This isn’t our first time looking at the new AMD Fusion APU; our review for the Zotac Zbox AD03
has been up for a couple of weeks already. However, the Zbox AD03 review focused on the HTPC as a whole; today I’ll be looking at the AMD E-350 APU in particular.
Over the last few years AMD has been absent from the netbooks and nettops market. They obviously did have onboard solutions since a long time, but nothing that could compete in the same category as Intel Atom processors. Then of course Nvidia soon came out with their ION based chipsets that allows a decent level of low-end gaming performance. AMD and ATI were left out in the cold. Now with AMD’s new direction with integrating both CPU and GPU on one die, resulting in a cooler and a more power efficient processor, or APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) as AMD likes to call it.
So the AMD Fusion E-350 that I have for review comes on an ASUS E35M1-M motherboard. The Mini-ATX sized board is designed for HTPC. The ASUS E35M1-M gets its namesake from the E-350 APU as well as the Hudson M1 chipset onboard. The onboard APU, the Brazos E-350 has two ‘Bobcat’ cores running at 1.6GHz as well as the AMD HD 6310 integrated Zacate graphics. Keep in mind that the HD 6310 supports DX11, but it’s not exactly setting the charts on fire as you’ll see in the benchmarks.
The whole idea behind the AMD Fusion APUs is to provide a better experience than Intel’s Atom CPUs while at the same time also providing the power of the integrated graphics to provide an overall basic entertainment experience. This is true for netbooks and nettops, but in HTPCs it’s a slightly different story.
The ASUS E35M1-M has an onboard AMD E-350 dual core APU @ 1.6GHz, and integrated HD 6310 graphics processor, 4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333MHz ram, Kingston V-Series 64GB SSD with Windows Ultimate; all powered by a Cooler Master 1200W Silent Pro Gold PSU. I’ll be comparing the ASUS E35M1-M with the recently reviewed Zotac Zbox AD03
(which has an E-350 APU), HP Mini 210
(Atom N450 dual core @ 1.66GHz + Intel GMA 3150) and the Lenovo Edge 11
(with dual core i3-U380 @ 1.33GHz + Intel HD Graphics).
Obviously the Core i3 is on a completely different level than the E-350, but that’s not the market AMD is targeting with their new Fusion APUs. The Intel Atom CPU, as we can see here (with its one core and two threads) remains far behind the E-350 APU. It’s strange to see the 2D performance in Passmark go up so high on the Intel Atom and GMA 3150 graphics, but 3D performance is where the HD 6310 really comes into play.
Since the E-350 has an HD 6310 graphics processor onboard, and since it supports DX11, I thought I may as well run 3DMark 11 (Entry) on it. What followed was an awesome slideshow of pretty 3D scenes, resulting in a score of E444. Hey, at least DX11 works, right!
Second I decided to take it down two notches and run 3DMark 06. Running it on default settings gave me a score of 2012 points. Lower than what I was expecting. However, you will soon learn that it’s not the HD 6310 that’s the weaker component here.
For my final test, I decided to go with a real world scenario and run StarCraft II on it. With everything set to low, and a resolution of 1280x720, I got an average fps of 22 fps.
Since the ASUS E35M1-M has a PCIe x16 slot (with x4 lanes), I thought I may as well throw in our Zotac GTX 580 AMP! Edition and run the last two benchmarks again; just to see how much of a bottleneck the two Bobcat cores really were. 3DMark 06 returned back a slightly improved 4865 points and StarCraft II (on the same settings) yielded 24 fps. So it’s definitely the two Bobcat cores running at 1.6GHz that are pulling the HD 6310 GPU down. Too bad, since I was expecting better gaming performance from the E-350. I guess my dreams of playing games at reasonable settings on a netbook are still far away from reality.
As an HTPC, the E-350 behaved very nicely indeed. I mean, paltry gaming performance aside, the 1080p performance of the ASUS E35M1-M is just as good as the Zotac Zbox AD03. It’s interesting to note that the ASUS E35M1-M comes with passive cooling from a respectably sized heatsink (and the option to install a small fan on top). On passive cooling I got idle temperatures of 50°C and full load temperatures were close to 54°C. With the fan on top, idle temperatures got to 48°C, but load temperatures remained the same, i.e. at 54°C.
So yes, AMD’s Brazos succeeded in beating the Intel Atom CPUs, and the gaming performance isn’t all that bad when you consider this is a netbook level CPU/GPU (APU), so this is definitely an improvement and a step in the right direction for this segment. I look forward to AMD (and Intel’s) further advancement in this section, but for now, not a bad start from AMD. Let’s see where this road takes them in the future.