Dueling Zacate motherboards from Asus

Seven months after its debut, AMD’s Zacate processor remains largely unequaled. Intel’s Atom might sip less power, making it more suitable for tablets and handhelds, but it’s got nowhere near the horsepower—especially when it comes to graphics. While low-voltage Sandy Bridge CPUs can squeeze into comparable thermal envelopes, they’re nowhere near as inexpensive.

If you’re in the market for an uber-cheap ultraportable or a low-cost, low-power, small-form-factor desktop, Zacate is where it’s at.

Today, we’re celebrating Zacate’s unique position by studying a couple of Asus motherboards based on Zacate’s quickest and most popular incarnation, the E-350 Fusion APU. The E35M1-I Deluxe serves up the E-350 on a Mini-ITX circuit board packed to the gills with peripherals and connectivity options, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Meanwhile, the E35M1-M Pro trades some of its cousin’s copious connectivity for a larger circuit board with more expansion slots.

The Deluxe might be ideal for a home-theater PC, especially since Asus outfits it with a large passive heatsink. The Pro could be better suited to power a low-cost desktop, and its microATX form factor should still slip into some small-form-factor enclosures. Both boards have compelling attributes. The question is, are they worth their respective price premiums over cheaper Zacate mobos like Gigabyte’s E350N-USB3?

Asus’ E35M1-I Deluxe

Priced at $174.99, the E35M1-I Deluxe isn’t exactly the most affordable Zacate mobo around. That said, it’s hard to imagine how Asus could have crammed more features onto a 7″ x 7″ board.

Let’s see… we’ve got a gigantic, heat-pipe-laden heatsink mercifully free of tiny, whiny fans; a PCI Express x16 slot ready to accommodate discrete graphics cards (although it has only four signal lanes); five 6Gbps Serial ATA ports; and a couple of memory slots. That little card you see sandwiched between the SATA ports and the memory slots is the board’s 802.11n Wi-Fi controller—a nice touch for sure, since it makes the E35M1-I Deluxe ripe for home-theater builds while leaving the full-sized PCIe slot open for business.

Another noteworthy inclusion is Asus’ MemOK! feature. Should the Deluxe be populated with unsupported RAM, pressing the MemOK! button next to the DIMM slots will make the board automatically cycle through memory profiles until it finds one that works.

Around back, the Deluxe leaves little to be desired. The only notable omissions are VGA and FireWire ports, but the presence of DVI, HDMI, USB 3.0, and external Serial ATA should provide some consolation. There’s even an internal connector for two more USB 3.0 ports powered by a second NEC controller.

The purple nub above the red USB 2.0 ports plays host to a Bluetooth antenna, by the way. It glows blue when the Bluetooth controller is in use.

Instead of an old-school BIOS, the E35M1-I Deluxe comes outfitted with the same UEFI we’ve seen in many of Asus’ recent full-sized desktop motherboards. The interface is split into “EZ” and advanced modes, both of which allow mouse input and look rather slick. Users probably aren’t going to go digging for overclocking options (which are, as you’d expect considering the board’s low-power pedigree, few and far between). Nevertheless, some folks may enjoy the UEFI’s other perks, like the ability to boot from a detected drive simply by clicking on it.

In addition to a state-of-the-art UEFI, Asus includes its AI Suite of utilities for Windows. This software package includes Fan Xpert, which allows delightfully precise fan-speed control. Users can easily customize fan curves that determine how rotational speeds ramp up in response to rising temperatures. Similar controls are available through the UEFI, but they’re limited to defining minimum and maximum fan speeds and a corresponding temperature for the latter. Fan Xpert offers a slicker interface and the ability to tweak the speed and temperature for three points along a fan curve.

The board admittedly doesn’t ship with a fan strapped to that jumbo heatsink, but it has couple of three-pin headers for case fans. If you’re building a small-form-factor HTPC, chances are the two fan headers will suffice.

Asus’ E35M1-M Pro

At $144.99, the E35M1-M Pro ought to woo users turned off by the E35M1-I Deluxe’s relatively high asking price. This more affordable model isn’t as compact as its sibling, with dimensions of 9.6″ x 7.2″. The Pro uses a sort of a skinny version of the regular microATX form factor, which calls for dimensions of 9.6″ x 9.6″.

With a larger circuit board, the Pro has room for more expansion slots. The PCIe x16 graphics slot (which has four lanes of electrical connectivity like on the Deluxe) has backup from one PCIe x1 slot and a couple of plain-jane, 32-bit PCI slots. Despite the extra real estate, however, the Pro lacks integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I suppose onboard wireless support isn’t strictly necessary on a mobo with four expansion slots, since you can easily stick a Wi-Fi adapter in one of them and still have room for, say, a TV tuner and a discrete graphics card.

