AMD AM1 Platform - Kabini Comes To Socket FS1b

AMD AM1 Platform

Earlier this month AMD released the low cost AM1 platform that they believe will succeed in the low cost general everyday use and office markets. The AMD AM1 platform consists of a socketed Kabini Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) and a motherboard with the required FS1b upgradeable socket. AMD's Kabini APU is a full System On a Chip (SOC) and that was done by merging the APU (CPU + GPU) and I/O controller hub functions into a single chip and that helps keep power usage and costs down.

To do well in this very competitive market AMD will need an affordable platform that has enough performance to get the daily tasks done. The AMD Kabini APU's range in price from $31 to $55 and the mini-ITX and micro-ATX AM1 motherboards with the FS1b socket range between $25 - $35. That means you could be looking at a fully integrated desktop platform for less than $60! Does AMD have your attention now? Getting a motherboard and a processor for under $60 that can perform 'good enough' for most scenarios would be impressive. It should also be of interest to those building HTPC's, home servers (WHS or Linux NAS) or a Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) system.

APU SOC

AMD's new Kabini socketed processors incorporate up to four 'Jaguar' CPU cores (clocked as high as 2.05GHz), a Radeon R3 series GPU with 128 Graphics Core Next (GCN) Radeon cores, video accelerators, and an I/O controller that supports two USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports and two SATA III 6Gbps ports. The new processors also support single-channel DDR3 1600MHz memory modules. That might not sound impressive to enthusiasts, but it is faster than the 1333MHz memory limitation on Intel's Bay Trail platform.

am1-platform-apus

AMD is releasing four 25W TDP Kabini APUs. You start out with the AMD Sempron 2650 dual-core processor that runs at 1.45GHz with 1MB of cache for $31. From there you step up to the AMD Sempron 3850 quad-core processor at $36 that has 2MB of cache and a 450MHz core clock on the GPU. The AMD Sempron 3850 means that you can now get a quad-core processor for under $40!  The AMD Athlon 5150 and 5350 quad-core processors will cost $45 and $55 and have a 600MHz core clock on the graphics and much higher CPU clock speeds. The AMD Athlon 5350 is clocked at 2.05 GHz and the AMD Athlon 5150 is clocked at 1.6GHz. AMD claims the high-end Athlon 5350 APU provides superior computing performance to Intel’s Pentium J2900 (~$94, quad-core, 2.66GHz). AMD claims that their gaming performance up to 2.8 times faster than the Intel Pentium J2900 or a system with an Intel Celeron G1610 along with the NVIDIA G210 discrete graphics card.

amd-platforms

This now means that AMD has three desktop platforms available. You have the AM3+ socket on the enthusiast side, FM2+ for the mainstream market and then the AM1 platform that we are looking at today on the low cost end. 

kabini-platform

Here is a quick look at the AMD Kabini platform system diagram that better shows the logic that is handled by the APU. Note that motherboard makers have plenty of display options with VGA, DisplayPort 1.2/HDMI and DVI all available to use. There is no need for a 'chipset' on the AM1 platform as everything is under the hood of the APU. This means that most AMD AM1 motherboards will be in the $25 to $35 price range.

different-cores

AMD’s press slides show that Kabini’s four Jaguar cores can fit into one Steamroller dual core unit. AMD has also improved the branch predictor and other front end tweaks to better balance the SSE/MMC/AVX pipelines.

AMD FS1B Platform

 

Today we'll be taking a look at the AMD Athlon 5350 APU on the Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H mATX motherboard with 4GB of DDR3 1600MHz AMD Radeon Series Memory. This is considered the high-end of Kabini and it should be interesting to see how the platform does! 

 

amd-radeon-memory

Our test platform came with a single 4GB AMD Radeon Entertainment Series DDR3 1600MHz memory module with CL9 timings (9-9-9-28) and it operates with 1.5V. This memory module is sold under part number AE34G1609U1  for $46.99 shipped with a lifetime warranty. You can get a 4GB DDR3 memory module that runs 1600MHz for $32.99 after rebate, so be sure to check around to get the best deal on the memory module.

AMD Kabini AM1 Test Platform Cost:

This core platform costs $136.98, so you are talking about a very affordable base system. Let's take a look at the Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H motherboard and then get to the benchmarks!

Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H Motherboard Overview

socket-FS1B

The AMD AM1 platform for Athlon/Sempron-series APUs that we'll be looking at today is centered on the Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H mATX motherboard. This micro-ATX motherboard runs just $34.99 shipped! We are used to reviewing motherboards that often cost hundreds of dollars, so it is odd to talk about a motherboard that can be shipped to your door for less than $35. Kabini is basically a full blown SoC with integrated support for DDR3 memory, PCIe, USB 2.0/3.0, SATA III and more.

Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Motherboard

The Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H mATX motherboard has both a 24-pin ATX and 4-pin CPU power connectors. The AMD AM1 platform only supports single channel DDR3 memory up to 1600MHz and Gigabyte went with a pair of DDR3 memory slots on this particular board. There is also a PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slot, and a pair of PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. This board only has two fan headers on it and one is used for the CPU cooler, so there is just one board powered 4-pin fan header for a system or chassis fans. We would like to see more than one system fan header on a motherboard, but this board was designed to compete in the $25 to $35 AMD AM1 motherboard market. The Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H measures in at 22.6cm x 17.0cm, which is pretty small. A typical microATX board is 24.4cm x 24.4cm.

Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Motherboard IO

When it comes to the rear panel I/O there are a pair of PS2 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit LAN, and three audio headers (Line In, Line Out, Mic In). This board supports 7.1 channel audio, so how does that work with this configuration? You have to use the front HD audio panel to enable multi-channel audio. Video outputs on the board include HDMI (maximum resolution of 4096x2160) and VGA (maximum resolution of 1920x1200). This means that you can run an Ultra HD display at 30Hz. Audio is handled by a Realtek ALX887 Codec and the Gigabit LAN is also powered by Realtek controller.

Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Motherboard PCIe Slots

Here is a better shot of the PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slot and the pair of PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. This board confirms to the PCI Express 2.0 standard and not PCI Express 3.0. Along the bottom edge of the board there are six additional USB 2.0 headers available, so there are a total of two USB 3.0 and eight USB 2.0 ports/headers on this board.

Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Motherboard Power Phases

The Gigabyte uses a 2+1 phase VRM to condition power. None of the power phases have any cooling heatsinks on them, but we did notice that Gigabyte stepped up to solid capacitors for the power system. We can't recall the last time we saw a motherboard with just three power phases! 

PicoPSU

You should be able to get away with a very small power supply or even a PicoPSU as long as it is the newer style with a 24-pin ATX connector and has a 4-pin CPU power header.

Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Motherboard Dual BIOS

Gigabyte designed the GA-AM1M-S2H to support dual UEFI BIOS, but decided not to put a backup UEFI BIOS on this board due to cost cutting measures to help bring the boards build costs down.

gigabyte-rtc

Something we've never seen before on a motherboard is the addition of an Real Time Clock (RTC) to preserve the date and time in the UEFI and Windows. With AMD's new AM1 APU design, the CMOS function now is integrated into the APU, so if APU is removed, users will lose date/time in BIOS and Windows due to the loss of power. GIGABYTE has added a RTC IC to help maintain users' system clock settings without having to reset every time APU.

This image also shows the two SATA III 6Gbps headers. Some people might be upset that there are just two SATA headers available, but for the target market this is all that is really needed. Most office and everyday systems consist of a single hard drive and an optical drive. If you wanted to run two storage drives (SSD for primary and then a hard drive for storage) you can, but you'll be out of SATA headers. The good news is that there are eight USB 2.0 ports on this board and you can use one for an optical drive if one is needed. You might need to get an adapter depending on how you want to configure it, but with eight USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports this should be an option.

Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Motherboard Heatsink

You might be wondering what is underneath the small heatsink in the bottom corner of the motherboard and that would be for the iTE Super I/O chip that adds support for the PS/2 keyboard/mouse, serial port (D-Sub) and LPT header. Not too many people have a printer that needs a parallel port these days, but if you are needing a line print terminal (LPT) header, this board supports it and might save the day.

iTE-IT8620E

Here is a look at the iTE IT8620E I/O controller that resides under the heatsink.

Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H UEFI - aka the BIOS

We always update the BIOS on all the products we get to review to ensure we are running with the latest fixes and options. This Gigabyte AM1 board runs a Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), which replaces the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) firmware interface. When the board arrived we found that it was running UEFI version F1 and that is only version available when we did our testing.

bios-1

This is the main menu of the American Megatrends UEFI that is installed on the Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H motherboard.

overclocking

Under the Advanced Frequency Settings it shows what you are running at and then give you the ability to raise or lower those options manually. We didn't think we'd be able to overclock anything on the AMD Athlon 5350 APU, but were happy to find that the graphics core clock could be increased well beyond 600MHz.  This means that you can overclock the AMD Radeon R3 GPU if you wanted to try to get additional performance.

The bad news is that while this feature is displayed in the Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H version F1 UEFI, it doesn't actually work. You can change the value to 800MHz or 1000MHz and the performance remains the same as the 600MHz default clock setting.

health

Under the PC Health Status menu you can observe CPU temperatures and fan speeds. Notice that both the CPU fan and System Fan have user adjustable speed controls!

superio

You have the ability to disable the Serial and Parallel ports controlled by the iTE IT8620E Super I/O controller.

power-management

Here are the features that you can adjust under power management. Everything shown is at the default settings.

hwinfo

We had no problems installing Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit with Update 1 and AMD 14.20 Beta 8 drivers on this AMD AM1 platform. We used a Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD as the primary drive. Let's take a look at some common benchmarks on this system!

AMD Athlon 5350 APU Performance

3dmark

In the latest build of 3DMark we found scores of 415 in Fire Strike, 2686 in Cloud Gate and 30806 in Ice Storm, which is solid score from the AMD Radeon HD 8400 graphics solution with 14.20 Beta Drivers.

unzip

To unzip 3DMark we found that we were right around 32-33 MB/s for unzipping this file with the default utility in Windows 8.1 Pro with Update 1.

pcmark8-home

In the PCMark8 Home Accelerated 3.0 benchmark suite we scored 1895.

pcmark8-work

In the PCMark8 Work Accelerated 2.0 benchmark suite we scored 2700.

cinebench

Moving along to Cinebench R15 we found the AMD Athlon 5350 processor scored 13.96 FPS on the OpenGL benchmark, 158 points on the multi-core CPU test and 44 points on the single CPU test.

keyshot

How is CPU rendering is on the AMD Athlon 5350 APU? We installed KeyShot 4.3 to do some benchmarking and real-world stress testing and found that we were averaging 11.8 FPS on a scene that had nearly 42,000 triangles. (Our screenshot of KeyShot 4.3 shows that it is unregistered, but we did get permission from Luxion Inc. ahead of time to include it in our review.)

sanrad-memory

A quick look at the memory performance showed just shy of 6 GB/s of bandwidth. This sounds about right for a single channel memory kit running at 800MHz with CL9 memory timings.

sanrad-arith

In Sandra Processor Arithmetic the aggregate native performance score was 22.74 GOPS.

sanrad-multi

The Sandra Processor Multi-Media aggregate performance score was 47.23 MPix/s.

sunspider

We ran the SunSpider 1.0.2 JavaScript Benchmark on Google Chrome 34 and received a score of 433.2ms. The Intel Bay Trail-M NUC finished at 694.0ms, so this is a nice step up when it comes to JavaScript performance.

youtube-1080p

How does the AMD Athlon 5350 APU do when it comes to Youtube video playback? The first 1080p clip we tried was Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Trailer 2 and we had around 22-35% CPU usage during the playback of that movie trailer.

youtube-1080p-2

The next clip we ran at 1080P was called WILDLIFE IN 4K (ULTRA HD) 60FPS and we found that the CPU was at 50% load.

truecrypt

In the Encryption Algorithm Benchmark that comes inside TrueCrypt we found an AES mean score of 1.2 GB/s.

cdm

A quick run of CrystalDiskMark v3.0.3 showed the sequential read speed at 428.8 MB/s and the write speed at 384.2 MB/s! The Random 4K read speed was 16.65MB/s and the 4K random write speed was 44.35MB/s. These are most certainly SATA III speeds and it looks like this budget friendly platform works great with SSDs.

atto

Taking a look at another storage benchmark called ATTO, we find that the SSD reaching speeds of up to 541MB/s read and 435 MB/s write.

