The Llano APUs come in 2, 3 and 4 core variants. The table below lists all the retail SKUs available, along with current pricing. Note that the A4-3420 (which was initially OEM only, and was later supposed to debut in a retail model), A6-3600, A6-3620, A8-3800, and the A8-3820 don't seem to be available with any of the first-tier retailers, so we've left them out of the charts.

AMD Llano APU Lineup (Desktop)
APU Cores Frequency
(Turbo)
GPU GPU Config
(Shaders:TMU:ROP
@ Frequency)
Memory
Support
TDP Pricing
A4-3300 2 2.5GHz 6410D 160:8:4 @ 443MHz DDR3-1600 65W $60
A4-3400 2 2.7GHz 6410D 160:8:4 @ 600MHz DDR3-1600 65W $66
A6-3500 3 2.1GHz
(2.4GHz)
6530D 320:16:8 @ 443MHz DDR3-1866 65W $80
A6-3650 4 2.6GHz 6530D 320:16:8 @ 443MHz DDR3-1866 100W $85
A6-3670K 4 2.7GHz 6530D 320:16:8 @ 443MHz (Unlocked) DDR3-1866 100W $105
A8-3850 4 2.9GHz 6550D 400:20:8 @ 600MHz DDR3-1866 100W $110
A8-3870K 4 3.0GHz 6550D 400:20:8 @ 600MHz (Unlocked) DDR3-1866 100W $119

With the choice of available APUs out of the way, it is now time to take a look at the two Fusion Controller Hubs (FCHs) available for Lynx, the Llano desktop platform:

AMD Fusion Controller Hubs for Lynx (Desktop Llano)
Chipset Code Name Unified Media Interface SATA USB 3/2/1.1 TDP
A55 Hudson-D2 x4 Gen 2 + Display Port 6 x 3Gbps 0/14/2 7.6W
A75 Hudson-D3 x4 Gen 2 + Display Port 6 x 6Gbps 4/10/2 7.8W

The three main motherboard form factors of interest to us are (in order of size):

  1. mini-ITX (17cm x 17cm)
  2. micro-ATX (24.4cm x 24.4cm)
  3. ATX (30.5cm x 24.4cm)

Scenarios which don't involve high quality gaming/complex TV tuner systems can make do with mini-ITX motherboards (only one expansion slot). On the other hand, for moderate gaming and/or the installation of capture cards/internal TV tuners, multiple expansion slots such as those in the micro-ATX motherboards might be required. For high end HTPCs that also double up as gaming rigs with cards in CrossFire and/or network DVRs with custom capture cards, ATX motherboards (which have up to seven expansion slots) are necessary.

We're not going to recommend any specific board for each size as being "best", as what qualifies as such will vary from person to person. However, it is worth nothing that the motherboard choice can have wide ranging effects on the overall stability and functionality of a system. If you buy an inexpensive board, it may or may not work with all memory modules, it might lack fine-grained fan control, overclocking features may not be present, and there's even a potential for incompatibilities with certain peripherals and/or SSDs. If any of those items are of particular importance to you, we'd suggest reading up on some of the motherboard reviews to see how the various boards compare. All of the boards listed below should work for a basic HTPC setup, but some are going to be better than others.

The following table gives you an idea of the various mini-ITX motherboards currently available. All boards have a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 expansion slot, 4x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2, and are based on the A75 chipset. All of these are targeted towards small form factor systems suitable for use as HTPCs, as they have both HDMI output as well as optical SPDIF for multi-channel audio.

