Motherboard makers flaunt their Brazos goodies

In addition to Brazos-based notebooks, this year’s CES exhibits included a number of small-form-factor Brazos motherboards—most of them ripe for use in home-theater PCs and other diminutive enthusiast rigs. All of the usual suspects had boards on display, and AMD wasn’t afraid to present them in its own showcase:

We actually saw two Brazos boards from Asus: the one you see in the video above, plus another one that looks to be based on the Mini-DTX form factor, pictured below.

That second board incorporates AMD’s E-350 accelerated processing unit, the fastest of the bunch, as well as reasonably generous connectivity. There’s PCIe x16, PCIe x1, 32-bit PCI, USB 3.0, and SATA 6Gbps. Asus apparently went with a passive cooling solution for this design, as well.

Gigabyte also had an E-350-based Mini-ITX mobo on display. This one is a little bit less exciting—and potentially louder due to that tiny fan riding the APU heatsink. (Small fans like this tend to spin quickly and produce higher-pitched noise than their larger counterparts.) SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 are still on the menu here.

Not to be one-upped by its bigger competitors, MSI showed a board similar to the Gigabyte offering, but with a snazzier-looking cooler. I’d still opt for a passive cooler myself, but having all of these different options certainly doesn’t hurt.

Last, but not least, we encountered a Brazos-based Mini-ITX mobo from Sapphire. As you can see in the photo above, this model was shown with its cooler off, revealing the AMD APU and its companion Hudson I/O hub. Note the use of SO-DIMM slots and the presence of a Mini-PCIe connector just above the PCIe x16 slot. Discrete graphics and internal Wi-Fi adapters should both be welcome.

Comments closed
    • crabjokeman
    • 9 years ago

    40mm fans? Oh, I’m sure those will be quiet..
    I feel like I stepped into a time machine and got transported back to 2005, when nforce4 boards were the rage and heatpipes weren’t common yet.

    • mutarasector
    • 9 years ago

    The Asus mobo pictured below the video does not appear to be based on the “Mini-DTX” form factor (as stated in the article) It appears to be a micro-ATX mobo. I would love to see a true micro-DTX mobo, something like a single 16X + (1)1X PCIe mobo, but the form factor never really seemed to catch on with mobo makers since AMD released the spec a couple of years ago.

    I’d love a true mini DTX form factor so I’d have the option of loading it up with a Ceton CableCard HD tuner and some higher end audio card, or say a single slot 5770 HD Radeon card.

    • Farting Bob
    • 9 years ago

    I had to sigh on that mini-DTX board that has 2 PCI slots (out of 4 total). Sure there are probably some out there who need 2 PCI slots in a small form factor, but i bet there are more who need 2 PCIE slots (presuming a GPU goes in the x16, blocking the x1). Surely moving the PCIe x1 slot down a notch or 2 (or dropped one of the ancient PCI slots) would have made far more sense.
    I swear motherboard makers pull this shit just for fun. Ideal board, but stupid layout means alot of people will look elsewhere.

      • mutarasector
      • 9 years ago

      That mobo is not a miniDTX, but a >microATX<. I think this was an error. Still though, a 2 slot DTX could still be useful as there are single slot 5770 cards available now from XFX and PowerColor.

    • RagingDragon
    • 9 years ago

    Those fanless ASUS boards might make for nice home servers – no fan means no chance fan failure leading to overheating.

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 9 years ago

    +1 for the passively cooled ASUS version–it’d be awesome to have a decently fast system with so few fans.

    • NeelyCam
    • 9 years ago

    That dude has HUGE hands!

      • Trymor
      • 9 years ago

      No man, the board really is that small…

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 years ago

    OK, serious, these are what, 18W parts? Do you really need a fan on ANY of those cooler designs to dissipate the heat?

      • BlackStar
      • 9 years ago

      Not, if you have well-designed case airflow.

    • FuturePastNow
    • 9 years ago

    [i<]plus another one that looks to be based on the Mini-DTX form factor, pictured below[/i<] That's Micro-ATX, although perhaps not as wide as usual. Mini-DTX has two expansion slots.

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    What are the chances that one of these boards will go for $75 or less? I’d like to get one to toy with.

      • StuG
      • 9 years ago

      Pretty much in the same boat as you. Seems like something fun to dink around with, and might happen chance fill the HTPC I need as well.

    • cygnus1
    • 9 years ago

    I know these will be much cheaper, but I think the x264 transcoding on the SB chips will push AMD out of most HTPC builds. These may still do well in other small form-factor non-HTPC scenarios though.

