APU generation two

AMD's first generation Llano APUs (Accelerated Processor Units) combined traditional x86 CPU cores with discrete-level graphics cores on the same die. AMD aimed these APUs at the mainstream market—while they could not compete with Intel's higher-end Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, the Llano APUs offered a compelling alternative to Intel's lower-end Core i3, Pentium, and Celeron CPUs. AMD's second generation Trinity APUs continue in this market space by competing with Intel's dual-core CPUs. If you are thinking about building a mainstream desktop PC, Trinity APUs are worth your consideration.

AMD's second generation APUs are relative newcomers to the DIY desktop PC market, though they've been around in laptops for a while. We first reviewed mobile variants of these chips back in May and summed Trinity up thusly, "If you liked Llano, you'll love Trinity." Compared to Llano APUs, Trinity lives up to its name with advances in three important aspects of processors: its CPU and GPU performance is higher, its power consumption is lower, and its cost is lower.

We reviewed desktop Trinity APUs in two parts; the first review focused on the FM2 platform's chipsets and the APU's graphics performance, with the second review looking at its CPU performance. Anand's reviews are packed with details; to sum, the top Trinity SKU, the A10-5800K, trades blows with Intel's Ivy Bridge-based Core i3-3220 in terms of traditional CPU-based tasks. The A10-5800K APU truly shines in terms of its graphics capabilities—there has never been a more powerful on-die GPU.

That said, the A10-5800K is only one of six Trinity APU models currently available to DIY builders. Like its direct competitor from Intel, the A10-5800K is typically priced around $120. The least expensive Trinity APU, the A4-5300, will set you back half that at around $60. The other four SKUs fall between the A10-5800K and A4-5300 in terms of both price and performance. Of note, because Trinity APUs are based in part on the Piledriver architecture, they feature AMD Turbo Boost 3.0, which increases the speed of cores that are in use when other cores are not in use (such as when single-threaded applications are running).

Trinity APUs cannot use Llano's Socket FM1-based motherboards. Instead, AMD moved Trinity to Socket FM2. Importantly, AMD has assured builders that FM2 will support at least one more generation of APUs—FM2 will not be a "one and done" platform like FM1 was. Socket FM2 motherboards come in three basic flavors: those based on the A55, A75, and A85 chipsets. The A55 and A75 boards feature one x16 PCI-express lane while A85 boards feature CrossFire support, A75 and A85 boards support the SATA III interface while A55 boards support SATA II, and A75 and A85 boards support USB 3.0 while A55 does not.

In this guide, we'll detail builds highlighting Trinity's flexibility. Read on for our Trinity take on gaming, HTPC, and on the next page, general usage computers.

Budget General Use Desktop
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  • jwcalla - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    From a pure HTPC perspective, I always feel uneasy recommending AMD because it pretty much requires you to drop $100 on an OS license, which is a huge chunk for such a small function.

    I think this market is best served with the smaller Zotac solutions, or if you want to build your own box, just use one of those $10 fanless NVIDIA cards. Then you're free to install XBMC Live or whatever and still get flawless video playback... since NVIDIA actually steps up to the plate and supports their products with drivers that don't suck.
  • Medallish - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    How is AMD related to having to buy an OS? I have an AMD based HTPC, it works perfect, and I don't have any issues with drivers or anything else.
  • MadMan007 - Sunday, December 2, 2012 - link

    I think he's talking about drivers: AMD's non-Windows drivers aren't as good as Nvidia's, so with an AMD system you 'have to' get a Windows license but with Nvidia you can use XMBC/linux for free.
  • silverblue - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    "If you're hesitant about using the unlocked 100W Black Edition A10 APU, but don't want to drop all the way down to a meager dual-core, the A10-5700 is a lower-clocked 65W TDP quad-core with less capable graphics than the A10-5800K. Again, however, for most HTPC duties like SD and HD media content playback, you won't really save much electricity (and thus heat and noise) compared to the A10-5800K."

