AMD Brazos platform tested
The E350 APU
You know, I have a bit of a soft spot for ultra small motherboards that offer "okay" performance, yet come
with decent integrated processor and graphics subsystem that just oozes with features and value.
examples of some products we have tested in the past where Intel Atom based, and heck... let's not
forget about the impact that NVIDIA ION made, the combination of a small form factor motherboard, an
"okay" processor and power full graphics sparked and ign
ited the netbook and net
Also another segment suddenly became interested in these products, the HTPC audience. And when we
look at the SOHO segment, a lot of NAS servers these days are equipped with small form factor products
ever never had a real viable answer to this development and years ago they decided to pursue
and bore into a new direction, yeah amongst others... Fusion, a combination of a processor and graphics
processor integrated into one small die.
The idea is simple
, but more complicated to manufacture then you think. AMD calls this APU, it is a
processor with embedded graphics core merged directly into the die. A development that from here on will
dominate the processor industry and a technology that will eat away a
large piece of the IGP and low
graphics card sales pie.
Intel started something very similar with the high end Sandy Bridge products, AMD is doing it vice versa...
they start at low
end, the net
top and net
prices hovering in the 100
EUR bracket you can purchase yourself some amazing stuff, and sure let
me immediately make clear that this is not high
end processor kit in terms of performance, contrary...
this is netbook / entry level performance at best, but the combination of the GPU
+CPU=APU is something
that is very interesting. We peek at the cutest mITX motherboard, have a look at some of its performance
on the CPU and GPU side of things but most of all, we'll discuss features as what these products bring to
the table is just downr
ight imrpessive for the money as you'll notice DDR3 support, SATA
DVI/HDMI support, gigabit Ethernet, 8
channel audio support and then the integrated dual
at 1600 MHz and in that processor embedded DX11 ready graphics core.
product we test today is based on the AMD E
Atom level processing performance with an
AMD Radeon HD 6310 graphics on
Have a peek what we are talking about and then let's head into the article.
The Brazos Platform
So the low power platfo
rm we are looking at today was formerly codenamed "Brazos".
All Brazos motherboards are within the same price range and power envelopes as Atom/Ion solutions.
They are available in several APU variations: E
Series and C
Series, which fall within the Fusio
n family of
Liano = AMD A Series APUs
Zacate = AMD E Series APUs (18W)
Ontario = AMD C Series APUs (9W)
On the the desktop side within the Zacate and Ontario segment, these are released:
Zacate (18W max):
350 with AMD Radeon HD 6310 Graphics (d
core CPU @ 1.6GHz & GPU @ 500MHz)
240 with AMD Radeon HD 6310 Graphics (single
core CPU @ 1.5GHz & GPU @ 500MHz)
Ontario (9W max)
50 with AMD Radeon™ HD 6250 Graphics (dual
core CPU @ 1.0GHz & GPU @ 280MHz)
30 with AMD Radeon™ HD 6250
core CPU @ 1.2GHz & GPU @ 280MHz)
The Processing capability
These APU "processors" feature the new x86 CPU core codenamed "Bobcat" AMD's first new x86 core since
2003 I think. It was designed from the ground up to deliver an enhanced mobi
le level performance. A
processor tagged at a TDP of merely 18 Watts. Have a look below at the APU die.
To the left the Zacate APU
To the right an overlay describing the die segments check out the size needed for the GPU.
The APU we test today has two
x86 CPU cores, the chip also supports full X86
64 extensions and sports a
bit FPU as well. Each CPU core has 32kb L1 and 512kb L2 cache per core and comes with a single
channel memory controller that supports up
to 1066 MHz (but unofficially also 1333 M
Hz) DDR3 memory.
Again note that the specified max memory speed AMD officially supports for “Brazos” is 1066MHz.
we test a product with the E
350, an APU that is empowering the motherboard, it is a dual
SKU running at a clock frequency
of 1.6 GHz
FT1 BGA, 413
Ball, 19x19mm, .8mm pitch
Bobcat (2 cores), 512KB L2/Core, 64
1066, 1.35V/1.5V (Single
Channel, 2 DIMMs)
DX11 capable, UVD3 enabled
Digital Display I/F DP0: Display Port,
HDMI, DVI, LVDS
Digital Display I/F DP1: Display Port,
VGA from integrated VGA DAC
Core Level: CC6 Power State
Level: PC6 Power State
L2 Cache power gating
The Graphics capability
Tagged and labeled under the Vision engine there's a nice graphics subsystem embedded into the APU
responsible for many tasks, embedded is a Radeon HD 6310 (Vancouver Radeon HD series
can drive real low
level games, but most of all is perfect for Full HD content playback, DXVA hardware
acceleration and post processing. You guys all know UVD right, the Universal Video Decoder technology
from ATI, well the 3rd generation UVD
core logic has been embedded into the GPU so VC1. H.264,
DIVX/XVID acceleration is all supported.