HTPC Oriented mini-ITX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano)
Vendor Board Name Memory Slots Misc. Notes Price
ASRock A75M-ITX 2x DDR3 2400+ GbE + 4x USB 3.0 $90
Asus F1A75-I DELUXE 2x DDR3 1866 GbE + 2x USB 3.0 + 1x USB 3.0 Internal Header $140
AzureWave Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0
Mini-Remote/Keypad
Gigabyte GA-A75N-USB3 2x DDR3 2000+ RealtekGbE $74
Zotac A75ITX-A-E 2x DDR3 1866 DualGbE $133
802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0
6x USB 3.0

Moving on to the micro-ATX configurations, we have a large number of choices. All options have HDMI output with audio. However, not all HTPC setups have a receiver capable of parsing audio over HDMI. In order to experience multi-channel audio in such a scenario, it is necessary to take advantage of the SPDIF output. The table below lists the six boards which satisfy this criteria. If optical SPDIF is not needed, we have many more choices.

HTPC Oriented micro-ATX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano)
Vendor Board Name Memory Slots PCI Configuration Misc. Notes Price
Asus F1A55-M/CSM 4x DDR3 2250+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 1x PCI 6x SATA 3Gbps, 2x USB 3.0 $78
ASRock A75M 2x DDR3 2400+ 1x PCI-E x16, 1x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $75
ASRock A75 PRO4-M 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 2x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $84
Asus F1A75-M PRO 4x DDR3 1866 2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 1x PCI 6x SATA 6Gbps $105
ECS A75F-M 4x DDR3 1866 1x PCI-E x16, 1x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI 6x SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0 Headers $80
Gigabyte GA-A75M-D2H 2x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 1x PCI 6x SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0 Headers $70

For most readers looking to build a Llano-based HTPC, one of the above motherboards should suffice. However, as we mentioned in the last section, users might also want to use their HTPC as a gaming rig; others might want PCI-E/PCI slots for multiple capture cards. A selection of full-sized ATX motherboards for such purposes is provided in the table below. Note that several of the boards also have anywhere from $10 to $30 main-in rebates, and very likely we'll see prices continue to drop as the Q3 launch of Trinity gets closer.

HTPC Oriented ATX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano)
Vendor Board Name Memory Slots PCI Configuration Misc. Notes Price
ASRock A55 PRO3 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16, 1x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 5x SATA 3Gbps, 2x SATA 6Gbps, 2x USB 3.0 $75
ASRock A75 PRO4 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $80
ASRock A75 Extreme6 4x DDR3 2400+ 3x PCI-E x16(x16/x0 or x8/x8, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 8x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $95
Asus F1A75-V PRO 4x DDR3 1866 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 7x SATA 6Gbps, 1xeSATA2, 1x DP $116
Asus F1A75-V EVO 4x DDR3 1866 3x PCI-E x16(x16/x0 or x8/x8, x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI 7x SATA 6Gbps, 1xeSATA2, 1x DP $130
ECS A75F-A 4xDDR3 2600+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $80
Gigabyte GA-A75-D3H 4x DDR3 1866 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $90
Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x8), 3x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $105

One thing to keep in mind is that Llano is basically a dead-end platform. AMD's Trinity will use socket FM2, so you won't be able to upgrade to anything faster than what we've currently listed. As noted above, we will also likely see prices drop further in the coming month or two. With the processor and motherboard chosen, let us move on to the other components of the build.

Introduction Memory and Storage Options
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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I think one of the best scenarios to support this need is capture of high definition game play from a XBox or PS3.

    For most legal media, I also suggest grabbing at the encoded source :)
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I do agree about this being a niche market which the major companies wouldn't want to touch..

    I think there are some Hauppauge and AverMedia cards which do what you want (record to hard disk). They can always be burnt on to a Blu-ray if necessary.
    Reply
  • ImThat1Guy - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I'm so confused in every way. Do any of you think you can explain? Or maybe just point my in the right direction and recommend a good one? I'd like to record maybe 2, 3 channels at a time (at maximum- usually not recording anything), and I have what I guess is standard US cable. The computer will function as a DVR-enabled cable box, correct? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Definitely :) If you want to record premium content from cable, you will need a CableCard -- and that can help you effectively replace the cable-co supplied DVR box.

    I suggest you take a look at AVSForum for immediate guidance.
    Reply
  • ImThat1Guy - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    AVS Forum is down, at least for me.