To make up for the missing wireless connectivity, Asus includes a couple of extra hardware ports: VGA and FireWire. Both boards have otherwise similar port loadouts. There’s USB 3.0, external Serial ATA, four second-gen USB ports, and a choice of analog or digital audio connectors. The analog microphone and line inputs are shared with the center and rear outputs, so you’ll have to choose between them.

Like the Deluxe, the Pro comes with a bare heatsink covering the Zacate CPU and the accompanying Hudson chipset. The E35M1-M Pro has a smaller heatsink with fewer fins and no heat pipes, so Asus accompanies it with an optional 60-mm fan. Mounting the fan might take a couple of tries, since the heatsink’s fins double somewhat awkwardly as screw threads, and it’s not clear exactly where the fan is supposed to go. Still, Asus deserves credit for giving users a choice between active and passive cooling.

On the software and UEFI front, the E35M1-M Pro pretty much mirrors the E35M1-I Deluxe. The UEFI looks and behaves identically, and the same AI Suite utilities come on the bundled disc. Those utilities include Fan Xpert, which really comes in handy once you strap on the board’s optional fan. We’ll look at noise levels in greater detail later, but in short, the default fan management profile keeps things rather quiet.

For the record, here’s an at-a-glance look at how the E35M1-I Deluxe and E35M1-M Pro compare:

Motherboard E35M1-I Deluxe E35M1-M Pro
APU AMD E-350 w/Radeon HD 6310 IGP AMD E-350 w/Radeon HD 6310 IGP
Platform hub AMD Hudson M1 AMD Hudson M1
DIMM slots 2 DDR3-1066 2 DDR3-1066
Expansion slots 1 PCIe x16 (x4 bandwidth) 1 PCIe x16 (x4 bandwidth)

1 PCIe x1

2 PCI

Storage I/O 5 6Gbps SATA RAID via Hudson M1 5 6Gbps SATA RAID via Hudson M1
Wireless connectivity 802.11n Wi-Fi

Bluetooth 3.0

N/A
Audio 8-channel HD via Realtek ALC892 8-channel HD via Realtek ALC887-VD2
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse

1 DVI

1 HDMI

4 USB 2.0 (w/ headers for another 4 ports)

2 USB 3.0 via NEC controller (w/ header for another 2 ports)

1 RJ45 via Realtek 8111E controller

1 eSATA 6Gbps

1 analog front out

1 analog line in

1 analog mic in

1 optical S/PDIF out

1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse

1 DVI

1 HDMI

1 VGA

4 USB 2.0 (w/ headers for another 8 ports)

2 USB 3.0 via ASMedia controller

1 RJ45 via Realtek 8111E controller

1 FireWire

1 eSATA 6Gbps

1 analog front out

1 analog line in

1 analog mic in

1 optical S/PDIF out

Are there measurable performance differences between the two boards, and how do they stack up against Gigabyte’s cheaper E350N-USB3? Let’s find out.

Our testing methods

For the sake of brevity, our benchmarks compare only the three aforementioned Zacate motherboards. If you want to see how Zacate performs next to quicker desktop offerings, we covered that in our original Zacate review in February.

Unless otherwise noted, we tested both of the Asus boards alongside Gigabyte’s E350N-USB3 using the latest BIOS and UEFI revisions available from the two companies’ websites. We stuck to default BIOS and UEFI settings everywhere except for the memory (which we manually set to run at 1333MHz with 9-9-9-24 1T timings) and SATA controller (which we ran in AHCI mode). After encountering some performance discrepancies, we conducted further testing using pre-release UEFI and BIOS software provided by Asus and Gigabyte; we’ll detail our findings over the next few pages.

The E35M1-M Pro and E350N-USB3 were tested with their bundled fans on. The E35M1-I Deluxe doesn’t come with its own fan, but after observing worryingly high CPU temperatures around 84°C (which seemed to cause the Ethernet controller to drop out), we stuck a 120-mm spinner atop the Deluxe. Asus told us it didn’t have any problems with overheating in its own labs; perhaps our open test bench was the issue. Either way, you probably shouldn’t stick any of these boards in a chassis without some form of active airflow.

With few exceptions, all tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median of the scores produced.

