If you are anything like me then you most likely aren’t just limited to having a PC or two in your office, you most likely are using an HTPC or something similar at one or more televisions in your house. You could just pick up one of the many options available on the market right now, or you could put together something yourself. I’ve done this a few times in the past but over the past few years the prices for capable components have come down and let’s be honest, the performance requirements aren’t really going anywhere until 4k becomes a little cheaper. So today I’m going to take a look at a nice budget motherboard with a built in quad core AMD Fusion APU from Biostar. I don’t expect the A68N-5000 to be a hardcore gaming board, I’m really just curious how well it will handle simple tasks that an HTPC or small home server would require.

Product Name: Biostar A68N-5000

Review Sample Provided by: Biostar

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

Specifications

Chipset

A68N

CPU

AMD Fusion APU A4-5000 Quad-Core Processor

Memory

Support DDR3 / DDR3L 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz

2 x DDR3 DIMM Memory Slot

Max. Supports up to 16GB Memory

Expansion Slot

1 x PCI-E x16 2.0 Slot (x4)

Storage

2 x SATA3 Connector

USB

2 x USB 3.0 Port

2 x USB 2.0 Port

2 x USB 2.0 Header

LAN

Realtek RTL8111G - 10/100/1000 Controller

Integrated Video

AMD Radeon™ HD8330 Graphics, On Board Graphic Max. Memory Share Up to 2GB

Supports DX11.1

Supports HDCP

Codec

Realtek ALC662 6-Channel HD Audio

Rear I/O

1 x PS/2 Mouse

1 x PS/2 Keyboard

2 x USB 3.0 Port

2 x USB 2.0 Port

1 x HDMI Connector

1 x VGA Port

1 x RJ-45 Port

3 x Audio Connector

Internal I/O

1 x Printer Header

2 x USB 2.0 Header

2 x SATA3 6Gb/s Connector

1 x Front Audio Header

1 x Front Panel Header

1 x S/PDIF-OUT Header

1 x CPU FAN Header

1 x System FAN Header

1 x Serial Header

H/W Monitoring

CPU / System Temperature Monitoring

System Fan Monitoring

System Voltage Monitoring

Dimensions

Mini ITX Form Factor Dimension: 17cm x 17cm ( W x L )

OS Support

Support Windows XP / 7 / 8 / 8.1

Bundled Software

BIO-Remote2

Accessories

2 x SATA Cable

1 x I/O Shield

1 x DVD Driver

1 x Quick Guide

Features

Windows 8 Ready

Supports Solid capacitor

Supports BIOS-Flasher

Supports Charger Booster

Supports BIOS Online Update

 


Packaging

The box for the A668N-5000 reflects the small Mini-ITX size of the motherboard and has the same styling as past Biostar boards. The cover is mostly covered in small badges that show various board features as well as the required badges from AMD. The box is white with red trim along the sides and also in the product name. Around on the back of the packaging Biostar has broken down a few of the boards key features, a few that stand out is he ESD protection and moisture proof areas. What the packaging does lack though is a photo of the board itself. Without digging into the box I would prefer to be able to see what I’m buying in some shape or form. Getting an easier to see picture or drawing of the rear I/O would also be nice as well as a small specification listing.

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When you get inside you have the board wrapped up in a static protective bag along with its accessories. Being a budget board they don’t bundle much along with it. You do get a user guide and a dirver disc for documentation. Beyond that you get two SATA cables for the boards to SATA ports. Then of course you get a rear I/O panel. The panel is as basic as they come being all silver with no color coding for connections or anything like that.

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Board Layout and Pictures

To be honest when looking at the packaging I would have expected the A68N-5000 to have a little more of a red theme. When I pulled it out it has a black PCB with yellow plastic trim and a gold heatsink for the AMD APU. Of course with a motherboard like this, it’s not like you plan on showcasing it at all, so how it looks isn’t really an issue.

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All of the cooling on the A68N-5000 centers around the heatsink directly in the middle of the board. Biostar kept this simple and old school with a basic heatsink design. That means it is just an aluminum heatsink with basic vertical fins. What is interesting to note though is the back of a fan. That means this is a completely silent motherboard solution. The heatsink has direct contact in the middle with the APU but on the two sides it also touches on the caps to each side to help with their cooling as well.

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Starting at the top of the board there is surprisingly little going on. Between the heatsink and the rear I/O panel you have a four pin CPU power connection. Up top are the two yellow DDR3 DIMMS.

