WE‘VE BEEN EXPECTING this product from Sapphire for quite some time, although we didn’t quite know what to expect and it seems like the company has managed to churn out a pretty decent Brazos board that differ somewhat from its competitors. The Pure Fusion Mini E350 as the board is called is the first consumer Brazos board that we’ve seen so far that uses SO-DIMMs and it’s one of the few to offer a mini card PCI Express slot as well.
As with apparently everyone else, Sapphire has gone for an E-350 CPU and the Hudson-M1 chipset, although Sapphire’s specifications seem to suggest that this is actually called the A50M. The use of SO-DIMMs saves a lot of space on the PCB and it has allowed Sapphire to fit both a x16 PCI Express slot (again only x4 electrically) and a mini card PCI Express slot that takes half or full-length cards. You’ll have to source your own card though and sadly there’s no space on the rear for say a pair of Wi-Fi antennas.
Sapphire has also fitted five SATA ports, two at 90 degrees angle at the edge of the board and three more in a regular position just behind the edge mounted ones. The board also has a POST80 debug LED which is an unusual feature on mini-ITX boards and there is a pair of header for four USB 2.0 ports towards the front of the board. We’re a little bit disappointed that Sapphire has only fitted a two-phase PWM, although considering that we’re talking about an 18W TPD APU here, it should still be fine. The board has a 24-pin and 4-pin power connector which seems a little bit excessive.
Around the back you’ll find four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA connector, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a Bluetooth dongle, D-sub, DVI and HDMI as well as audio jacks for 7.1-channel sound and an optical S/PDIF out. Unusually for a board as this price level, Sapphire is using a Marvell Gigabit Ethernet controller, whereas we’re using to seeing Realtek solutions. The board also has S/PDIF in and out pin headers and a serial port header which might be handy for some.
We’re not overly keen on the cooling solution once more, as Sapphire is using a pair of very small heatsinks and the one on the CPU has been fitted with a tiny fan. It’s not clear from the pictures how the heatsinks are mounted onto the CPU and chipset, but it seems like Sapphire has gone for thermal tape as we fail to see any push-pins or screws. Overall this looks like a good start on Sapphire’s return to the motherboard market and hopefully things will only improve from here. We don’t have any word on pricing, but hopefully Sapphire will be competitive with the more established players in the industry.S|A
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