Processor AMD E-350
Motherboard Asus E35M1-I Deluxe Asus E35M1-M Pro Gigabyte E350N-USB3
BIOS/UEFI version 1202 1002 F2C
Platform hub AMD Hudson M1 AMD Hudson M1 AMD Hudson M1
Chipset drivers South Bridge Driver 11.7

AHCI for Windows 7 11.7

South Bridge Driver 11.7

AHCI for Windows 7 11.7

South Bridge Driver 11.7

AHCI for Windows 7 11.7

Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Kingston HyperX KHX2133C9AD3X2K2/4GX

DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz

Kingston HyperX KHX2133C9AD3X2K2/4GX

DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz

Kingston HyperX KHX2133C9AD3X2K2/4GX

DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz

Memory timings 9-9-9-24 1T 9-9-9-24 1T 9-9-9-24 1T
Audio Integrated ALC887

with Realtek V6.0.1.62 drivers

Integrated ALC887

with Realtek V6.0.1.6251 drivers

Integrated ALC892

with Realtek v6392 drivers

Graphics Radeon HD 6310 (integrated)

with Catalyst 11.6 drivers

Radeon HD 6310 (integrated)

with Catalyst 11.6 drivers

Radeon HD 6310 (integrated)

with Catalyst 11.6 drivers

Hard drive Samsung SpinPoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB SATA
Power supply Corsair HX450W
OS Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Edition

Service Pack 1

We’d like to thank Kingston, Samsung, and Corsair helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. Thanks to each of the motherboard makers for supplying their boards, too.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1920×1200 in 32-bit color at a 60Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Memory performance

Our memory performance tests probe what the motherboards can do with the same DIMMs running at 1333MHz and 9-9-9-24-1T timings.

While memory latencies are practically identical, we recorded an interesting discrepancy in memory bandwidth between the Asus and Gigabyte boards, at least with their publicly available firmware. No amount of fiddling UEFI settings coaxed more bandwidth out of the Asus boards until the company produced a new pre-production firmware for the E35M1-I Deluxe.

We’ve included results for the new Deluxe firmware, version 1304, and it seems to alleviate the issue. However, Asus hasn’t released this version to the general public just yet, and we haven’t received a similar UEFI update for the E35M1-M Pro.

For what it’s worth, the Deluxe is no faster in our application and gaming tests with the 1304 firmware than it is with the publicly available UEFI. Asus speculates that Zacate’s low clock speed presents a greater bottleneck than its memory bandwidth in those tasks, and we’d be inclined to agree.

Application performance

Gaming performance

We ran Far Cry 2‘s built-in benchmark, selecting the Action scene and repeating our tests in low- and high-detail modes. One round of tests was carried out in DirectX 9 mode with detail settings at their lowest, and another was done in DX10 mode with everything maxed out. A resolution of 1280×800 was used throughout, and we left antialiasing disabled.

There isn’t much to say—the differences between the Asus and Gigabyte offerings are minuscule in our application and gaming tests overall, and no board comes out on top consistently. The biggest performance gaps are found in 7-Zip and Far Cry 2 at its highest detail setting, but even then, the differences don’t warrant favoring one board over the others. The E35M1-M Pro did finish last in both of those cases, though.

Motherboard peripheral performance

Before we get into our storage results, we should clarify a couple of things. First, you’ll see below that the Gigabyte E350N-USB3 appears to reach substantially higher USB performance and SATA burst speeds than its rivals. After some digging, we traced the discrepancy to the C6 power state. Both Asus motherboards support that power state and have it activated by default, but with the publicly available F2C BIOS, the Gigabyte board lacks C6 support altogether. Gigabyte addressed that omission with a pre-release F2 BIOS, and you’ll find results from that config in the tables below. (In case you’re wondering, disabling C6 on the Asus boards yielded results similar to those of the Gigabyte board with the current production BIOS.)

Additionally, we noticed that Asus’ pre-release 1304 UEFI, which improves memory performance, impacted storage performance even though it didn’t affect applications and games. We’ve included results for it below, too. Asus expects to have the 1304 release out in the wild next week, so the data are relevant.

  HD Tach USB 3.0 performance – Caviar Black
  Read burst

speed (MB/s)

Average read

speed (MB/s)

Average write

speed (MB/s)

CPU utilization

(%)

Asus E35M1-M Pro 147.8 88.3 68.1 24
Asus E35M1-I Deluxe 127.7 82.8 56.2 28
Asus E35M1-I Deluxe (1304) 122.3 88.3 53.3 27
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 155.7 103.7 78.1 20
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 (F2, C6 on) 130.2 89.7 57.3 26

With C6 support enabled, the E35M1-M Pro offers slightly better USB 3.0 performance than its rivals—and it does so with lower CPU utilization. As the E350N-USB3 results demonstrate, though, disabling C6 is a pretty good way to speed transfer rates. We saw a similar jump in throughput when we disabled C6 on the Asus E35M1-I Deluxe.

