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Asus E35M1-M Pro: AMD Fusion Motherboard

Asus E35M1-M Pro: AMD Fusion Motherboard

February 13, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Asus E35M1-M Pro microATX Motherboard
Manufacturer
Street Price
~US$140

Since AMD's acquisition ATI in 2006, we've been waiting for a Fusion processor that combines a central processing unit and graphics processing unit on the same chip. That was where the future was headed, and the future is finally here. Unfortunately, GPU acceleration in general applications has had a slow adoption rate, making these new chips less versatile than we would have predicted five years ago. Also, it took so long for Fusion to arrive that Intel actually beat AMD to the punch. Sandy Bridge not only extended Intel's mid to high-end CPU performance and efficiency lead over AMD, but also integrated a surprisingly decent GPU onto the same chip.

The first wave of Fusion products are designed not to compete with Intel in supplementing mainstream desktop computing power with integrated graphics. The market for AMD's first Fusion products is less upscale but relatively strong. The majority of modern PC users live and breathe on the web, and don't need much horsepower. This accounts for the success of Intel's Atom processor, which is slow but fast enough for many people to get through an average day. For people on the go, the superb energy efficiency also allows Atom PCs to be more mobile, as they can run unplugged for longer periods of time.

The one thing Intel neglected to do was to produce a graphics chip for Atom capable of smoothly playing the multitude of video material now available to us. Play Flash or anything better than standard definition video on an Atom based system and things bog down as the CPU chugs away, trying to handle decoding processes that it simply isn't optimized for. This is a problem given the rapid deployment of HD video everywhere. Nvidia's ION graphics for Atom is a successful solution, but it's not cheap. With ATI's graphics expertise, and no licensing deals to get in the way, AMD is perfectly poised to offer a cost effective alternative.



A Fusion APU die shot.



Consolidating three chips into one, the AMD's desktop APU has a TDP of only 18W.

AMD calls the new platform "Brazos" — it is an APU (accelerated processing unit) containing a "Bobcat" CPU and a Radeon 6000 series GPU, with a FCH (Hudson Fusion Controller Hub). Like Intel's LGA1155/1156 platforms, the Northbridge portion of the chipset has been eliminated, with some functionality passed to the CPU and the rest consolidated with the Southbridge into the FCH (Intel calls their version PCH). Bobcat CPUs were designed to be simpler, cut-down versions of standard AMD Athlons, with a targeted thermal envelope of 10W or less.

AMD Fusion APU Comparison
Model
CPU Clock
CPU L2 Cache
GPU
GPU Clock
TDP
AMD E-350
2 x 1.6 GHz
1 MB
HD 6310
500 MHz
18W
AMD E-240
1 x 1.5 GHz
512 KB
HD 6310
500 MHz
18W
AMD C-50
2 x 1.0 GHz
1 MB
HD 6250
280 MHz
9W
AMD C-30
1 x 1.2 GHz
512 KB
HD 6250
280 MHz
9W

The first generation of APUs are split into two lines, 18W "Zacate" models with Radeon HD 6310 graphics, primarily for desktop use, and 9W "Ontario" parts with slower Radeon HD 6250 graphics for mobile devices. Being from the HD 6000 series, they both feature DirectX 11 support, AMD's new video decoder, UVD 3, and are manufactured using a 40 nm process (as are the CPUs). Interestingly, these APUs have no official model name (Sempron, Athlon, Phenom), just a simple model number.



Box.



Package contents.

Our first Fusion product is the Asus E35M1-M Pro, a motherboard with a soldered-on E-350 APU, featuring a dual core 1.6 GHz CPU and a Radeon HD 6310 GPU. At US$140, it competes with various Atom/ION mini-ITX combinations, but it is a microATX board. Asus does make a mini-ITX version, the E35M1-I Deluxe.

The larger form factor is used by Asus to maximize features — for example, the board has five native SATA 6 Gbps ports, eSATA, USB 3.0, and FireWire. It has a PCI-E 16x slot that runs at 4x, but this isn't a big issue as a graphics card that can take advantage of more than four PCI-E lanes will be bottlenecked by the CPU. It also has overclocking options, and like Asus' Sandy Bridge boards, a UEFI with a graphical user interface (rather than conventional BIOS) and support for their new software suite.

