Gigabyte's GA-E350N-USB3 is a nice AMD alternative to Intel's Atom / ION combination that worked as-advertised here today.
In our real-world analysis, the E350N performed nicely as a HTPC. It was able to process 1080p video from YouTube smoothly with CPU utilization maxing out around 60% once the clip was fully queued up. Trying to watch the stream while it was still being queued up would max the CPU out at 100% and playback was sluggish.
General web browsing and system usage was also very pleasant, but this could largely be credited to the excessive 8GB of memory and the solid state drive. There were still a few instances where the system felt sluggish when loading a busy page but overall, it wasn't bad at all. A typical HTPC user would likely opt to install a larger spinning hard drive to store media rather than a small but zippy SSD.
Gigabyte has loaded this board with all of the necessary video-out options that most users will need, including VGA, DVI and HDMI. External hard drives can be connected via USB 3.0 for speedy data transfers. Audio options include optical S/PDIF and six audio jacks that support Dolby Home Theater.
The board supplies two memory slots that can support up to 8GB of memory although it's worth noting that dual-channel configuration is not supported. Those looking to add a bit more graphics processing power can install a discrete GPU although the CPU would certainly become a bottleneck if you are trying to do any serious gaming. I had hoped to try a few gaming titles but I didn't have a high-end GPU on hand during testing.
Two of my favorite aspects of this combo are the quiet operation and low power consumption. I measured power draw at only 43 watts under full load using a Kill-A-Watt meter which is extremely low, especially when you consider a high-end video card can consume upwards of 7x as much power.
Speaking of silent operation, I paired this board with a Seasonic fanless PSU and an OCZ SSD, all inside a Thermaltake Armor A30 case for a very quiet computer.
My only real complaint on this board is the lack of 3-pin fan headers. There is only one free considering the CPU cooler occupies the only other header.
If you are in the market to build a small HTPC or a low-end Internet / e-mail / word processing machine, this Gigabyte combo would certainly fit the bill. Keep in mind of course that you can't upgrade the CPU down the road like you could a standard motherboard so you will have to rely on adding more memory or a SSD to increase performance.
As of writing, the Gigabyte GA-E350N-USB3 sells for $144.99 which makes it the 2nd most expensive Zacate-based motherboard combo at Newegg.com (but only $5 more than most of the other competition).
OCIA.net has awarded the Gigabyte GA-E350N-USB3 our Gold Seal of Approval!