  HD Tach USB 2.0 performance – Caviar Black
  Read burst

speed (MB/s)

Average read

speed (MB/s)

Average write

speed (MB/s)

CPU utilization

(%)

Asus E35M1-M Pro 32.0 25.9 21.9 22
Asus E35M1-I Deluxe 28.0 22.0 15.3 22
Asus E35M1-I Deluxe (1304) 29.3 19.9 14.8 24
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 34.0 30.7 26.5 10
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 (F2, C6 on) 29.3 26.9 18.6 17

USB 2.0 transfer rates are much slower, and again, the E35M1-M Pro is easily the faster of the two Asus models. Disabling C6 cuts measured CPU utilization fairly dramatically on the Gigabyte board.

  HD Tune Serial ATA performance – Caviar Black
  Read Write
  Burst (MB/s) Average (MB/s) Random 4KB (ms) Burst (MB/s) Average (MB/s) Random 4KB (ms)
Asus E35M1-M Pro 161.0 101.8 13 168.3 93.3 5.3
Asus E35M1-I Deluxe 140.3 102.7 12 140.4 100.8 5.4
Asus E35M1-I Deluxe (1304) 163.2 100.2 13 163.2 90.6 5.4
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 196.0 102.9 12 196.1 102.1 4.9
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 (F2, C6 on) 187.5 102.2 12 189.3 95.4 4.6

With the latest UEFI and BIOS releases and C6 enabled, the Zacate boards offer comparable average SATA read and write speeds. However, the E350N-USB3 still manages higher burst speeds with both reads and writes. Disabling C6 on the E35M1-I Deluxe brings its burst speeds up to 196MB/s, which nicely matches what the Gigabyte board achieves using the same setting.

  NTttcp Ethernet performance
  Throughput (Mbps) CPU utilization (%)
Asus E35M1-M Pro 942.6 38.5
Asus E35M1-I Deluxe 947.1 36.6
Asus E35M1-I Deluxe (1304) 942.8 39.2
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 938.2 26.3
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 (F2, C6 on) 937.8 37.8

The Asus boards make a comeback on the networking front, pulling marginally ahead of the Gigabyte E350N-USB3. Again, we see that disabling C6 support on the E350N-USB3 lowers CPU utilization.

  RightMark Audio Analyzer audio quality
  Frequency

response

Noise

level

Dynamic

range

THD THD

+ Noise

IMD

+ Noise

Stereo

crosstalk

IMD

at 10kHz

Overall

score

Asus E35M1-M Pro 5 4 4 3 2 3 5 3 4
Asus E35M1-I Deluxe 6 4 4 5 3 4 5 4 5
Gigabyte E350N-USB3 5 4 4 3 2 3 5 3 4

The E35M1-I Deluxe’s onboard audio produces better analog output than the other two boards, according to RightMark. An RMAA score of 5 corresponds to a “very good” rating, which is one step down from the maximum score of 6 or “excellent”.

Power consumption and noise levels

We measured system power consumption at the wall using a Kill-A-Watt meter. For our load tests, we looped the Unigine Heaven demo at a 1280×800 resolution with the lowest detail settings, and we ran Prime95’s small FFT test in the background. This test may be more strenuous than typical loads in everyday applications, but it ought to provide a reasonably good indication of the boards’ peak power draw.

You’ll notice that our graphs have three bars for the Gigabyte board. One of the bars corresponds to the power draw we recorded using the publicly available BIOS, while the others are for the pre-release F2 BIOS with C6 power state support enabled and disabled.

The E35M1-M Pro is evidently the most power-efficient board of the lot, but only by a watt or two. We should also note that enabling C6 power state support has a negligible impact on power consumption; it seems to save about a watt at idle on both the Asus and Gigabyte boards, and we detected no difference under load. Considering the higher storage performance we witnessed with the C6 setting off, Gigabyte’s decision not to enable it by default on the E350N-USB3 seems sensible. The setting is only a few clicks away in Asus’ UEFI, though.

We tested noise levels using a TES-52 digital sound level meter positioned about 6″ away from each board. Since the E35M1-I Deluxe doesn’t ship with a fan and is supposed to rely on chassis airflow for cooling, we measured its noise levels without our 120-mm case fan sitting atop its heatsink.