Asus E35M1-M Pro: Specifications

(from the product
web page
)
CPU AMD CPU on Board ;Integrated dual-core AMD® Zacate™ 18W Processors

AMD Cool 'n' Quiet™ Technology

Up to 2 "Bobcat" cores,DX11 GPU,FT1 BGA
Chipset AMD Hudson M1
System Bus Up to 2500 MT/s ; UMI Link
Memory 2 x DIMM, Max. 8 GB, DDR3 1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory

Single Channel memory architecture

* Please refer to www.asus.com or user manual for Memory QVL.
Expansion Slots 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 @X4

1 x PCIe 2.0 x1

2 x PCI 3.0
VGA Integrated AMD® Zacate™ graphics

Max. UMA Memory Size: 1G

Supports DVI with HDCP compliant with Max. resolution: 1920X1080 @60 HZ

Supports HDMI™ Technology with max. Resolution up to 1920X1080 @ 60Hz

Supports RGB with max. Resolution 2560X1600 @ 60Hz

Supports Microsoft® DirectX 11

Hardware Decode Acceleration for H.264,VC-1, and MPEG-2

DVI Single-link

Dual VGA output support: RGB & DVI, RGB & HDMI
Storage Southbridge

5 xSATA 6.0 Gb/s ports

1 xExternal SATA (6Gb/s Ready)
LAN Realtek® 8111E Gigabit LAN
Audio ALC887-VD2 High Definition 8-Channel Audio (3jacks)

- Optical S/PDIF out port at back I/O

- Supports Multi-Streaming, Vista Premium;Anti-pop Function (Power On/Off; Resume S3/S4); Front Panel Retasking

* Choose the chassis with HD audio module in front panel to support 8-Channel audio output
USB ASM Controller:

- 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (@back)

Chipset built-in:

- 12 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports ([email protected], [email protected])
ASUS Unique Features ASUS EPU

ASUS AI Suite II

ASUS Turbo KeyII

ASUS Turbo Key

ASUS TurboV

ASUS Anti-Surge

ASUS low EMI

ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3

ASUS EZ Flash 2

ASUS My logo 2

ASUS EFI BIOS(EZ Mode)

ASUS Fan Xpert
Overclocking Features Intelligent overclocking tools

- Turbo Key

- Turbo Key II

- TurboV

SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)

- FSB tuning from 80MHz up to 300MHz at 1MHz increment

Overclocking Protection

- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Back Panel I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Combo port

1 x DVI

1 x D-Sub

1 x HDMI

1 x External SATA (6Gb/s Ready)

1 x IEEE 1394a

1 x LAN(RJ45) port(s) (Gigabit LAN)

2 x USB 3.0/2.0

4 x USB 2.0/1.1

1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)

8-Channel Audio I/O(3 jacks)
Internal I/O Connectors 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 connector(s) supports additional 8 USB2.0 ports

5 x SATA 6.0Gb/s

1 x IEEE 1394a connector

1 x CPU Fan connector(s)

1 x Chassis Fan connector(s)

1 x LPT connector

1 x S/PDIF Out connector

1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector

1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector

1 x Front panel audio connector

1 x COM connector

1 x System Panel connector

1 x Turbo key II Switch
BIOS 32 Mb Flash ROM , EFI BIOS, PnP, DMI 2.0, WfM 2.0, ACPI 2.0a, SM BIOS 2.5
Accessories User's manual

1 x I/O Shield

2 x SATA 6.0Gb/s

1 x CPU FAN

1 x Support DVD
Support Disc Drivers

ASUS PC Probe II

Anti-virus software (OEM version)

ASUS Update
Form Factor uATX Form Factor

9.6 inch x 7.2 inch ( 24.4 cm x 18.3 cm )


PHYSICAL DETAILS

A board's layout is important as the positioning of components can dictate
compatibility with other products like third party heatsinks and also disrupt
airflow, making a system more thermally challenging.



The board is dominated by a massive heatsink covering both the APU and FCH standing 31 mm tall, 93 mm long and 74 mm wide. The heatsink's six screw-and-spring mounting points do not follow any existing CPU socket form factor; the heatsink is unique to this board. There are two fan headers, one at the top edge of the board and the other just underneath the heatsink. Like most Atom/ION boards there are only two memory slots provided.



There are five SATA 6 Gbps ports, four of which sit on their sides. There are four USB 2.0 headers on the bottom edge of the board, but USB 3.0 is only available on the back panel.



Most of the power regulation circuitry is located above the heatsink near the 4-pin AUX12V connector.



A closer look at the heatsink.





Underside showing six spring loaded screws that secure the heatsink.



The board ships with a slim 60 mm 3-pin fan made by Everflow. It is secured using four screws that wedge between the fins of the heatsink.



The back panel is stocked with HDMI, DVI, VGA, S/PDIF, FireWire, eSATA, and SUB 3.0 ports. The board supports 8-ch audio but has only three analog connectors at the back. A case or front panel accessory with an HD audio module is required for 8-ch output.

