGA card back on it jumps back up.

AIDA64 Benchmarks - Continued


AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com
Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

GIGABYTE E350N-USB3 Fusion Benched, Overclocked and Examined 34 | TweakTown.com


Memory bandwidth, like CPU performance does indeed increase when we add some extra MHz.

Gaming Benchmarks




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That's a low score utilizing the onboard video card and it might be almost 4x faster when we have the HD 6970 attached, but that scores still a lot lower than the same card would perform on our 980X or P67 testbed.

What's interesting, though, is that the GPU score wasn't that bad at around the 3500 mark. With the card overclocked and our P67 platform at 4.7GHz, we see a GPU score of around 5500. What we're hitting, though, is a CPU wall as we deal with a CPU clocked at just over 1.6GHz with two cores and our normal PCI-E x16 slot running at only x4.

What brought the overall score down so much, though, is the Physics and Combined tests which rely a lot on the CPU. Of course, it was never going to perform like quad core CPUs that carry eight threads and 4.5GHz+ clocks.

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Running a few games, you can see across the board it doesn't matter what resolution we play at, the FPS is identical, which means that we're hitting a CPU limitation. Not a surprise, especially when using a HD 6970. Street Fighter IV numbers are good, though, and LP2 looked good and that's because the difference between our minimum and maximum were so small that you really had a constant 30+ FPS.

Even moving to 2560 x 1600 under Mafia II, we couldn't get performance to drop with it scoring 16 FPS again. Again, though, it was all just done for a bit of fun.

Temperature and Power


Power Draw

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Power draw is impressive and it didn't take me long to figure out that the 1200 Watt Corsair PSU was a little overkill. You can see, though, how the platform is going to do well in a notebook environment with those low numbers.


System noise

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At stock the system noise is excellent; it really isn't audible outside the general room environment. Overclocking does bring the noise up a little at load and the HD 6970 manages to be a little louder again on the system, but overall volume isn't an issue. It would've been nice to see GIGABYTE utilize a passive cooler, though. I suppose with overclocking options in the BIOS, an active cooler is a better option.

Final Thoughts




For me, one benchmark was most important, and that was playback of a 1080P MKV. Firing up an 8GB copy of Ironman running off both the hard drive and over the network, playback was excellent and smooth. The only time I saw the playback really struggle was when you would jump forward through the movie. It would take just a second to compose itself and then be on its way again. For the most part, though, you would simply just open a movie and hit play, and in that situation you shouldn't run into any problems.

For me the playback of Hi Definition content was a big part of how I would feel about the platform at this level. With pricing being around the $100 USD mark when it comes forward, all you'll need for a home theater PC is case, PSU, HDD and RAM, all of which can be bought quite cheap.

Fusion has a long way to come still, but not in the areas you think. On the technical side of things the platform runs superbly considering its price point. These individual boards as well like the E350N-USB3 from GIGABYTE are clearly aimed at people who want a HTPC that can be feature packed, but extremely small at the same time as running extremely well with good playback of high definition content.

Where Fusion has a long way to go is in the sense that it needs to be marketed. In certain circles, like with you most likely, Fusion is a name that's become known; it's one that we can instantly associate with the next generation of mainstream computing. Fusion as AMD display is the combination of what we've traditionally known as the "Northbridge", "CPU" and "GPU" into a single chip; the AMD Fusion APU.

But there's no Fusion logo on the GIGABYTE box. There's also no Fusion logo on the ASUS box which I've seen pictures of. Instead, both have the AMD Vision logo, which is fine, but that's also present on the AMD line of video cards. When someone says I bought an "AMD Vision" system, it means nothing, and if it meant something, it would just mean that an AMD GPU is offered. This is the first and biggest mistake that AMD have done right now. The way I'm sure companies are forced to offer the "AMD Vision" logo, they should be forced to use an "AMD Fusion" one. It should be on notebooks, netbooks and motherboard boxes.

GIGABYTE have the Intel Atom logo, but for AMD and Fusion systems I'm seeing a generic "AMD Vision" one, and I say generic because it's also used on their video card line-up. People should be able to say I have an "AMD Fusion" system and they know it means something because they have laptops with the "AMD Fusion" logo, and their work PC has the "AMD Fusion" logo on it. I should be able to type "AMD Fusion" into Newegg and see every product that revolves around the "E Series" and "C Series" platforms.

Someone last year told me that AMD is an engineering company and not a marketing one. It's very true, but just because you have the best product in price and performance, it doesn't mean you will be number 1.

GIGABYTE has done a fantastic job with this board here. Connectivity options are great, there are expansion possibilities with the x16 PCI-E slot and AMD have done the right thing in regards to pricing.

On top of all those little features that make the "Fusion" platform so appealing, GIGABYTE has of course added all their little aspects which make the board so appealing for the right market. Plus you throw in the fact that Overclocking is mentioned on the back of the box and you've got to love what's going on here.

GIGABYTE has done its part, but it's now up to AMD to make people outside of the tech enthusiast want one. Having a great product is one thing; selling a great product is another.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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