Surprise, surprise, the Gigabyte board’s 40-mm fan is responsible for the highest noise levels. Our meter confirms this fact, as do our ears—the E350N-USB3 gets fairly loud under load. The E35M1-M Pro probably deserves the most credit, since it’s barely louder than the passive E35M1-I Deluxe despite having active cooling. Considering the overheating issues we encountered with the EM35M1-I Deluxe on our open test bench, the E35M1-M Pro seems like a nice, cozy middle ground.

Conclusions

Picking a favorite out of three wildly different offerings is no easy task. Looking at prices helps put things in perspective, though. Gigabyte’s E350N-USB3 is the cheapest of the lot by far, at $129.99. The E35M1-M Pro is the second-cheapest, at $144.99, while the E35M1-I Deluxe will set you back a whopping $174.99.

Based on the noise measurements from the previous page, not to mention Asus’ excellent UEFI interface and fan-control functionality, the E35M1-M Pro looks like the best overall deal for a low-cost desktop that doesn’t need to squeeze into a Mini-ITX enclosure. Gigabyte’s offering may be a bit cheaper, but the loud fan is a turn-off, and it lacks the bigger Asus offering’s external Serial ATA port, FireWire connectivity, and extra expansion slots.

If your Zacate build must be Mini-ITX, then you’re stuck having to choose between the Gigabyte board and Asus’ pricey E35M1-I Deluxe. On paper, the latter is superior in every way—it has built-in wireless connectivity, more ports, passive cooling, and a UEFI much more sophisticated than Gigabyte’s traditional BIOS. In practice, we’re hesitant to back the Asus board fully, given that we ran into overheating problems with the passive heatsink on our open test bench. The board also seemed reluctant to let us run our two DIMMs at 1333MHz with the same timings as the other boards, occasionally hanging on cold boots. That problem seemed to subside as testing went on, but we noticed Newegg user reviews complaining of a similar issue—and our other boards exhibited no such problem.

In the end, I think it’s fair to say we haven’t found a Mini-ITX Zacate panacea quite yet. The E35M1-M Pro does as good a job as you could hope for within its larger form factor, though.

Comments closed
    • jinjuku
    • 8 years ago

    Been using the Pro mainboard since July for a 2.0 music only setup. I need the expansion so I could use the EMU 1212M PCIe (main and daughter card).

    Passively cooled and zero problems.

    Win7/4GB/SSD/DC-DC ATX adapter and Tripplite linear regulated DC supply. 100% silent and really quick responsiveness.

    AMD has a winner with this platform.

    • ronch
    • 8 years ago

    Fancy rear panel ports aside, for $175 you could get a much faster Athlon II X2 255 and a decent AM3 board with more expansion options instead. This may be harsh, but if you are out to buy an E-350 board for HTPC duty wouldn’t you consider your other options? Much cheaper E-350 boards are available but the Athlon II combo still looks like it’s the Smarter Choice unless power consumption is a top priority. As for system/CPU fan noise, I would gladly trade it for performance and the possibility of gaming on the big screen.

      • Goty
      • 8 years ago

      The E-350 is too slow to handle HTPC duty on its own, anyhow. The W7MC interface is too sluggish, and the GPU can’t handle vector adaptive deinterlacing.

        • Sargent Duck
        • 8 years ago

        Is it? My E-350 runs 1080p perfectly fine without a hitch. No problem with W7MC either.

          • Goty
          • 8 years ago

          I guess I should say that the W7MC interface is too sluggish for [i<]me[/i<]. There's noticeable lag when selecting different menu element which drives me absolutely insane. As for being able to play back 1080p, that's not at issue. The problem is the level of post-processing available to the E-350. Vector-adaptive deinterlacing isn't available in CCC (in addition to any other number of effects), and it has a huge effect on image quality. For a dedicated HTPC, you can get significantly better image quality using a cheap discrete card.

            • Sargent Duck
            • 8 years ago

            Ah. Thanks for clarifying : )

            • jinjuku
            • 8 years ago

            Huh…. My system with 4GB of RAM/SSD/Windows tweaked out for audio performance is down right snappy in MCE. There is no lag or hesitation. You might want to look for the reason why.

      • ronch
      • 8 years ago

      I think E-350 is more suitable for laptops aimed at office productivity. Business people working away from the office or a power outlet will find its performance adequate for common office apps while the long battery life is a real advantage. These same people are probably too busy to watch movies or play games on the go but some light Popcap games or a movie shouldn’t be too hard for the E-350.

      Personally I’d go for Llano instead but E-350 laptops are most likely a lot cheaper and easier on a company’s bottom line, especially if they have to buy truckloads of it.

