One of AMD’s primary feature points for the AM1 Kabini platform was the introduction of low-cost motherboards. The promotional material provided gave a suggested AM1 combined price of $60. Now after release the cheapest APUs are $31 for a dual core and $35 for a quad core. This should mean motherboards from $29 and up. Today we take a brief preview of nine motherboards currently on sale, which start at $33.

The AM1 Ecosystem

Almost every end-user I converse with prefers naming consistency in technology products. There has to be a clear progression in naming structure showing the development of a platform over time and generations. There have been plenty of examples – AMD’s enthusiast chipset (580/690/790/890/990FX), both AMD and NVIDIA’s GPU lines, Intel’s chipsets (P35, X48, P55, P67, Z77, Z87). The issue arises when the naming scheme is non-contiguous. The naming of AMD’s three main processor and chipset lines are as follows:

The top end features the AM3+ socket, which came from AM3, AM2+ and AM2. The mid-range is the FM2+ socket, deriving from FM2 and FM1. The low-price segment is now being called the ‘AM1 platform’. It makes it sound like it should be a very old version of AM3, because at least colloquially it will just be called AM1. In reality, that word ‘platform’ is the kicker here, because the socket is actually called FS1b:

What makes it called the AM1 platform is the use of a Kabini APU in an FS1b upgradable socket. That does not help that all the motherboards on sale will be given the AM1 designation. This means that if the next iteration of the Athlon processors using ‘Puma’ cores (codename “Beema”) comes along and they call it the ‘AM2 platform’ (insert more confusion with the AM2 socket), it might still be the FS1b socket in the middle of the motherboard.

Naming conventions aside, because Kabini processors are system-on-chips rather than platforms with a discrete south bridge, all the IO is determined on die. AMD is at least keeping the core of the IO the same across all the Kabini APUs:

The key points to note here are:

  • Single Channel 64-bit DDR3/DDR3L
  • Two USB 3.0
  • Eight USB 2.0
  • PS/2
  • Trusted Platform Module Support
  • Up to four eDP/DP/HDMI video outputs
  • VGA output
  • Four PCIe 2.0 lanes for a discrete GPU/PCIe device
  • Two SATA 3 Gbps ports
  • One PCIe 2.0 x1 lane allocated to an Ethernet controller
  • Three PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes for other controllers (SATA, USB, LAN, WiFi, PCIe 2.0 x1 slots, PCIe to PCI bridges)

As we go through the following motherboards, we will see that some manufacturers use USB 3.0 or SATA 6 Gbps controllers, powered by the PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes, in order to bump up the functionality. There is scope for development in the networking and audio solutions as well.

Below $40: Biostar AM1ML ($33)
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  • JFish222 - Monday, April 21, 2014 - link

    I agree, its disappointing that there is no ECC. (At least not listed.)

    I was really looking forward to using one of these for a low cost FreeNAS box.

    Ian, Anand and company. Please encourage ECC bios support/validation! If any of the manufacturers support it (not always obvious when they do) please point it out.

    For those that don't understand the importance, ZFS has numerous benefits but its greatest weakness is the ability to corrupt the entire data pool due to a flipped bit or 2 in RAM.
    For more info - http://forums.freenas.org/index.php?threads/ecc-vs...
    Reply
  • Chicken76 - Monday, April 21, 2014 - link

    Indeed, Anandtech has the ear of motherboard manufacturers. They might respond positively if such suggestions are properly argumented. There's not only the enthusiast home user that these might be useful to, there's also the small businesses sector, where cost is a deciding factor. Add ECC support and a bit of validation for production use, and a lot of the cost-conscientious businesses will refresh their storage boxes and low workload machines using Kabini, instead of the Pentiums and Celerons they use now. Reply
  • rogueninja - Sunday, April 20, 2014 - link

    Only bad friends recommend AMD. Reply
  • meacupla - Sunday, April 20, 2014 - link

    Currently, AMD's most attractive CPU parts are the $60 A6-6400k and $120 FX-6300.

    Pentium and i3 have more single thread computing power, but looking at the entire package, AMD has some advantages at those price points.
    Like a cheap 8 port SATA mobo, you can't have that with cheap LGA1150 boards.
    or having 6 physical cores.
    Reply
  • Antronman - Monday, April 21, 2014 - link

    Except that when you're on a low budget, AMD is the only thing you should be recommending. Reply
  • Ortanon - Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - link

    Intel usually wins low-budget too, haha. If you're talking "best gaming performance at the absolute bottom," yes, AMD wins. But who wants to game down there? As soon as you try to add any performance to your build whatsoever, it turns into an Intel solution with a PCIe GPU. It's possible that this would be different if all software was highly-threaded, but it just doesn't work out that way. Reply
  • AlB80 - Sunday, April 20, 2014 - link

    Gigabyte's mobo has heatsink. What behind it? SuperIO? Reply
  • DuckieHo - Monday, April 21, 2014 - link

    Biostar's mITX-Plus..... isn't that just AMD's DTX form factor? Reply
  • JBVertexx - Monday, April 21, 2014 - link

    Stumbled across this - PC build in the motherboard box:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xngzjrKg3zI
    Reply
  • WeatherDave - Monday, April 21, 2014 - link

    "COM port, LPT port and a TPM port on the same PCB"
    We have about 50 machines here. Mostly for embedded testing, such as stepper motors, and old equipment that ONLY connects via Serial Port. USB converters are both unreliable and prone to failure, so we like having the COM ports on board. Besides, Windows 98/2000 and XP much prefer them over a converter. Now, we don't have much use for the LPT, but TPM and a cheap SSD certainly keeps IT Security off our backs.
    Reply

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