    Hexus seems to think that the 5700 should use less power than the 5600K and perform generally between that and the 5800K in games as its GPU is merely 5% slower and has the same number of shaders.


    There are very few 5700 reviews about so if AT ran one, it'd be very much appreciated, more so to see if it really does use much less power than the 5800K. I would find it very strange if boosting CPU clocks by about 10% really does eat all that power.
  • lmcd - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    A10-5800K is the better bin I'm pretty sure. As in, you should be able to underclock and hit same or lower thermals versus the 5700
  • djsvetljo - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    How do you stream HD videos from Amazon on a PC??? I tried so hard a few months ago and I could not get. Amazon does not allow that - they are scared of Streaming 1080p HD video from Amazon piracy.

    So if anyone knows a away to stream HD movies on a PC (windows or linux) I will be very thankful !
  • iamben - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Do you guys think that the first would be a good webs server build? The website it would be hosting is techclimax.com. A website that me and a couple friends made.
  • Mugur - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    What about put to use those 8 SATA 3 ports and build a home sever? Besides HTPC, this the best scenario for Trinity, in my opinion...
  • bigbrave - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    The FX 8350 is much faster than the Core i3s and actually complete very well against the Core i7s in both the desktop and notebook platforms. Only the deaf, blind and stupid (aka fanbois) think benchmarks are actually true. I can understand you have to believe all your hard work means something, but it doesn’t.

    Bench marks are equivalent to looking at sports teams on paper and determining how they will do in their respective leagues. That’s why they play the game, because judging the teams on paper don’t mean a damn thing and won’t tell you anything.

    When you benchmark the Core i7s vs. the 8150 or 8350 (desktop) or A10 (notebook), the bench marks are not even close. Intel’s are way ahead, however, when you put the two systems next to each other, you won’t be able to tell which is which. Especially in a blind test http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1838/1/. If bench marks were actually true, then those results would be very visible when using the computer the way it is when you add 2 GB of RAM to a computer running Vista with only 1 GB of RAM.

    When it comes to notebooks, AMD destroys Intel. Why, because of the graphics that Intel lacks. AMD hit a home run with the APUs which is why Ivy Bridge is the start of Intel’s own APUs. Haswell will be a version of an APU though Intel won’t categorize it that way.

    When surfing the internet, computers use more graphics and less CPU these days. Web Browsers use the graphics card to render data faster like with Firefox’s Direct 2D hardware acceleration. Internet Explorer 9 and Chrome also do the same thing. The better the graphics, the better the video playback (watching videos) and video conferencing (Skype) is. This is where Intel falls short and AMD exceeds in the notebooks. With desktops, Intel is better because you get the better CPU and just have to plug in a nice graphics card. However, with the notebooks, you need good graphics and AMD’s “Trinty” A-Series APUs provides a terrific CPU (Piledriver cores) with it. I’m not so big on the A4 or the A6, but the A8 and A10 are terrific and very fast.

    My girlfriend purchased an ASUS notebook with the Core i5 (Sandy Bridge) in March of this year from BJs. I connected it to the internet and went to a site which allows me to check off many programs I want and it will download and install them for me. That was in one window, and in the other, I started the many Windows updates. That took close to two hours to finish before I was rebooting the computer. I thought the Core i5 was supposed to be fast?! Wait it’s the hard drive right? Well, that’s what I’ve heard many Intel fanbois say when using a notebook with an Intel Core processor and it’s extremely slow.

    Anyways, over the next two days, my girlfriend struggled to receive any joy from the system. The videos she tried watching on different websites were slow and blurry, and Skype didn’t work very well. Three days later, she was feed up and took the computer back to BJ’s were they have a 14 day return policy on all electronics. BJ’s gave her a full refund and we left. The following Thursday evening when stopped by Office Depot. We picked out an HP notebook with the A8 “Llano” in it. The A8 had the 3520 quad-core CPU with the 6620 GPU (with 400 Stream processors). I did explain to her at the store that the ASUS quality would be much better than all the OEMs like HP, Dell, Toshiba and Sony for example. She didn’t care she just was happy to rid herself from the ASUS. I told her that it wasn’t the ASUS brand she hated, but the Intel crap (Core i5 - Sandy Bridge) which was powering it. Still don’t think she understands that however.