    • Voldenuit
    • 8 years ago

    $175 for a Zacate mobo+CPU? WTF? Does ASUS live on the moon or something?

      • ronch
      • 8 years ago

      Not yet. But if you buy their products they could someday get to that.

    • plonk420
    • 8 years ago

    it’s ALMOST there! as a music player or other small app machine it’s perfect. HD video playback is hit or miss.

    i haven’t yet tried decrypting blu-ray realtime in an app. decrypting on an i7 and playing over a network (a mapped blu-ray drive decrypting with AnyDVD HD) was ok if i kept the resolution native.

    a 720p iTunes file played ok at native and scaled. however a 720p h.264 encode with some retardedly rediculous settings (12 reference frames) wouldn’t play without dropping random frames. even in XBMC, it would tear where MPC HC would drop the frame.

    and yesterday i played a 480p anamorphic h.264, using madVR for the first time. a quick spot check seemed ok. anything higher res wouldn’t work. i didn’t try any tweaks, tho, like 10bit opposed to the 16 bit default

    all in all, it should last me til something better at a similar power consumption comes out. with 1 stick of ram, and no usb devices plugged in, i got it down to 29 watts (5400 rpm laptop hdd, 2 case fans, the microATX board, non-80PLUS PCP&C PSU). adding my usual 2 keyboards, mouse, lenovo wireless controller, Diamond USB soundcard, it’s up to 34 watts. ~40 watts in a noob-league game of League of Legends.

    i haven’t checked to see how power consumption is in my new case, a Silverstone ML-03 with 1 fan (i ghettorigged it to push air out thru the air vent on the top part of the case) and 1 keyboard, tho.

    edit: this is all using the non-powersaving mode

    • Ojref
    • 8 years ago

    I was so annoyed with the paper launch of the Asus F1A75-I (A8/A6 FM1 CPU) I went ahead and built a Core i3/Gigabyte H67N-USB3 system. AMD needs to really press their partners to get the boards to market on time.

    • madlemming
    • 8 years ago

    Got the asus pro board about a week ago to be a linux router/firewall/fileserver, the machine it’s replacing used 4 times more power… In my mind the big advantage for Zacate over atom is that atom nettops don’t have speedstep, so they can’t downclock when idle like Zacate can.

    One tip: on the pro board, the big asus logo on the heat sink is just a sticker that does nothing but block airflow/heat transfer; it peeled right off and gave me an extra degree of cooling.

    The fan it came with was a little annoying, I ended up up attaching a spare low rpm fan & using a fanless psu, now I can’t even tell it’s on.

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]In my mind the big advantage for Zacate over atom is that atom nettops don't have speedstep, so they can't downclock when idle like Zacate can.[/quote<] Not true. Atom "speedsteps" (or whatever they call it) fine. I remember mine going to 600MHz from its standard 1.6GHz.

        • madlemming
        • 8 years ago

        Net[b<]top[/b<] atoms like the d525 do not have the Speedstep feature, see intel's [url=http://ark.intel.com/products/49490<]reference page.[/url<] Net[b<]book[/b<] atoms, on the other hand, do [url=http://ark.intel.com/products/55637<]enable it.[/url<] I don't know why intel does it this way, but I've never seen a desktop system with speedstep enabled.

          • NeelyCam
          • 8 years ago

          Hmm… I wonder what “enhanced” means on “enhanced speedstep”. Is there a ‘regular’ speedstep available? Nonetheless, the Atom I was talking about was in fact a netbook.

          [quote<]I don't know why intel does it this way, but I've never seen a desktop system with speedstep enabled.[/quote<] Intel loves illogical segmentation. .

    • Sargent Duck
    • 8 years ago

    Cyril,

    In the original Zacate article (https://techreport.com/articles.x/20401/5), the zacate when using the 60 watt power supply and an SSD had a SIGNICANT lower power draw at both idle and under load, but when using the standard power supply for the review (610 watts) was actually quite a bit higher than your (450 watts). It would certainly seem that the power supply used to power such a low power device does indeed make a big difference.

    Although it’s been a while since you guys have had a good power supply review (bring out the BEAST) it’d be interesting if, just as a quick 1 page article, you hooked up several different wattages (60 watt, 450, 600 for example) and test to see how much difference the power supply makes in such low power devices.

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      Seconded. [i<]Nobody[/i<] has done a good review on PSU efficiencies at very low loads (like Zacates, Atoms and low-power SBs/Llanos). The 80Plus certification is a joke.