      • KikassAssassin
      • 9 years ago

      Sandy Bridge’s transcoding engine is great for ripping DVDs and converting videos into different sizes/formats, but on the other hand, lack of 23.976 fps playback support makes it less than ideal for video playback. If I’m building an HTPC, I want something that’s going to provide the best video playback quality possible, and Sandy Bridge unfortunately (or, fortunately, if you’re AMD) isn’t it.

        • cygnus1
        • 9 years ago

        I was not aware of that issue. Does that mean it ‘upsamples’ or somehow converts your source video instead? I’d assume that would cause some sort of stuttering or other visual artifact. If a video card is outputting a 60Hz signal, how would it properly playback 23.976 fps content? Don’t they all have to apply some sort of telecine process to play it back?

        • Trymor
        • 9 years ago

        “lack of 23.976 fps playback”

        Can you point us to the source of that information?

          • BlackStar
          • 9 years ago

          Read techreport’s or arstechnica’s SB coverage. The SB IGP can only do 24 fps, which will result in stuttering on 23.976 material. No good, if you are building an HTPC.

            • insulin_junkie72
            • 9 years ago

            Well, to be more accurate, it’ll result in stuttering on displays that can take 23.976 natively.

            For the majority of [NTSC] displays running at 60Hz or some variant, it’s business as usual.

            • BlackStar
            • 9 years ago

            Correct, though I’ve never seen an HDTV that cannot do 23.976. Yeah, they probably exist somewhere out there but if you are building an HTPC chances are you have a proper display, anyway.

            (PC monitors are another beast entirely, but you wouldn’t build a home theater on a PC monitor. I hope.)

            • insulin_junkie72
            • 9 years ago

            Well, my Panasonc can’t, my parent’s Samsung-made TV can’t, and these aren’t exceptions, but the general rule.

            We’re just going in circles here, but again, most NTSC HDTVs currently in use (except higher-end displays) ARE like modern computer monitors – running at a minimum of 60Hz – they can’t take 23.976fps input and display it that way without converting it.

            The Intel issue is something that should have been fixed, and is indeed a deal-breaker for those with displays capable of it, but it’s actually a non-issue for the majority of people.

            If you don’t believe me (and you obviously don’t), re-read the Anandtech review, where he says:
            [i<]"In order to smoothly playback either of these formats you need a player and a display device capable of supporting the frame rate. Many high-end TVs and projectors support this just fine, however on the playback side Intel only supports the less popular of the two: 24.000Hz."[/i<]

            • Trymor
            • 9 years ago

            oops…

          • Zoom
          • 9 years ago

          [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridge-review-intel-core-i7-2600k-i5-2500k-core-i3-2100-tested/7[/url<]

          • Trymor
          • 9 years ago

          Thx guys.

      • raddude9
      • 9 years ago

      Is transcoding that important? Transcoding by definition results in a decrease in video quality, I’m much more interested in hardware that can play videos in their original formats.

      For me noise and price are more important for HTPCs. Non-ULV Sandybridges will need a big fan and cooler to keep them running in a small case. And the cheapest ULV Sandybridges are going to cost upwards of $250. So I think there’s going to be plenty of room for the low-cost and quiet Brazos platform in the (non-hardcore) HTPC market.

      Also, it looks like the Brazos platforms will use very little power when idle, which is very nice feature to have in a HTPC

        • NeelyCam
        • 9 years ago

        Yep; I’m thinking of moving my fanless i5 rig to my home theater room, and building a new ‘main PC’ for ripping/transcoding purposes with SB on a mini-ITX.

          • raddude9
          • 9 years ago

          So you think it’s important for a HTPC to be able to do heavy duty transcoding, but yet you are building a new sandybridge main PC just for transcoding, and you’re going to use a non-sandybridge PC for your theatre!

          You do know you just completely contradicted yourself there don’t you.

            • NeelyCam
            • 9 years ago

            To me it’s more important that the HTPC is quiet (that’s why the zero-noise i5 rig is going there). I’ll have the SB PC operating as a media server; it can do all the transcoding.

            I guess you could say that I’ll have two “HTPCs”…

            To be honest, the real reason is that I’m a sucker for new stuff, and I just want-want-WANT to build a new SB rig to see how much power I can cram into a tiny size. I just have to justify it to myself somehow, and replacing the current, loud Q6700-powered PC in the home theater with something infinitely quieter sounds like a good justification… so fanless i5 goes to the home theater -> office needs a new PC.