    When we arrived home, I did the exact with the HP as I had done with the ASUS. Went to the website and checked off many programs I wanted downloaded and installed for me in one window. Then using the Windows 7 snap command, I opened another window and began the Windows updates.

    It only took 35 minutes to do what the Intel Core i5 2410 took almost 2 hours to do. I was so shocked that I actually thought HP had put a 7,200 RPM hard drive in the system instead of the common 5,400 RPM drive. Instead of rebooting, I shut the system off and ripped open the hard drive cover thinking I was about to see a faster drive. NOPE, it was the same 5,400 RPM crap that all the OEMs sell in their sub $1,000 notebook junk.

    Despite one manufacture being a non-OEM (ASUS), and the other is simply just an OEM (HP), both systems came with crappy slow hard drives which won’t last two years. My point though, is that the AMD A8 (Llano) completely destroyed the Core i5 Sandy Bridge in performance, speed and graphics!!! AND it was cheaper!!!!!

    As a computer technician, I have worked on many notebooks with the crappy Intel processors inside, and I’m not impressed. I worked with a terrific tech who is an Intel fanboi through and through, and he would always just blame the slow performance on the hard drive. I would just laugh and tell him it’s more the crappy Intel design.

    I’m not an AMD fanboi as your suspecting, I’m actually NOT a fanboi of any product or company. All fanbois are deaf, blind and stupid. When you’re a fanboi, you only accept information that supports your opinions and quickly reject everything else. So it could be facts you’re rejecting, but won’t even realize it.

    I’m very objective and open-minded which allows me to learn more about what AMD, Intel and Nvidia have to offer. All three companies have strengths and weaknesses which I point out to my many customers. Of course, since 70-75% of consumers look at price FIRST, AMD tends to be the best choice for them. A better overall solution at an outstanding price! Sure I try to get my customers and others to look beyond the crappy $300 - $400 systems, but many times they only want the cheapest crap they can get due to total ignorance. Their excuse, “all I need is” or “all I’ll use it for is…”. This is what almost every customer of mine as told me and I just have to laugh. So I then point them in AMD’s direction and tell them to buy either the A8 or A10 and stay away from the C & E class APUs and the A4s. The A6s are ok, but I recommend the A8 the most. They respond by purchasing the C or E class cheap garbage! Maybe they spring for the A4. lol

    In both my girlfriend’s account and AMD’s FX experience, listed in the above link, provide examples of how benchmarks are just not true and don’t provide proper or genuine guidance of the comparison between AMD and Intel products. If I had you play a game on a system with the FX 8350, could you really tell the difference from it and a system with the Core i7 3770 Ivy Bridge? In actuality, probably not.

    These benchmarks have totally given the general public a false sense of reality when determining which system to purchase. So this is where computer review websites, like the one you work for, come in. You need to be impartial and unbiased. You should understand that instead of looking at stupid software results, you should place two systems next to each other and see which one is faster. Don’t tell me you do, because if that was true, you would have a totally different opinion in regards to AMD.

    I have worked on many notebooks with Intel processors and they all seem very slow compared to the AMD APU counter parts. Must just be the graphics as the difference maker. However, when it comes to the all mighty desktop, Intel isn’t a bad way to go, it just cost more for the motherboards and CPUs. I have built customers Intel systems this year, I just prefer the way AMD sticks with one socket for later upgrades. Just another strength AMD has going for them!
  • Burticus - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - link

    OK I understand that prices fluctuate daily on the net. But that proposed A10 build for $507 seemed high to me.

    Pricing from my local Microcenter store, and ditching that A10 for a FX 6300... I come up $157 (not figuring tax) cheaper without a discreet video card. You will need one, surely, but a $150 discreet video card will kick that APU up and down the street for gaming.

    Just sayin'.

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