Introduction to the ASRock E350M1 and AMD Fusion APU
During CES this year AMD debuted the first few models of Fusion APU, in a long line of exciting models to come. The APU, which is short for Accelerated Processing Unit, is a 'fusion' of multiple system components directly into the CPU die. AMD has managed to skillfully cram in basically everything except the Southbridge, which means the Northbridge, or basically HyperTransport and PCIe controller; a powerful DX11 capable GPU with video output segment, essentially an HD 5000 series that has undergone a huge die shrink; a DDR3 memory controller; and up to a 4 core CPU, with more to be added. For the Zacate and Ontario chips this was all done on a 40nm process, which is 5nm less than the Phenom II, and the upcoming Llano version will be 35nm with an even bigger GPU core.
These current APU chips are AMD's answer to the mobile market, where the Intel Atom has all but dominated, with only the hard to find VIA NANO having more computational power (but as a higher power consumption). The "Brazos" platform is what these systems are codenamed, and the most powerful currently is the Zacate E350. This is a dual-core K10.5 CPU running at 1.6GHz, with a total of 128KB L1 (corrected) and 1MB of L2, and an integrated DirectX 11 80SP GPU that runs at 500MHz. Essentially what you have is an HD 5450 built in directly on the CPU. The power consumption is no doubt what you are curious about, given the goal of this APU is the mobile market. AMD has a TDP of 18W, which one might consider quite a bit.
With only the Southbridge chip remaining, it has been redubed the Fusion Controller Hub, or simply FCH. This is not some stripped down, 4 year old chipset on a diet either. AMD for the most part has taken the SB800 series and made it acceptable for the mobile environment, providing a load of features and only sip power in doing so. The presently available model is the A50M (codenamed Hudson-M1) and boasts six SATA-III 6gb/s ports, but . Intel's *67 PCH can only offer two SATA-III ports, not to mention the fact their Atom doesn't even offer SATA-III. Power consumption for the A50M? How does all of those goodies only drawing a max of 5W sound? We imagine that in a truly mobile environment that you would only need 2 of those SATA ports, and can in turn probably halve the draw.
Today's review sample is the ASRock E350M1, which as the name indicates is an AMD E350 Fusion APU with the Hudson-M1 (A50M) FCH. This is an mITX desktop board aimed at anyone interested in building a powerful, yet power conservative, HTPC or Nettop system. With the dual-core 1600MHz E350 being fused together with a Radeon HD 6310 GPU, it makes for the perfect platform with enough horse power for either task. Should you want to make a light TV gaming machine, a digital TV box for DVR, or want the best sound possible for your movies, then there is also a full length PCIe slot that can be filled with a discrete card to match your needs. Having four internal SATA-III ports could easily turn the E350M1 into a massive storage DVR or media storage HTPC. Join us as we see what this little APU equipped board is made of and what it is capable of handling.