Conclusions and Final (initial) Thoughts
Performance

Coming into this review we more or less knew what to expect from the AMD E-350 APU and Hudson chipset combination.  After our initial performance preview last year AMD didn’t need prove anymore that they had a real competitor to the Intel Atom platform; we saw it and believed it. 

Still, the MSI E350IA-E45 motherboard did better than we expected.  It was able to outperform the previous results in our basic gaming tests as well as the CPU utilization in Flash, but much of that can be attributed to software improvements from both AMD and Adobe in the meantime.  Being able to run high bit-rate 1080p Flash video with a CPU utilization average of about 25% on a system that idles at the limited watts that it does is impressive and conducive to home theater PC building.

Mainstream gaming performance in a title like Left 4 Dead 2 isn’t a huge deal on a system like this (it’s not really meant for it still) but it is great to see the Catalyst software improve it in an iterative fashion.

MSI E350IA-E45 AMD Brazos Fusion APU Platform Review - Motherboards  1

Memory performance improved just a bit likely due to BIOS tweaks on the MSI board that AMD didn’t implement on the reference system and that, in addition to the GPU changes, resulted in some modest increases in performance on our system benchmark, PCMark Vantage. 

Power

Compared to our initial results on the AMD APU system, the MSI E350IA-E45 didn’t provide as impressive a showing.  AMD’s system was meant to emulate a mobile platform while MSI’s was obviously aimed for the desktop in its mini-ITX form factor.  Even though the MSI E350IA-E45 didn’t sip power quite as modestly as the reference system did, it was right in line with our Atom D510 dual-core system from Zotac.  That’s still pretty good though considering how much more performance the E-350 offers over the Atom CPU with integrated graphics. 

Pricing and Comparisons

I haven’t been able to find the MSI E350IA-E45 for sale yet but the slightly lower end model, the E350IS-E45, is currently going for $129 on Newegg.  If we add in another $40 or so for the upgraded USB 3.0 compatible version with the improved heatsink and fan, that would put the E350IA-E45 in at $169 and in line with options from other vendors like ASUS and Gigabyte.

UPDATE: I did locate the E350IA-E45 in a few locations going for $145, and even $139.  Even better than we thought!

MSI E350IA-E45 AMD Brazos Fusion APU Platform Review - Motherboards  2

If you add in the cost of the $20 power brick based power supply I linked earlier, a small 2.5″ HDD and 4GB of DDR3 memory, you can very easily build a basic HTPC for under $400!  Sounds like it’s time for everyone to get a little experiment on…

Final Thoughts

The MSI E350IA-E45 mini-ITX Fusion APU motherboard is our first experience with a desktop form factor iteration of AMD’s latest CPU technology and we came away very impressed by the implementation.  The board is low cost yet offers features that will prevent your system from being outdated quickly like support for SATA 6.0 Gb/s storage and USB 3.0 devices.  With relatively low power consumption and performance that beats the best that Intel’s Atom can throw at it, the MSI E350IA-E45 is a fantastic option for consumer looking for a mini-ITX system.

MSI E350IA-E45 AMD Brazos Fusion APU Platform Review - Motherboards  3


Further Reading

« PreviousNext »