I decided to dedicate an extra page to looking at two features on these Fusion boards that are, in my eyes, quite interesting to discuss. 

On the one hand, we are dealing with low power CPUs which can't process that much very fast, so if you want to overclock them, that overclock also has a significant impression on any integrated GPU gaming being used. 

On the other, we have access to a PCIe x16 slot, capable of running a full length, high-end GPU (should you want to).  This PCIe slot actually runs at 4x, which in certain circumstances would cripple the discrete GPU.  Pair this crippling with a not-so-great CPU, and we're not expecting the gaming capability to take off, so I've examined this as well.

Overclocking, and Gaming Performance

By default, we have a 1600 MHz, dual core Fusion CPU, combined with an 80 SP iGPU at 500 MHz, designated the HD 6310.  In terms of pure CPU throughput, we saw on all boards that a percentage increase in clock speed gave a direct increase in benchmark result for the 3D Particle Movement benchmark.

In terms of gaming, we need to analyze what this overclock does.  Apart from the default CPU speed increase, we're getting a direct GPU clock speed increase as well.  The DDR3 memory is also getting an increase, thus the memory bandwidth to the iGPU is increased as well.  So any overclock will increase its own effectiveness in two major areas.

I'll take the ASUS E35M1-I Deluxe for this explanation, which allowed a 10% overclock from 1600 MHz to 1760 MHz.  From the gaming perspective on the iGPU, we have a large increase in scores:

Overclocking the iGPU - 1024x768

Overclocking the iGPU - 1024x768

Out largest increase was in the DirectX 9 game, Left4Dead2 - a staggering 36.4 % increase in frame rate from 30.3 fps to 41.4 fps, making the game more playable at the 1024x768 resolution.  Even Metro2033 had a 21.0 % increase, and Dirt2 a 17.3% increase.  Is the iGPU itself capable of playing the major games?  Probably not, but at least those older ones can feel smoother.

The PCIe slot running at 4x - Is it worth using a beefy GPU, like a GTX 580?

The short answer is no, probably not.  Normally we see a full length PCIe slot run at 4x only when it's the second or third PCIe slot on the board, and usually at the detriment to SATA or USB ports that have to be switched off as a result.  Here, we have two main issues - will the CPU be fast enough to be able to navigate data across the PCIe bus to and from the discrete graphics, or will the 4x speed of the bus be the crippling factor?

(Note: I understand getting a GTX580 isn't realistic with a Fusion, but it's the most powerful GPU I have to hand and most apt for this test as GPU power should not be an issue.)

For this test, I ran the GTX 580  at the same settings as the iGPU tests, and then at the 1920x1080 resolutions and settings that we normally do for the high end motherboards (8xMSAA, 16xAF).  First, at the iGPU resolutions on the ASUS E35M1-I Deluxe:

Using a Large GPU - 1024x768

Despite using a $500 GPU, our biggest increase in frame rate, at 1024x768 resolution, is only 50%.  In Left4Dead2 on Sandy Bridge, at 1680x1050, we see over 200 fps - we know L4D2 can be fairly CPU limited, so the fact that we only see 45 fps is definitely testament to the Fusion CPU.

Now, at the full 1920x1080 resolution:

Large GPU Comparison - GTX 580

In Metro 2033, we didn't see any real decline from 1024x768 to 1920x1080, but there was a significant drop in Left4Dead2.  These results are also due to the CPU holding the GPU back, meaning that even with a GTX 580 on Fusion, only the old games will be playable, but this time at a higher resolution.

Gaming Benchmarks Final Words
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  • andymcca - Friday, July 15, 2011 - link

    My bad, missed this on page 11 during my first read-through. Reply
  • tvarad - Friday, July 15, 2011 - link

    Ian,
    I understand your compulsions, but it's like taking a Smart, testing it like a Ferrari and then critiquing it. That's not quite what AMD had in mind on how it intended the board to be used (I own Intel stock, so this is not about taking sides). I have the Asus board and I am using it with a tiny brick that puts out about 47W and powers a Pico-psu 120W 12V-25V wide input range power supply. It's function is as a HTPC/Video Server, hence I have just a 2TB WD HD attached to it, with an external removable media drive. With 2GB Gskill Eco Ram and a 140MM fan, it never goes above 40W when booting up and idles at around 22-23W. With 1080P mkv content play, the consumption goes upto about 30W. I don't plan to overclock it. I'll go out on a limb and say that my rig is more representative of how the board will be used in the real world.

    BTW, the square thingies on the pico-psu (at least the model I'm using) jut out onto the second dimm slot rendering it useless. Something you may want to watch out for.
    Reply
  • triclops41 - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    Easy there, Finally,

    There are things to criticize about this review on benchmarks chosen or other technical details, but I have not seen any pro atom or anti brazos bias by Ian, or anyone else at Anandtech. Maybe some bias towards synthetic benchmarks, that Intel often wins, but that has more to do with the constraints of hardware reviews, not allegiance to some producer.
    Reply
  • Finally - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - link

    Well said. I still really wonder, why there are so many encoding benchmarks here. After all - how many people actually do encode videos? I've never done so my whole life and don't intend starting to. The funny thing is that these are usually the benchmarks where the press is deriving their ridiculous high speed advantages of new Intel CPUs from...
    If someone came along and said that this "advantage" is completely lost on them, those CPUs wouldn't be that great, because real world game fps are almost always very close to each other...
    Reply
  • corporategoon - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    I don't really have any comments on the benchmarks or thoroughness or balance of this article (seems fine to me) but this is one of the most poorly-written articles I've ever seen on AnandTech. Anand has a serious problem with sentence fragments but most articles that appear on the site are reasonably well-written. The opening paragraph is borderline unreadable. Reply
  • new-paradigm - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    Ok, I may be being dense, but I cant seem to find if any of these boards offer video and sound through the HDMI port? Reply
  • jrs77 - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - link

    I've got two miniITX Atom boards. A Zotac IONITX A-E and an ASUS AT3IONT-I Deluxe (both sporting an onboard PSU with a 90Watt powerbrick !!!). Both of them do work like a charm and I'm even capable of playing MMOs (EvE Online) on them in low settings. They draw some 35 Watt from the plug in the wall under load.

    So why there's no comparison to the Atom-ION boards as they're the direct competition and on the market for a few years now allready?
    Reply
  • stmok - Friday, July 15, 2011 - link

    While the overall article is OK, it just doesn't have that usefulness of your typical Anandtech article in some areas that make it stand out.

    For example:

    Why did you not include the ECS solution alongside the ASUS one for the overclock part on page 15?

    => http://www.anandtech.com/show/4499/fusion-e350-rev...

    What about assessing noise?
    => Sure, you have the two passive mobos, but how loud/quiet was that fan cooled one?
    Reply
  • futurepastnow - Friday, July 15, 2011 - link

    Looks like the big heatsink ASUS uses is mostly for show since the much smaller one on the Zotac board puts it to shame. Reply
  • beginner99 - Friday, July 15, 2011 - link

    ... of bobcat. In the forums you can read it having trouble with 1080p sometimes especially flash. Not ideal for a htpc. The GPU part is mostly useless for a HTPC or NAS. Also these mini-ITX boards are pretty expensive and mini-ITX + core i3 doesn't cost much more and would also not use much more power in idle/normal usage but better max. performance for like flash (HTPC) or Software RAID 5 (NAS).
    Especially for a NAS the price difference is minimal because any small case with lots of HDD bays is pretty expensive.
    Reply

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