Now I have reviewed a couple of Micro/Mini-ATX motherboards over the past couple of months, but nothing says discrete like Gigabyte's 6.7" x 6.7" GA-E350N motherboard. Based on the recently released AMD Brazos chip, the GA-E350N comes with an obvious AMD E350 Fusion CPU running at 1.6GHz partnered with an HD 6310 integrated graphics processor.
The most recent AMD Fusion based M-ATX motherboard I looked at was the ASUS E35M1-M which gave decent performance for its puny size. Now keep in mind that everything on the motherboard is upgradeable through the various expansion slots except for the CPU. No matter what, you're stuck with a dual core AMD E-350 APU with its onboard graphics processor. Of course, you can always add a proper graphics card via the PCIe slot which runs at x4, but you're not going to get anything out of it since the whole system is extremely bottlenecked by the CPU.
That said, the AMD E-350 Fusion APU was designed with low level of processing in mind, while at the same time providing enough power to easily handle HD video content. Thus the E-350 APU is the perfect processor for HTPCs. Once you have a motherboard like this, you only need additional ram, a minimalistic PSU (400W and below will do nicely) and terabytes of hard disk space, because that's the main function here; watching HD movies. In which case you may also want to couple it with a nice bluray player as well.
Enough talk about the potential of the Gigabyte GA-E350N, let's look at how it performs. For benchmarking it, I have used Kingston 2x 2GB HyperX DDR3 ram and Kingston V-Series 64GB SSD with Windows 7 Ultimate. All of this is powered by a 1200W Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold PSU. For comparisons I have tested the ASUS E35M1-M and the Zotac Zbox AD03.
In all of the benchmarks above, the Gigabyte GA-E350 plays second fiddle to the ASUS E35M1-M despite both of them being similarly specced. Both the ASUS and the Gigabyte boards posted 21fps on StarCraft II at lowest possible settings on a resolution of 1280x720.
Running an mkv copy of the Dark Knight on 1080p and 720p as well as the Bluray directly posed no problems at all as the playback was smooth and without a hitch. I also noticed that the fan remained ultra quiet throughout the testing and temperatures went up to 55°C.
At the end of the day if you're looking for a decent (and very small) M-ATX motherboard for your new HTPC, the Gigabyte GA-350N-USB3 should serve you just fine. It's small enough to fit in any case and hardly draws much power, depending on your ram, HDD and bluray drive. It barely makes any noise and is good for HD content, but don't look into it if you're hoping for CPU intensive tasks.