You are at Guru3D, and as such this lingo is more to your liking and understanding, the embedded GPU
has two 40 Shader Cores (one per SIMD) = 80 Shader Cores/
APU all clocked at 500MHz for the E
Now that's not huge, but you do you have a generic GPU at hands allowing all common tasks, a tiny bit of
gaming, but where its most interesting is HD content playback. When the media
file allows it you can
e, accelerate and enhance 1080P movies for example over the GPU, allowing the CPU to do very
Not only is that offering really good HTPC features and output, you are doing that with a low power budget
as well. For example we tried decoding MVK movi
es at 1080P with Media Player Classic Home Cinema,
when the content is DXVA enabled (pretty much all MVK content these days) you can perfectly playback
the movie and post process (image sharpening / black levels etc) as well. Meanwhile the processing
stem in the APU was active less than 30% and our total power draw merely 46 Watt.
Audio wise you are covered as well, all common formats are supported and even bitstreaming both
TrueHD and DTS
HD MA are supported over HDMI.
The APU processor then leads to
another chip, called the HUDSON chipset (IO controller chip), which
functions as your a
typical Southbridge really, let's have a peek at its specifications.
65nm / FC BGA, 605
Ball, 23x23mm, .8mm
4.7W for typical configurations
6 Ports, 6Gb/s
14 USB2.0 Ports, 2 USB1.1 Internal Ports
Incorporates Fan Control, VoltageLevel
As you can see, as small as this stuff really is, it oozes with the latest technology like 14 USB 2.0 ports but
yeah sure, up
to six sate
600 ports, which is pretty impressive stuff.
So what's the Motherboard tested today ?
One of the partners that releas
ed a Brazos
ITX motherboard is Gigabyte. Thus this product
fusion based, the GA
USB3, featuring the Hudson
M1 chipset formerly called the Brazos "low
350 is the APU that is empowering the motherboard, it is a dual
core processor running at a clock
frequency of 1.6 GHz and that embedded graphics core is in fact Radeon HD 6310 allowing the following
monitor connectors (DVI, HDMI, D
The motherboard comes with two
DDR3 memory slots and even a PCI Express x16 sl
ot (really runs at
PCIe x4), DualBIOS and four SATA 6.0 Gbps connectors, which is interesting. I expect a lot of home
servers running this product. Also in combination with a motherboard like this you can create a
ridiculously nice file
server. Features wi
se it does not stop there though as you'll even spot two USB 3.0
connectors, 7.1 channel audio and Gigabit Ethernet.
Final words and conclusion
The overall experience of a
350 based platform for me equals to fun. It's not at all high
end and please
do not confuse the purpose of a product like shown today with that either. You however can browse the
web really well, even with very rich web content. Next to that you have yo
ur HD video capability working
extraordinary well also. Your overall applications will run fine, heck we even photo shopped on this
platform which as really okay and sure, while very limited you can play a game or two. HDD/SSD
performance will be fine, our
tests did show some peak limitation, but say 175MB/sec is something you'll
get out of it for sure. USB 3.0 performance on this board was quite good really, albeit slightly slower it
was matching SATA2 tested performance with up
to 175MB/sec read and 120MB
/sec write performance.
And again, this platform is aimed at Netbook/Net
top performance at best, but it works out really well.
The video accelerator, it's capacity and features astounded me the most though. I'd have no problem with
a little E
350 based mI
TX motherboard functioning as HTPC whatsoever. It's power efficient and offers
downright superb quality with software that can utilize the graphics core as video accelerator. In
combination with the sheer silence of these setups AND the fact that you can h
ook it into HDMI or if you
wanted top, use a coaxial or Optical Toslink for your audio, makes it near perfect for the budget.
So yeah, we like what we see for sure. The Fusion infrastructure created here is working out really well,
you'll have a fairly wel
l performing product (for our standards) on which you can manage all your generic
and daily stuff on quite well. The key factors of the product tested today is the combination of the
CPU+GPU, yep that APU works out well. Especially in the HD video segment
this could be a really
interesting product. Next to that the product will shine at power consumption. Though on our sample was
still a tiny bit on the high side, we expect that with future BIOS updates,
few Watts will be shaved off here
and there. But if I
look purely at the HTPC demographic for a second here then surely decoding and
enhancing 1080P content without framedrops under 50 Watts is quite honestly a very interesting prospect.
And if you just need to build a nicely functioning net
PC, then sure go
With the first ever series of APUs we see merely a glimpse of what the future will
bring us. The functionality is there, the performance (within its segment) is there
and yeah as such we can not conclude anything other then the fact that the E
is offering a heck of a lot of fun, all in a very affordable 100 EUR price bracket.
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