ECS HDC-I Motherboard Review

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Introduction

Today we are reviewing the ECS HDC-I Mini-ITX motherboard, which comes with an AMD E-350 CPU soldered, two USB 3.0 ports, Wi-Fi and more features. Check it out!

The E-350 is a dual core CPU with embedded graphics. Actually, AMD calls it an APU (Accelerated Processing Unit).  In our articles and reviews, we will still be calling these products “CPUs.” AMD first announced that they would be creating a CPU with an integrated graphics chip in 2006, and gave the name “Fusion” to this idea. Intel, however, copied this idea and released CPUs with integrated video controllers in the beginning of 2010, within its Core i series.

While the A-series are CPU-aimed on the mainstream desktop computer market (you can read our review of the A8-3850 CPU here), the E-series is aimed at low-power computers. This platform is called internally “Brazos,” while this family of CPUs has the call-sign “Zacate.” The CPU cores are code-named “Bobcat.” There is also an “Ontario” series (C-series) which has an even lower TDP (and lower clocks).

Keep in mind that, even though they are a competitor for Intel Atom processors, the Bobcat cores don’t have much in common with them. While Atom uses an in-order execution engine (as well as “Jurassic” CPUs like the original Pentium), the AMD Bobcat uses out-of-order instruction execution, which allows it to be faster, even at the same clock speed.

The E-350 CPU has a 1.6 GHz clock, two cores, a 40 nm manufacturing process, and a TDP of only 18 W. The 512 KB per core L2 cache runs at half the core clock in order to save power. The GPU embedded into this chip is called Radeon HD 6310, with 80 cores running at 500 MHz. It is compatible with DirectX 11 and supports UVD3 (Unified Video Decoder 3), which improves 2D video performance by hardware-based video decoding.

The memory controller is, of course, integrated into the chip. It supports DDR3 memory up to 1,066 MHz, in single channel configuration.  As a companion, the E-350 must be paired with an “FCH” (Fusion Controller Hub, code-named “Hudson”) which makes the role of a south bridge chip, controlling SATA-600, USB, Ethernet and Audio ports.

The E-350 has eight PCI Express x1 lanes, but four of them are by the south bridge, leaving room for implementation of a PCI Express x4 slot on the motherboard.

The HDC-I is a Mini-ITX motherboard based on the AMD E-350 CPU. It uses the AMD “Hudson” south bridge.

In Figure 1, you see the HDC-I, which uses the Mini-ITX form factor, meaning that it measures 6.7 x 6.7 inches (170 x 170 mm).

ECS HDC-I Motherboard Figure 1: ECS HDC-I

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Author: Rafael Coelho

Rafael Otto Coelho is a physicist with a master's degree in Education, and is a college professor in Brazil.

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