Excellent review. I have been following the various previews of the bobcat variations with high hopes that they could meet my htpc and/or home server needs. The current iteration doesn't meet my htpc needs but it may serve as a worthwhile replacement for my whs. I have a few questions and comments.
(1) It's unfortunate there is no heatsink layout standard for the fusion? Examination of the Asus, MSI, and Gigabyte boards evidences that the heatsink is defined by the layout of the APU & FCH which is different for each board. Consequently, we'll be SOL when it comes to aftermarket heatsink replacements (except some of the boards could conceivably match some standard (AM2, northbridge or a southbridge layout). This is unfortunate since the low power draw begs for semi/passive cooling that could be achieved with larger after market heatsinks. We always have the option of simply hanging a larger mm fan over the heatsink & uninstalling the stock fan so that it doesn't block airflow and maintains silence.
(2) Thank you for considering the utility of the e350 for home server usage (it would be "great as a home server"). The other reviews I've read haven't really considered such use (or I simply don't recall such considerations). My current WHS consists of an AMD 780g based motherboard, a be-2350 (45w), 2gb DDR2, 1 x Seagate 1.5tb 7200rpm and 3 x 2tb Western Digital 5400rpm drives (wd20ears), a 550w Corsair PSU (received from Corsair as replacement for their 400w that refused to cold boot the system despite 2 or 3 different units tested), a 140mm fan and a 120mm fan (both operating at their lowest voltage). The AC draw is ~61w at idle according to a Kill A Watt.
(a) What type of power draw can I expect by switching to an e-350. Given the inefficient PSU and the 4 drives, I'm guessing around 30-35 idle. While this is not the primary reason I'm switching out motherboards (the board is sometimes stalling at the SATA scan which is a killer on a whs that goes into hibernate when no users are logged in & is wakened for use), it is a factor b/c if power savings will be negligible, I might as well just stick with the be-2350.
(b) Perhaps this is a bit off-topic, but would a Pico-PSU be appropriate for the server or is the start-up draw too much (given the 4 hard drives)? I've examined the pico-psu option a few times but always felt limitations and uncertainties weren't worth the hassle (eg., my htpc also idles ~61w but not when gaming b/c it has a 5750 - thus ruling out a single pico psu).
(c) Would the lesser processing power (e350 vs. 2350 (2.1ghz)) be noticed in a typical WHS environment - downloading files and serving audio/video? I wouldn't think so, but WHS has never felt "light" to me (but that may be the function of it being server software).
(d) Transcoding - You note the relatively poor encoding of the e350 ("It was also incredibly slow when encoding video"). And, although I agree that it may not be "critical for most prospective Fusion adopters," encoding is more likely to be critical for those intending to use this for a home server (which, again, you note the e350 would be great for). I'm hoping you can reconcile these potential conflicts. Many users have their home servers transcoding video in realtime in order to meet the limited number of formats supported by various media players/consoles. Is the e350 so poor in encoding that it would be insufficient for this use? If so, then the e350 may not necessarily be generally considered "great" for home server usage. Such a test may be worthwhile in future reviews. BTW, I don't have my server transcoding anything but I'm curious none the less. My ignorance of the horsepower needed for real time transcoding may be reflected in this entire paragraph. I've transcoded video (first time being on a P2, 350mhz; most recent on a Phenom II) but for storage purposes rather than real time streaming.
(3) Has anyone read any reviews that compare the e350 to the 250u (1.6ghz AMD Athlon 25w tdp) or any of the low power Athlons (160u is 1.8ghz 20w tdp)? Anand tested against a 3.1ghz Athlon II 255. While interesting, it doesn't permit for the best extrapolation. Extrapolating the numbers provided by Anand, and considering the power draw of the 250u, it would appear the e350 brings some additional speed plus features at a slightly lower power draw. 250u review here
. However, after considering costs, the low power AMD chips would be a compelling alternative for those that already have an AMD board . . . if the low power chips were in supply. After all, the additional benefit of a superior APU (vs. the igp that would be used with the Athlon chips) is of little to no value to those using the board for a server or a gaming htpc (the apu is still too weak for htpc gaming resolutions thereby necessitating a discrete solution).
(4) I think it's worth noting that the chip cannot decode blu-ray 3d. This could be a deciding factor for those building an htpc. Then again, for those who do not want a discrete solution but want 3d bluray support, I believe Sandy Bridge is the only option at this time, and it's considerably more expensive.
Thanks again for the solid review. If you feel my post should be a separate topic, feel free to move.