Our eight E-350 motherboard samples fall into two performance classes: those that support DDR3-1333 and those stuck at DDR3-1066. There are also three levels of on-board features we could use to split these platforms up. Of these, only Asus gives us the best of everything, including capabilities and performance.
The FUSION350-A-E is next in line for features, but its $15 price savings compared to the E35M1-I Deluxe is more than offset by its lack of Bluetooth and overclocking capability. Better value can only be had from Zotac by users who never overclock or use Bluetooth to interface portable devices.
Sapphire removes the wireless capability presented by Zotac and instead fits the IPC-E350M1 with a Bluetooth interface of similar value. Sapphire also excludes front-panel USB 3.0, however, sacrificing any value victory it might have otherwise had over its chief rival.
Gigabyte gives up Bluetooth compared to Sapphire, but adds overclocking support to its E350N-USB3. DDR3-1333 also boosts the E350N-USB3’s gaming performance, though not enough to make it a viable gaming solution. Features are usually worth more than overclocking to the low-power compact PC markets, so Sapphire's position is secure.
Placing durability before features, Jetway’s IPC-market solution is best reserved for harsher climates, such as automotive entertainment systems. The NC85-E350-LF loses USB 3.0 compared to Gigabyte, but unfortunately gives up nothing in price.
The lower-price segment looks even better, with ASRock’s E350M1/USB3 coming in at a super-value $110. Already leading Foxconn in price, it delivers a death blow by supporting USB 3.0, eSATA, and twice as many internal drives as its similarly-priced rival.
Price separation and current availability gives us three winners (ASRock, Sapphire, and Asus) for three different types of buyers. While we aren't quite ready to hand any of these entry-level platforms an award, we are comfortable singling their strengths out for special recognition.
ECS is unfortunately left out of our final analysis due to lack of availability.