            Gotta have hobbies. It sucks, though, that this hobby is so expensive…

      • Trymor
      • 9 years ago

      I would be interested in SB as a media server. I hate the fact that the PS3 wont play mkv packaged files. If the ‘transcode properties’ of SB could be used for real-time mkv-m4v file serving…

        • Palek
        • 9 years ago

        Your post seems to suggest that you are aware of this but just to be sure: if your mkv file uses H.264 video and AAC audio coding, mkv to m4v conversion does not involve any transcoding, just re-formatting from the mkv container to the m4v container. I think VLC should be able to do that for you, and it should not require that much processing power.

        [url<]http://wiki.videolan.org/Documentation:Streaming_HowTo_New[/url<]

          • Trymor
          • 9 years ago

          Thanks, I hadnt thought solution like that. I could also use gstreamer in linux, or a great looking amahi server.

          The rest, yeah I knew and I’d rather not have to ‘convert’ the files manually. But it is very dis-heartening to learn that Intel still has a bunch of ‘less than ideal’ people working there. No 23.976 support? Really? Lack of important GPU features on Sandy, crap drivers…etc.

    • jalex3
    • 9 years ago

    ok im a noob when it comes to the low end of things, whats the performance of the E350 in number of P4s

      • cygnus1
      • 9 years ago

      12. 12 P4s of performance

        • StuG
        • 9 years ago

        Atom is largely the performance of a P4. I believe that these beat an Atom by a bit, so that is what you are looking at. The better supported hardware and super low power draw is what makes these a interesting product.

          • moriz
          • 9 years ago

          i thought the atom is largely the performance of a pentium 3, not the pentium 4.

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 9 years ago

            Atom is perhaps the performance of P4, per clock.

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    That passively-cooled Asus board looks ideal. I wonder what the gaming performance of the E-350 would be like when combined with a decent graphics card like a 6950?

      • BoBzeBuilder
      • 9 years ago

      lol?

        • tay
        • 9 years ago

        Haha perfect response.

      • flip-mode
      • 9 years ago

      Under 9000; well, well under 9000.

        • dpaus
        • 9 years ago

        Oh, ye of little imagination and/or curiosity… I think it would be an interesting experiment to test just how much games (and I’m thinking last-gen mid-range titles, which is what little gaming I do) are GPU-bound vs CPU-bound. I’m not looking to create a killer gaming rig here, just something with ‘enough’ performance for those games that I can ‘co-locate’ on an HTPC – i.e., one less box in the living room.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 9 years ago

          Yeah but you could do that with much less than a 6950. I would look to a 5770 or GTS 450 for this kind of experiment.

            • dpaus
            • 9 years ago

            You know, ironically, I was originally thinking of a 5770. I remember the review of the 5000-series cards last year (?), when the conclusion basically was that a 5770 was pretty much all that was needed for the current crop of games. (and my 5770 has given my yeoman service). But then, in the 6950/6970 reviews, the 5770 didn’t even appear on the charts. That’s the only reason I threw out the 6950’s name.

            EDIT: the reason I’m thinking about it, OTOH, is that I’m planning on putting together an HTPC for my son, andf was intrigued by the possibility of an utterly silent 1.6 GHz dual-core CPU

            • bimmerlovere39
            • 9 years ago

            Yeah, between the single-slot 5770s that have popped up and the USB Xonar DG that’s coming… a Mini-ITX rig might actually be tempting now.

            • dpaus
            • 9 years ago

            Oh, `single slot`- good point, as I was counting on using that x1 slot for a tuner card.

            • SomeOtherGeek
            • 9 years ago

            And also the 5770 have passive coolers too.

            • mutarasector
            • 9 years ago

            Really? XFX’s and Powercolor’s cards are single slot, but I haven’t seen any passive cooler 5770 cards. I’ll have to look around again. Do you have make/model #s for passive cooled 5770 cards? I was thinking of the same card myself, but the idea of building a mini-ITX rig as an HTPC with a fan cooled graphics card didn’t make much sense to me,

          • NeelyCam
          • 9 years ago

          Would you really want a 6950 shrieking while watching a movie…?

      • FuturePastNow
      • 9 years ago

      Very very CPU-bound. Plus I believe those graphics slots only have four PCIe lanes.

    • codedivine
    • 9 years ago

    Any news on when these will be available?

      • StuG
      • 9 years ago

      I’m pretty curious about this as well if anyone has any information.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 9 years ago

      Me too. Need a new toy to play with.

      • FormCode
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve wanted to put together a mITX system in a long time, seems i’ll have to wait a lil’ while longer :”>

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