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The Brazos Round-Up: Eight AMD E-350-Based Motherboards

We like short, easy-to-remember product names, but perhaps a more descriptive moniker could have made ECS’ top Zacate-based Brazos platform a little more memorable. ECS’s promotional efforts for this product might have even benefited the brand if this product were actually obtainable (see Unobtanium, Definition 2, which this author formerly appropriated from old Hot Rod magazines). Our search engines show only the cheaper HDC-I2 available at retail.

A Bluetooth transceiver, Wi-Fi adapter, USB 3.0 controller, and PCIe slot are three things that make the original HDC-I more desirable than its cheaper I2 sibling. ECS also packs the board with twice as many SATA ports, an eSATA port, an HDMI video output, and two more analog audio jacks compared to the part that we could have actually purchased.

In fact, the only things really missing from the HDC-I are the antenna connectors. ECS chose to go with a single-antenna mini PCIe card and a breakout plate for the antenna, where we would have more likely chosen to ditch the VGA output to make room for these at the I/O panel. Anyone who would like to upgrade this board to a different mini PCIe card will be pleased to see that it supports both full-length and half-length replacements.

Unique to ECS is the use of a VIA VT1708B audio codec with DTS Connect. Though most mini-ITX users are primarily interested in multi-channel audio pass-through, DTS Connect also encodes system sounds (such as game surround) to the platform’s digital outputs.

ECS’ inclusion of four SATA cables is a rarity among mini-ITX products. While many users wouldn’t want to sacrifice a slot to support the included Wi-Fi antenna, drilling a hole in the case is also an option.

HDC-I Tuning

Like its Asus competitor, ECS’ HDC-I ignored our memory’s DDR3-1333 programming and instead defaulted to DDR3-1066. This is correctable in the BIOS, and is seen as a memory clock of 667 MHz in GPU-Z.

ECS tries to sneak in an advantage in our benchmark tests by raising the APU clock 1.9% by default. ECS isn’t the only brand to do this, but a 1.9% overclock looks a little guiltier than ASRock’s 1.3%.

ECS does not allow users to choose their own overclock. With only DRAM data rate and memory timings adjustable, performance optimization is kept to a minimum.

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