System Boot Times and Temperatures

 

bootracer-win8

The last performance test that we wanted to run was Bootracer 4.6 to see how fast the system is able to boot Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit with Update 1. We were happy it takes just 7 seconds to get to the logon screen and about 25 seconds to get the desktop fully loaded! We do have permission to use BootRacer for non-commercial use, so no worries there. 

am1-temperatures

We used HWiNFO64 to monitor temperatures and voltages and was pretty impressed by what we saw. The AMD Athlon 5350 APU with Radeon R3 Graphics idled with a temperature of 9.4C and then peaked at 30.8C according to this software program. We know those temperatures are off as the CPU isn't running below ambient (72F).  

idle-temp

Gigabyte's Easy Tune 6 software showed that the AMD Athlon 5350 APU was running at 24C at idle with the fan at 1323 RPM.

load-temp

When Prime95 was fired up the CPU temperature topped out at 43C and the fan was now running at 2689 RPM. Not bad for such a small heatsink!

AMD FS1B Platform

 AMD informed us that several heatsinks will be shipping with the AM1 platform. Our platform is using the Foxconn 1A215Q300 heat sink.

am1-heatsinks

There will also be the Cooler Master DKM-00004-A1-GP and the AVC Z5LH021001 heat sinks available.

Noise Levels and Power Testing

 

idle-noise

The AMD AM1 platform was nearly silent at idle with a reading of just 36.7 dB from a distance about a foot away from the motherboard. At and idle the processor averaged 9.4C and the fan wasn't spinning that fast at all.

load-noise

After running Prime95 64-bit for a good half hour to heat everything up to full operating temperature we found that the fan speed did increase, but only by a very small amount. The ramp up caused the sound level to increase to 37.4 dB, but even that is far from what we would consider to be 'loud' for a system! 

power-consumption

Power consumption of the AMD AM1 platform came out pretty good. Our system idle power jumped around 13.4-14.3 Watts, but averaged out to be 14 Watts, which is pretty nice. When playing videos or running games you can expect to be running around 20-30 Watts and when the CPU is at 100% load with Prim95 64-bit we were able to hit 33.5 Watts at the wall. You certainly don't need a large power supply for this system!

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

The AMD AM1 platform offered very solid overall performance and was easily able to handle home and office tasks with ease. SATA III, USB 3.0, support for a discrete graphics card and spare PCIe lanes on a socketed Kabini SoCs that start at $31 is impressive. This isn't an enthusiast system by any means, but we were able to do image editing, spreadsheet work, play online games and watch 1080P Youtube video clips with no issues at all. The performance numbers we saw when benchmarking were solid. We unfortunately don't have an Intel Bay Trail platform here to compare this AM1 platform against, but we have one on the way to check out at a later date.

The best part about the AMD AM1 platform is that it is able run general workloads with minimal power usage and CPU cooler noise. All of the AMD Kabini APUs are 25 Watt TDP parts and we really like seeing our build idle at 14 Watts and peak at around 34 Watts. People want a tiny PC that runs cool and quiet and this platform certainly meets those expectations. The Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H motherboard we used for testing didn't have many bells and whistles, but got the job done. This platform isn't about the extras, but rather the essentials.

 

AMD FS1B Platform

The other strong selling point for this platform is cost. Price is a key factor when buying a system and AMD Kabini APUs were designed to be affordable. Our processor, heat sink, motherboard and memory module ran $136.98, so you are talking about low cost system. The fact that this platform is also upgradeable is nice for the DIY market, although we aren't sure what upgrades are in the pipe for this platform.

AMD Kabini AM1 Test Platform Cost:

What does the future hold for AMD's AM1 platform? We haven't been told that information just yet, but we do know that AMD Beema will be released to the mobile market later this year. That doesn't mean that AMD will release Beema desktop parts, but it would make sense. Even if Beema makes it to a socketed desktop part would it be able to drop into a Socket FS1b board after a UEFI flash or would there need to be a socket change?

At the end of the day AMD's Kabini APUs appear to bring new life into the low-end desktop market. Those looking to build a low-cost system should stop and take a closer look at this platform. The SoC design has really kept prices down and as long as the performance is good enough the AMD AM1 platform could be right for you!

LR Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line: The AMD Kabini APUs and AM1 platform is priced right and the performance leaves us with no reason not to recommend this solution for general everyday systems.