AMD's Kabini architecture is definitely not new, and neither is the A4-5100 implementation of that low-power APU design. That hasn't stopped Biostar from releasing the A68N-5100, a mini-ITX motherboard packing a permanently-attached APU under a fanless heatsink. The A68N-5100 is an upgraded version of Biostar's A68N-5000, released in 2014. The company also offers a faster A68N-5200, but that unit will disturb users' ears with a fan.
The A4-5100 is a quad-core SoC with a GCN Radeon HD 8330 IGP sporting 128 stream processors running at 500MHz. The CPU base clock speed is a scant 1.55 GHz. Performance will definitely not threaten Kaby Lake or even Bulldozer, but Bay Trail systems might want to look out when the A4-5100 comes around, particularly when graphics workloads are involved.
Biostar has clearly been listening to the large segment of gerbils clamoring for a motherboard free of gaudy RGB LED illumination, but with a shiny gold heatsink. Buyers of cases with large side windows are also sure to love the bright yellow memory and PCIe slots with which Biostar saw fit to bless this board. The motherboard sports a pair of desktop-sized DIMM slots and one PCIe 2.0 x16 slot. The maximum supported single-channel DDR3 memory speed is 1600 MT/s, and the largest supported capacity is 16 GB.
Display outputs are somewhat limited given the APU's family tree. The board offers a single HDMI port along with an old-school VGA connection for the last of the CRT users out there. On the subject of support for ancient connectors, the A68N-5100's pair of PS/2 ports and headers for serial and parallel ports suggest the true audience for this board may be in emergent markets or in embedded applications. The ATX PSU connector is a standard 24-pin type, and the board doesn't need an extra ATX 12V cable.
The A68N-5100 sports a pair of USB 3.0 ports, but no headers for front-panel USB 3.0 convenience. Biostar claims the Charger Booster Technology baked into the board allows users to charge attached devices up to 42% faster than normal USB ports. There's an on-board Gigabit Ethernet adapter from an unnamed supplier. The motherboard includes support for Biostar's Bio-Remote 2 remote control features, letting users control the keyboard and mouse using an Android or iOS app. We applaud the effort, but note that Intel's rather polished Remote Keyboard application works well with AMD or Intel systems.
Biostar didn't offer pricing or availability information, but we expect the price to be low—like dinner-for-four low. The company's similar A68N-2100 board with a dual-core AMD E1-2100 APU is currently available on Newegg for $40.
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