UEFI

For enthusiasts, the options available within the UEFI/BIOS can turn
a good board into a great one. The ability to manipulate frequencies, voltages,
and fan control settings vary depending on the hardware and the amount of trust
placed in the users' hands by the manufacturer.



AI Tweaker menu.



Monitor menu.


UEFI Summary: Asus E35M1-M Pro
Setting
Options
APU Frequency 90 to 300 MHz
CPU Voltage
-0.3V to +0.5V in 0.00625V increments
VDDNB Voltage -0.3V to +0.5V in 0.00625V increments
SB 1.1V Voltage
1.1V (default), 1.2V, 1.3V
APU1.8V Voltage 1.8V (default), 1.9V, 2.0V, 2.1V
APU1.05V Voltage 1.05V (default) to 1.55V in 0.01V increments
Memory Frequency
DDR3-1066, DDR3-1333
DRAM Voltage 1.35V to 2.30V in 0.01V increments
Memory Timing Control Basic
Fan Control
CPU/Chassis Fan Profiles Standard, Silent, Turbo, Manual
CPU Fan Lower-Upper Temperature 20 to 75
CPU Fan Min-Max Duty Cycle 20% to 100%
Chassis Fan Lower-Upper Temperature 40 (fixed) to 90
Chassis Fan Min-Max Duty Cycle 60% to 100%

Surprisingly the E35M1-M Pro might be capable of heavy overclocking. A variety of voltage options are available and the APU frequency can be increased. With a massive heatsink, cooling shouldn't be too much of an issue. Fan control is offered on both fan headers, with 20% and 60% minimum speeds for the CPU and Chassis fan respectively. The 4-pin CPU fan header supports both PWM and voltage control.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Test Setup:



Testbed device listing.



Measurement and Analysis Tools

Timed Benchmark Test Details

  • NOD32: In-depth virus scan of a folder containing 32 files of varying
    size with many RAR and ZIP archives.
  • WinRAR: Archive creation with a folder containing 68 files of varying
    size (less than 50MB).
  • iTunes: Conversion of an MP3 file to AAC.
  • TMPGEnc: Encoding a XVID AVI file with VC-1.
  • HandBrake: Encoding a XVID AVI file with H.264.
  • Photoshop: Image manipulation using a variety of filters, a derivation
    of Driver Heaven's Photoshop
    Benchmark V3
    (test image resized to 4500x3499).

Video Test Suite



1080p | 24fps | ~10mbps
H.264:
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 1
is a H.264 encoded clip inside an
Apple Quicktime container.



1080p | 24fps | ~14mbps

H.264: Space is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from
the Blu-ray version of an animated short film. It features a hapless
robot trying to repair a lamp on a spaceship.




1080p | 24fps | ~22mbps

H.264: Crash is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from the
Blu-ray version of an science fiction film. It features the aftermath
of a helicopter crash.




1080p | 24fps | ~33mbps
Blu-ray: Disturbia is a short section (chapter
4) of the Blu-ray version of Disturbia, the motion picture, played
directly off the Blu-ray disc. It is encoded with H.264/AVC.




1080p | 24fps | ~36mbps
Blu-ray: Becoming Jane is a short section
(chapter 7) of the Blu-ray version of Becoming Jane, the motion
picture, played directly off the Blu-ray disc. It is encoded with
VC-1.




720p | 25fps | ~2mbps

Flash: Iron
Man Trailer #1
is the first trailer from the feature film
of the same name. It's a YouTube HD video, though technically it
is not quite 720p.

Estimating DC Power

The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the
Seasonic SS-400ET used in our test system:

Seasonic SS-400ET Test Results
DC Output (W)
21.2
41.6
60.2
81.9
104.7
124.1
145.2
AC Input (W)
32.0
58.0
78.0
102.0
128.0
150.0
175.0
Efficiency
66.3%
71.7%
77.1%
80.3%
81.8%
82.8%
83.0%

This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our test
system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power input
based on this data. We won't go through the math; it's easy enough to figure
out for yourself if you really want to.

Testing Procedures

If available, the latest motherboard BIOS is installed prior to testing. Certain services/features
like Indexing, Superfetch, System Restore, and Windows Defender are disabled
to prevent them from causing spikes in CPU/HDD usage. We also make note if energy
saving features like Cool'n'Quiet/SpeedStep or S3 suspend-to-RAM do not function
properly.