    • eitje
    • 8 years ago

    I own a deluxe and mine tops out @ 50C. 84C is scary, but it does not match my experience.

    edit: I also own the non-deluxe, and it sits between 55C and 60C, without active cooling.

    • 5150
    • 8 years ago

    As someone who just built a i3-2100T setup yesterday, I’m getting a kick out of these replies.

    • obarthelemy
    • 8 years ago

    Any idea if/when mini-itx FS1 boards are coming ? It’s very hard NOT to go H61+G620 or 2100T right now ^^

    • Sargent Duck
    • 8 years ago

    Bought the Asus E35M1-M Pro back in the fall and have been using it ever since as my main desktop rig (actually, it’s the only computer I own right now).

    The big thing for me was the passive heatsinks. I didn’t want no stinkin’ little fan, something all the manufactures couldn’t seem to appreciate given Zacate’s low power. The deluxe just seemed to expensive for what it offered, so the Pro was it.

    Couldn’t be happier. The passive board hooked up with a passive 60watt power supply, and it’s quite. Well, actually there is the one issue of how loud my hdd is (WD blue, brought over from my old Core2 that died). Get an SSD in there and it’ll be quiter than…well, quite.

    Runs Windows 7 64bit home with the Aero interface without issue and no issues with playback of HD video (720 at least, don’t think I’ve tried 1080)

    I haven’t bothered to really game on it (my gaming has totally bottomed out (hence the reason I went with this) other than UT classic and plants vs zombies, but it handles those just fine (LOL!)

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 8 years ago

      Cool, so how is the everyday performance compared to the Core 2? And I’m curious, if you tried a discrete graphics card? I’m just wondering cuz of the 4X bandwidth PCIe 16 slot. I thought the recommended minimum was 8X.

        • Sargent Duck
        • 8 years ago

        I had a Core 2 duo 2.53Ghz. There were some very slight differences (the following times are based purely on my speculation). Loading up IE 9 (with 6 tabs or so) seemed to take a second longer (barely noticable), Office opened maybe 2 slower. Unzipping certainly takes longer for sure but then again I’m maybe only unzipping 350MB files, so the time delta is again maybe 5 seconds longer.

        All-in-all, as a desktop machine for surfing/email/light gaming it’s a perfect machine. Runs Aero desktop just fine and no problem with movie playback.

        I haven’t tried a video card (I still have my 4850) simply because I can’t. It’s only 60 watts with no 4/6 pin connector: [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817129006[/url<]

    • Goty
    • 8 years ago

    From the article:

    [quote<]Seven months after its debut, AMD's Zacate processor remains largely unequaled. Intel's Atom might sip less power...[/quote<] Uhhh, not in any comparable incarnation it doesn't, as per TR's own findings: [url<]https://techreport.com/articles.x/20401/5[/url<] Maybe it should say something along the lines of "Atom [i<]can[/i<] sip less power."

      • Cyril
      • 8 years ago

      Comparable incarnation, absolutely. But the second half of that sentence mentions tablets and handhelds specifically. Z-series Atom chips have much lower TDPs than Zacate and Ontario.

        • UberGerbil
        • 8 years ago

        But who on the internet has time to read entire sentences?

          • Peldor
          • 8 years ago

          You win, sir. Good show!

        • Goty
        • 8 years ago

        Of course, but the implication is that Atom, as an architecture, draws less power than Brazos, which is factually incorrect. It’s all semantics, but I’m a stickler for detail. 😉

          • NeelyCam
          • 8 years ago

          If you insist being a stickler for detail, then I have to say that you’re incorrect. Atom itself consumes less power than Brazos. The chipset is the culprit for Atom’s high idle power consumption – the Atom system tested here was using a very old 945-based chipset. You can see Atom’s very low power consumption by looking at the difference of idle and load power. Cedar Trail will beat Brazos in idle power when it comes out this year.

          Also, to point out just how significant the motherboard choice is, my i7-2600k system idles at 22W – I have an Intel motherboard, which tend to be the most power-efficient mobos out there. The Atom system here was using a Jetway mobo, while the Brazos system was using MSI (another manufacturer with a reputation of high efficiency).

            • Goty
            • 8 years ago

            We’ve been over this before in one of the other threads, haven’t we? Ah, yes, and I walked all over this argument there, too.

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            Sorry, no – it was me who was doing the walking.

            • Goty
            • 8 years ago

            Yep, right out of the thread. 😉

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            Well done, sir! +1

    • etilena
    • 8 years ago

    was going to us the deluxe for a htpc build. now that i know it’s not terribly stable without a fan, i might opt for a core i3 2100t instead.