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The right side of the board has almost all of the connections options, this is great for keeping your wiring clean to make sure that heatsink has room to breathe. Starting nearest to the top, we have a 24 pin motherboard power connection. Just next to it is a three pin fan header, there is a second fan header just under the heatsink as well giving the board a total of two. Also under the heatsink are two USB 2.0 internal headers as well as the two SATA 3 headers. The rest of bottom half of the right side of the board has a COM header and a print header as well as the front panel I/O header.

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Down along the bottom of the board you basically have two things going on. On the left just behind the rear I/O panel, we have the audio circuitry with the front panel audio header. Other than that, we have a single PCIe x16 slot with PCIe x4 bandwidth. That is more than enough to handle things like a multiport NIC, audio card, or even a low powered video card depending on what your needs are.

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Being a board basically designed for integrations, HTPC use, and sometimes small home servers the rear I/O requirements for the A68N-5000 aren’t that high. You basically need to be able to plug in a mouse and keyboard, have Ethernet, and have HDMI. Biostar hit all of those marks with a little room to spare. You get two PS2 ports for integration use where they sometimes still use old mice and keyboards. There is also a VGA output for the same reason. They included a full gig Ethernet port for staying connected to the network. For USB you get two USB 2.0 ports along with two USB 3.0 ports. This is a nice touch, you get two USB 2.0 ports for mouse and keyboard use and if you have any other USB requirements the USB3.0 ports will handle it. Last but not least, they included a three port audio panel. This gives you a speaker out, a microphone in, and a stereo in.

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I kind of touched on it before but the A68N-5000 surprised me with its black PCB. Typically on a budget board like this they go with a blue or whatever color is the cheapest to make. I know it doesn’t take much to go with black, but I was happy that they did. Black PCBs always look great. Other than that there isn’t too much going on with the back of the board. In the middle is a sticker with the serial number and UPC. We can also see that the heatsink Biostar went with doesn’t require a backplate at all.

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Test Rig and Procedures

Test System

Memory

Crucual Balistix DDR3 1600MHz 4GB

N/A

Storage

Seagate Constellation.2 500GB

Live Pricing

Case

SilverStone ML02B-MXR Micro ATX Media Center/HTPC Case

Live Pricing

OS

Windows 7

Live Pricing

Motherboard/APU Testing

Passmark Performance Test 8.0

Overall PCMark score

PCMark 8

We use the Home Accelerated benchmark and track the overall score

3DMark

Cloudgate benchmark

Power Usage

Idle and load testing using a Kill-A-Watt and Wprime to put the cpu under load

WPrime

1024M and 32M

 


Performance

After looking at the A68N-5000’s features I then brought out my old HTPC and swapped in the newer faster board. With the A68N-5000 having a passive cooler I was extra careful when doing the wiring to make sure the board would have the best possible cooling. In the end I was extremely happy with the result.

setup 1

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I spent some time watching 1080p videos and also streaming from twitch and Watch ESPN and as expected I didn’t run into any problems. Navigating things and opening programs was quicker than in the past although I do think I will see a nice overall improvement if I replace the hard drive with an SSD. Being able to watch and stream HD content is fairly standard anymore so I went ahead and ran the A68N-5000 through a few different benchmarks to get a better idea of its performance. The closest benchmarks I have to compare to are to the much more expensive Intel NUC that I wrote about last month HERE. It’s not exactly a fair fight, but it does give you an idea of where this board falls performance wise.

performance 1

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As expected the A68N-5000 came in below the Intel NUC but in tests like PCMark 8 it did a much better job keeping up than I would have ever expected. We proved that this isn’t something you would ever want to game on, but for use as an HTPC, integrated PC, or a small server it should still get the job done. If you need a basic PC for someone to browse the web and talk on Facebook this will be more than enough as well.

 


Overall and Final Verdict

I can’t exactly say that the A68N-5000 is especially impressive in its features, performance, or even styling but that is okay. Sometimes you just need something basic to get the job done and in that way this board fits the bill perfectly. With the integrated APU, you really just need a small power supply, at least one stick of RAM, and a hard drive to get going. With that, you can browse the internets, watch HD content both from your own network or stream from the various services, and in some cases you could even use this as a small home server to play with. Really, my only complaint was the board having just two SATA ports. That is enough to do most things, but with a few more SATA ports this would be a perfect NAS motherboard. The biggest selling point for the A68N-5000 in my opinion is its price point. At under $70 for the board, you could most likely patch together a basic PC for a little over $100 if you stay frugal when shopping for a PSU/Case/HDD.

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Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #35894 21 Nov 2014 17:28
Before we hit the weekend I take a look at a budget Mini-ITX board from Biostar that has a build in AMD APU. If you are looking to put together a basic PC, HTPC, or a small home server you might want to take a look!

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