Our first test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power consumption
at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel). To stress CPUs we
use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which produces
higher system power consumption. To stress the IGP, we use FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Our second test procedure is to run the system through a video test suite featuring
a variety of high definition clips. During playback, a CPU usage graph is created
by the Windows Task Manger for analysis to determine the average CPU usage.
High CPU usage is indicative of poor video decoding ability. If the video (and/or
audio) skips or freezes, we conclude the GPU (in conjunction with the processor)
is inadequate to decompress the clip properly. Power consumption during playback
of high definition video is also recorded.

Lastly, we run a short series of performance benchmarks — a few real-world
applications as well as synthetic tests.

TEST RESULTS

Power Consumption

Like its Atom based competition, the E35M1-M Pro is uses very little power compared to standard desktop configurations.

When idle, the E35M1-M Pro is more energy efficient than most of the various Atom/CULV desktop combinations we've tested in the past, including those with Nvidia's ION GPU. The one exception is the Intel D510M0 which utilizes a second generation dual core Atom 510 and GMA 3150 graphics. On CPU load, the E-350 appears to be on par with the old Atom 330. Putting the GPU to work required additional 9W compared to 7W~9W for the Zotac Atom/CULV ION boards.

It also has the same EPU feature found on many Asus boards, but this only reduced the power consumption by half a watt across the board.

Video Playback

Our H.264 video tests places the E-350/Radeon 6310 combination a step behind Intel/ION pairings. Higher CPU utilization was recorded during playback, and slightly more power was consumed as well.

The E35M1-M Pro was less efficient at decoding Blu-ray video as well, requiring 13~14% more CPU cycles and pulling 3~4W more from the wall than the IONITX-P-E. YouTube HD Flash trailers rendered smoothly, but required more CPU resources as well.

PERFORMANCE

Many users bemoan the performance of Atom, so hopefully the E-350 will provide a significant boost in this area.

The E-350 trailed the SU2300 in our Photoshop test by just 11%. In our WinRAR compression test it managed to best both the Atom 330 and 510, but was slaughtered by the Celeron.

Similarly, the E-350 was 35% and 10% slower than the SU2300 in our iTunes AAC encoding and NOD32 anti-virus scan test respectively. While it couldn't top the CULV chip in these two tests, the E-350 had a better showing compared to the dual core Atoms.

We were very surprised to see the E-350 get whooped by both Atom CPUs and taking almost twice the time required by the SU2300 to encode a VC-1 clip with TMPGEnc. The difference in speed was less when using HandBrake to produce a H.264 MP4 but it was still substantial.

PCMark05 was much more favorable to the E35M1-M Pro, giving it about 300 points less than the SU2300/ION combination. 3DMark scores seem to indicate the Radeon 6310 is more or less on par with ION.

The results of standalone benchmarks for the games H.A.W.X. 2 and Lost Planet 2 were split between the Fusion platform a LGA1156 board with a Core i5-661 with Intel GMA HD graphics. Given the possibility of CPU bottlenecking, it may be that the Radeon 6310 is superior.

Note that the benchmarks were run at a 1280x800 on the E35M1-M Pro because 1366/1360x768 was not a visible option with the current AMD driver release. The results should be comparable as the difference in pixel count is only about 2%.

AI SUITE

While the performance of the Fusion APU puts it in the low power nettop category, the E35M1-M Pro is a full featured motherboard complete with an UEFI and Asus' latest version of AI Suite to tweak settings to your liking.



TurboV menu.

Through the TurboV utility, one can change both the frequency and voltage of the APU.



Fan Xpert menu.

The Fan Xpert utility gives you the same options as in the UEFI, but with the instant gratification of changing fan settings on the fly from the desktop. Of the two, we do prefer the UEFI as Fan Xpert oddly only allows a minimum CPU fan speed of 64%.

Fan Control

The board has two fan headers, a 4-pin PWM header for the CPU fan (works with both PWM and DC fans), and a 3-pin DC header for the Chassis fan. Both are controllable, 20~100% for the CPU fan and 60~100% for the Chassis fan. In real life the fan speeds adhere closely to the settings entered in the UEFI or in Fan Xpert.



SpeedFan screen with correlations noted.

SpeedFan offers a better alternative as it gave us full control over both fan headers. It allowed us to turn fans off completely; no silly minimum limits for the hardcore silencer. It also had the same fan and temperature sensor readings as Asus' PC Probe utility.

NOISE & COOLING

The most prominent visible feature of the E35M1-M Pro is its massive heatsink covering both the APU and FCH, so you're probably wondering whether it can be run passively.

