AMD Kabini: Athlon 5350 Desktop SoC

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The AM1 platform does a solid job of bridging the gap between AMD's embedded predecessors and fully-featured APUs. The Athlon 5350's CPU and GPU performance fall well short of the latest Kaveri chips, but it has helped raise the floor for entry level computing. No, it's not fast, but it is fast enough for the majority of users who use their PC for basic applications like web browsing, listening to music, and watching videos. When we weren't running benchmarks, that is to say during regular Windows operations, we often forgot what chip was under the hood. The speed and responsiveness was difficult to distinguish from traditional Intel and AMD desktop platforms. When we evaluated the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite, which runs a slower mobile version processor of the same architecture (A6-1450, 1.0~1.4 GHz), it wasn't nearly as smooth. This may indicate that the lower-clocked Sempron parts within the Kabini lineup might not quite be up to snuff either.

AM1's connectivity options aren't as robust as other socketed platforms but most of the vital features are present. Given Kabini's low power envelope, it seems like an ideal choice for a home server but only two SATA ports are supported, even if they are 6 Gbps. Some motherboards include an mSATA slot, while others include a third party controller for an additional two ports, but if you want more drives than that, a controller card will be required. USB 3.0 is also limited to two ports, and as most manufacturers place them at the rear, that means no front USB 3.0. Adding a discrete graphics card is a waste as the lack of CPU processing power and four PCI-E 2.0 lanes act as tight bottlenecks so gaming is out of the question, but the integrated graphics are perfectly suited for a media PC.

What really makes AM1 compelling is price as both the processors and motherboards range from about US$35 to US$60. This puts them in competition with a handful of Intel-powered embedded CPU/motherboard combinations using ultra-low voltage Sandy/Ivy Bridge chips and J-series Celerons, desktop SoC versions of Intel's latest Atom generation. However, as we have not yet tested any of these solutions, we will reserve final judgment on which solution is superior. What we can say is AMD's socket strategy gives it an advantage both in upgradeability and versatility as consumers get to choose between various hardware combinations.

Our thanks to AMD for the Athlon 5350 processor and ASUS for the AM1I-A motherboard sample.

AMD Athlon 5350 is Recommended by SPCR

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