Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350 £210
13th Jun 2011 | 11:15
Does this tiny motherboard shine like a jewel?
Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350: Overview
Sapphire has got its shrink-ray online again with this tiny AMD Fusion board, the Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350.
AMD's long-awaited, and even longer talked-about, Fusion technology has finally seen the light of day with a few motherboard manufacturers offering boards built around it.
Fusion is the world's first APU (Accelerated Processor Unit); a combination of a dual core processor, Northbridge controller and a DX11 supporting graphics processor all built into the same piece of silicon and is AMD's belated riposte to Intel's dual core version of the Atom.
The compact nature of the technology has enabled the board producers to have another go at trying to persuade people that the tiny (17cm square) ITX format is a serious proposition, but unfortunately that's a road that the past 10 years has seen a number of companies disappear down.
Long-time AMD partner Sapphire currently has two boards based on the Fusion technology, the Pure White Fusion E350 (IPC-E350M1W) and the subject of our review, the Pure Fusion Mini E350 (IPC-E350M1), the differences between the two are the type of memory supported.
Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350: Benchmarks
While both the MSI E350N-USB3.0 and Sapphire's Pure Fusion Mini E350 use AMD's Fusion technology, the MSI board uses standard 240-DIMM DDR3 memory modules rated up to 1333MHz Sapphire's board on the other hand uses SO-DIMM modules but only it supports up to 1066MHz modules, but regardless of which type of memory is used the APU architecture only supports single channel memory.
CPU Rendering performance
Cinebench R10 – (Seconds: quicker is better)
Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350 - 391
MSI E350N-USB3 - 410
Cinebench R11 Index - (Index score. Higher is better)
Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350 - 0.61
MSI E350N-USB3 - 0.62
x264 v2.0 (Frames per second. Higher is better)
Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350 - 3.46
MSI E350N-USB3 - 3.78
x264 v3.0 (Frames per second. Higher is better)
Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350 - 3.1
MSI E350N-USB3 - 3.2
Integrated graphics performance
Just Cause 2 (Average frames per second. Higher is better)
Concrete Jungle map 1280 x720 2xAA
Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350 - 7.34
MSI E350N-USB3 - 5.87
Power Consumption (Watts. Lower is better)
Metered at wall socket. Peak metered during run of Cinebench R11
Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350 Idle - 28w / Peak - 37w
MSI E350N-USB3 Idle - 29w / Peak - 42w
Sapphire Pure Fusion Mini E350: Verdict
When it comes to performance, well you might well take one look at the test results and say, "What performance?", but even these performance figures outshine the old EPIA boards' stuttering attempts at running benchmarks.
But out-and-out performance isn't what this type of motherboard is about, it's more about be able to offer adequate performance - especially video playback - at low power requirements, in a small, tight space where the lack of heat production is of real importance, making them ideal for very small form factor HTPC's.
As mentioned in the introduction, the difference between the two Sapphire boards is the type of DDR3 memory supported.
The Pure White Fusion uses two standard 240-pin DIMM slots while the Pure Mini Fusion uses two SO-DIMM slots, the slots normally associated with notebooks.
Using a pair of smaller memory slots has given Sapphire more elbow-room to work on the motherboard, which has allowed them to include a mini-PCI slot which can be used to house something like a Wi-Fi card in. Just as Zotac has done with its Intel based H67ITX board, only Sapphire hasn't included any bracketry to help with mounting the aerial(s).
You might think that a motherboard this small would be light on features, but the Pure Mini Fusion can hold its own against many a full size board; five SATA 6Gb/s ports, two USB3.0 and three USB ports, VGA and a single link DVI outputs, HDMI, Bluetooth, eight channel audio and integrated Gigabit LAN.
There's also a single PCI-E x16 slot for a discrete graphics card, but it only runs at x4 speed.
This time around, it appears that the ITX format has a lot going for it as AMD's Fusion technology has made it possible to combined adequate performance and power saving with a half-decent, usable feature set to make the format an interesting proposition for people wanting to build a very small media platform.
It's a real shame that Sapphire didn't include a Wi-Fi card with the Pure Fusion Mini E350, especially as it went to the trouble of adding Bluetooth to the board. Even worse, there's no provision for mounting an aerial(s), should you have brought a third-party Wi-Fi card.
Although its early days for AMD's latest technology, it works well and is ideal for very small form factors, something that Sapphire has proved quite nicely with the Pure Fusion Mini E350.