Another Brazos Model: Gigabyte E350N-USB3 Mainboard
When we first got acquainted with the nettop modification of AMD Brazos platform we looked at MSI mainboard. Today we have Gigabyte E350N-USB3 solution in our lab. However, I can’t say that it has dramatically changed our perception of the Brazos platform. AMD defines the components for this platform very clearly: AMD E-350 processor and Hudson M1 chipset, and the Mini-ITX form-factor doesn’t really give much room for engineering creativity. Therefore, Gigabyte mainboard is almost the same as the MSI one (if we do not go too deep into the details) – it is a typical Brazos platform with a dual-core 1.6 GHz processor and integrated Radeon HD 6310 graphics core.
Overall, Gigabyte E350N-USB3 offers the same expansion functionality: there is a PCI Express x16 slot (logically connected to four PCIe 2.0 lanes), two DDR3 memory DIMMs working in single-channel mode, four 6 Gbps SATA ports and a pair of pin-connectors for USB devices.
However, it is the little things that usually hide surprises, and this is where Gigabyte E350N-USB3 really stands out.
The major and the most eye-catching peculiarity of Gigabyte E350N-USB3 (if we do not take into consideration such obvious things as their signature blue textolite, for example) is the single cooling system covering the chipset and the APU. Both these chips are located side by side on the PCB, which allows using a single aluminum heatsink for both of them. Unfortunately, the heatsink is topped with a pretty loud 40 mm fan with 4000 RPM maximum rotation speed. Gigabyte engineers tried to minimize the negative acoustic effects by implementing automatic rotation speed control option for this fan. It helps indeed, but doesn’t solve the problem completely.
This cooling system doesn’t deal with the CPU voltage regulator featuring triple-phase design. We would assume that since AMD E-350 processor has an 18 W TDP, the voltage regulator MOSFET shouldn’t be loaded too much, but their actual operational temperatures exceed 50 degrees. The voltage regulator circuitry is obviously designed not in the most optimal way and it suffers from severe power losses, as we will also confirm later during our power consumption tests.
Unlike MSI mainboard, Gigabyte E350N-USB3 looks pretty packed with electronic components. However, it is the numerous simple parts that create this impression, but in reality there are not that many additional onboard controllers. Most of the mainboard’s functionality is implemented via the chipset South Bridge – Hudson M1 Fusion controller hub. In fact, Gigabyte engineers added only a Realtek RTL8111E Gigabit network controller, Realtek ALC892 sound codec and Renesas USB 3.0 controller, which is a must-have component for any contemporary mainboard.
This certainly determines the ports and connectors on the back panel. Here we see six USB ports, two of which can work in USB 3.0 mode, a Gigabit network port, six analogue audio-jacks, a digital SPDIF Out and a PS/2 port for keyboard or mouse. As for the monitor outs, Gigabyte E350N-USB3 offers three options: analogue D-Sub or digital DVI-D and HDMI. It also supports any dual-monitor configurations, but none of the output ports support resolutions beyond 1920x1200.