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      SandyBridge can be a better choice if you can afford it… and the price difference with a H61 mobo is actually pretty small.

      But you will need a big heatsink on that i3-2100t if you want to make it passive… so if small passive is your goal, you should probably keep looking. Maybe you could try to find an Ontario-based system, or wait for Intel’s Cedar Trail platform…?

      • plonk420
      • 8 years ago

      i ran it stable for ~8 hours without a fan (mostly as i was doing other stuff like playing a game) soon after transferring it between cases. accidentally left distributed computing running, too. obviously it wasn’t Prime95ing, but still generating a significant load.

      what temps were you hitting? i was around 60C.

    • sirsoffrito
    • 8 years ago

    It’s disappointing that the Asus Deluxe has such a large heat sink and still has overheating problems. Had my eye on that thing for quiet a while for a silent htpc and maybe even mainstream or low power online gaming, but I was never willing to pull the trigger because I was unsure of just that issue. I dream of the day when such a thing will be possible.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 8 years ago

      Yea, I was wondering if a person could jimmy a 120mm fan (slow, quiet one) on that heat sink. I don’t see a fan control dongle on it, tho. Of course, after removing that stupid logo.

      I know it defeats the purpose of a huge heat-sink. It is a major fail for ASUS.

      • rechicero
      • 8 years ago

      Don’t forget the open test bench test is clearly biased against passive cooling. Cyril offers some clues when explaining the testing methods “but after observing worryingly high CPU temperatures around 84°C (which seemed to cause the Ethernet controller to drop out), we stuck a 120-mm spinner atop the Deluxe. Asus told us it didn’t have any problems with overheating in its own labs; perhaps our open test bench was the issue. Either way, you probably shouldn’t stick any of these boards in a chassis without some form of active airflow” and in the noise test: “is supposed to rely on chassis airflow for cooling”. In a case, with some airflow, the cooling should be much better, as I suppose it was with the 120 mm fan.

    • hapyman
    • 8 years ago

    Any chance to see some graphics performance with the integrated graphics coupled with a comparable discreet graphics card in hybrid crossfireX?

    • ermo
    • 8 years ago

    Cyril,

    On page 2, you say [quote<]The Pro uses a sort of a skinny version of the regular microATX form factor, which calls for dimensions of 9.6" x 9.6".[/quote<] If I'm not mistaken, this is the AMD-designed DTX(1) or mini-DTX motherboard form-factor? [1]: [url<]http://www.silentpcreview.com/article765-page2.html[/url<]

      • Cyril
      • 8 years ago

      The E35M1-M Pro is 9.6″ tall and 7.4″ wide. Full-size DTX boards are supposed to be 8″ tall and 9.6″ wide at the most. So, no, it doesn’t look like this is a DTX mobo.

    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    I had to laugh at the heatsink + fan combination Asus provide for their E35M1-M Pro.

    Basically, one third of the fins on the heatsink are hampered by the giant ASUS branding placard.
    When you look at the optional fan positioning, most of the airflow from the fan is blocked off by the placard. Maybe 25% of the air from that fan is getting through?

    Winnor!

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 8 years ago

      The good news is that they stuck their logo on the fan too, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see who made the board when using the fan. The bad news is the logo spins!

        • UberGerbil
        • 8 years ago

        Back in the Athlon XP days I had a CoolerMaster fan that had some kind of holographic reflective logo that would look like it was floating above the fan when it was spinning. Of course, variable-speed fans put paid to that idea, but it was kind of cool.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 8 years ago

      Yea, must be the stupidest thing ever… I would have pried that thing off with pliers!

    • Anonymous Coward
    • 8 years ago

    Either of these would make a nice drop-in upgrade for my old P2-450 file server, except for that pesky new 24+4 power supply standard. I just saw the other day that the installer for Centos6 (RHEL6) requires nearly 400MB of RAM, over twice what I have installed. Just the installer! That’s how you know its getting to be time for an upgrade.

      • Ruiner
      • 8 years ago

      My Asrock Zacate runs fine on a 20 pin pico-psu. No 4 pin 12v aux either.

    • UberGerbil
    • 8 years ago

    Appreciate the review. Would’ve probably been more interested in these boards 6 months ago, but for any upcoming HTPC I’ll probably have the “A” chips at the top of my list rather than the “E” ones. Unless I just spend the bucks for SB.

    I still find it odd that Gigabyte is dragging its feet on UEFI for so long. Have they made any official public explanation of this, or if they actually plan to transition in the future?

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This