Thermals & Noise: CPU + GPU Load
Heatsink Temp.
43°C
VRM Temp.
48°C
CPU Temp. (int.)
51°C
"MB" Temp. (int.)
28°C
GPU Temp. (int.)
68°C
Noise Level
Ambient temperature: 21°C

Ambient noise level: 11 dBA

The board ships with a terrible-sounding fan with tonal tendencies. It started at about 1900 RPM (18~19 [email protected]) when we set the fan control mode to "Standard." Manually set to 1000 RPM (45% in the BIOS or SpeedFan), it was practically inaudible at one meter's distance. At that speed and with the board on full load in an open testing environment, the GPU temperature stabilized at 68°C. The exterior temperature of the heatsink measured just 43°C at its hottest point, and the VRMs stayed below 50°C.

We would wager that any microATX case with just a single fan blowing across it indirectly would keep the board cool enough. It does not require much in the way of airflow, especially if you don't stress the GPU.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Fusion APU is the first unique product of the marriage between AMD and ATI. It isn't the game-changer we had hoped it would be, but it certainly puts AMD in the game. AMD's previous nettop and netbook offerings have been half-hearted and ineffective against Intel's Atom and CULV chips, but Zacate (and presumably Ontario) now gives AMD a solid foundation to truly push into this market. The APU may become a bigger player in the future when GPU-accelerated applications become more common, but for now a meaningful discussion of the APU requires us to separate our thoughts pertaining to the CPU and GPU.

The E-350 CPU's performance was inconsistent, trailing Intel's CULV dual core Celeron SU2300 by small margins in some tests and larger margins in others. It was also incredibly slow when encoding video, even more so than Atom. This will probably improve as programmers apply new optimizations to fully utilize the Fusion APU, and while encoding video probably isn't critical for most prospective Fusion adopters, it's worth noting. Subjectively, the Fusion system felt more responsive than dual core Atom and Nvidia ION combinations we've used in the past with Windows 7. It's certainly enough to get through the day-to-day minutia of modern computing without serious lag.

The Radeon HD 6310 seems to have 3D performance more or less equal to ION, but ION isn't that impressive to begin with, especially on high resolution displays. Though the 6310 is basically a cut down version of AMD's Radeon HD 5450, we consider it more of a high-end integrated GPU rather than a low-end discrete video card. It's not nearly as fast as what Sandy Bridge is packing. However, given the speed of the CPU (which may actually limit the GPU), the two portions of the APU complement each other well. Video playback was perfect whether it be downloaded H.264 videos, streaming Flash content, or high quality Blu-ray discs, but more CPU resources were required during playback compared to ION.

From an energy efficiency standpoint, the Asus E35M1-M Pro is generally competitive with the Zotac IONITX-P-E which features a combination of Intel's Celeron SU2300 and nVidia ION graphics. It uses a bit more juice when playing video, especially Blu-ray discs, but its idle and CPU load power consumption are both excellent. Given how frugal it is with power, the massive heatsink likely can be run without direct cooling and our guess is that Fusion based netbooks and ultraportables should offer very good battery life.

The Asus E35M1-M Pro would be great as the core of a home server, especially with the ample number of SATA ports. It of course can also pull double duty as a proficient home theater PC. Retailing for about US$140, it is unclear whether this represents a great value as there aren't any integrated microATX boards with a modern GPU we can compare it to. Its closest analogs are the comparably-priced Atom/ION mini-ITX boards like the Zotac IONITX-G-E/K-E. Compared to them, it has distinct advantages, including extra features like five SATA 6 Gbps ports, eSATA, USB 3.0, FireWire, and two fully controllable fan headers. It is also faster overall than Atom, but if you want a basic system with a little more speed, you can move up to the US$200 Celeron-powered Zotac IONITX-P-E. The other option is a traditional desktop CPU/motherboard combination, which will use a lot more energy.

In any case, the arrival of AMD's Fusion APU is significant, and this is only the very first generation. We look forward to what comes next.

Our thanks to Asus
and AMD for the E35M1-M Pro CPU/motherboard sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

Sandy Bridge, Part 5: Asus P8P67 and P8P67 Pro Motherboards

Sandy Bridge, Part 4: Core i5-2400, i5-2500K and i7-2600K CPUs

Sandy Bridge, Part 3: Gigabyte P67A-UD4 & Intel DP67BG P67 Motherboards

Sandy Bridge, Part 2: Intel DH67BL & Asus P8H67-M EVO H67 Motherboards

Sandy Bridge, Part 1: Intel GMA HD 3000/2000 Graphics [Updated: 05 January]

Zotac IONITX-P-E: First CULV-embedded Motherboard

* * *

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