    Would something like the Hauppauge WinTV HVR 1250 work, and work with Ubuntu and XBMC (or better yet UbuntuTV)?
    Reply
  • ImThat1Guy - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    No reply? Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    It is down for 12 - 18 hours :) Patience please.. Reply
  • Coup27 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Is there a reason why Lian Li's PC-Q07, or any of their other PC-Q range of enclosure's dont get much internet traction in these articles? They look to me as some of the most stylish ITX enclosures about. Reply
  • randinspace - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    From the conclusion:
    "High quality madVR rendering is not possible with the integrated GPU (it is not possible with the Intel Sandy Bridge HD 2000 / HD 3000 series either)."

    What's your definition of "high quality" here? I hadn't even dreamed of trying to utilize madVR with an APU until last week actually, but on my A8-3800 the more or less default settings for madVR in MPC-HC with LAV filters installed (long story short: I spent a day on Doom9), yields better results than CPU/software acceleration on otherwise large/annoying files...

    This is revealing a bit more about my tastes than I would like, but the "annoying files" I'm thinking of are episodes of anime encoded in 1080p at 10 bit color depth (AKA hi10/hi10p) with FLAC audio and as many as 4 subtitle streams (dialogue in english, background song in english, karaoke for said song in both romanized japanese and actual japanese...) displaying at a time during a flashback (grainy filtering placed over the top of everything) scene. On my old junk setup I would occasionally have to turn the subtitles off even in (really poorly encoded) 720p in order to avoid MASSIVE lag, but madVR runs anything I throw at it with a few caveats:

    (images safe for work, BTW)

    http://bayimg.com/aapGDaaDA madVR, windowed even though it doesn't particularly like being run in windowed mode in order to display the AMD sysmonitor readout. Feel free to note the 0 dropped frames, but ignore the delayed frames which were almost entirely resultant from PEBKAC as I kept hitting pause break instead of prtscn and had to reload the scene a bunch of times until I realized it...

    http://bayimg.com/aaPGBAADa same scene in EVR (with xy-VSFilter for subtitles so I don't have to resort to EVR custom Pres./MPC-HC's internal subtitle renderer).

    Note the ridiculous gulf in GPU utilization between the two scenarios (also that I probably should've upgraded my RAM instead of buying an SSD). I can't do math since I majored in Liberal Arts, but a 12% load when the GPU is chilling out at 282 mhz (as low as it clocks itself while still running, I believe) is obviously better than 76% load at 600mhz which causes the cpu/apu fan to all but max out. I can only imagine how loud this would get with the 95-100w+ (through overclocking) APUs, and quite frankly madVR doesn't look THAT much better than EVR when you're using the same (LAV) filters otherwise.

    Still, after setting things up I ran all kinds of crap I had (which I suppose is an important distinction from all kinds of crap period) using madVR to check for stability and never saw GPU usage go too far past 80% for long, and more typically saw numbers in the 40-70% range which again I could see as being a bit below ideal depending on one's intended hardware configuration (noisy fans, aiming for low temps to stick with passive cooling, etc.). Conversely GPU usage in madVR is unsurprisingly much more comfortable when rendering standard/8-bit color depth encodes than hi10p, in 720p files instead of 1080p, etc. but the entire point of having the hardware in the first place is making the most of it yeah?

    Of course either way I never watch anything that surpasses the baseline 24x FPS (because Japanese are cheap :P) so if your definition of "high quality" is above that (I'd certainly be bummed if I spent a lot of money having my wedding digitally filmed and encoded in 1080p60p and then couldn't play it back on the TV with my usual profile...) then fair enough. I just found the comment unusual since I considered my experience with madVR to be a relatively pleasant one. More importantly was my realization that if desktop A8 Llano could run madVR then it seemed to follow that (particularly at 720p) mobile Trinity would be able to. Obviously the downside of mobile Trinity is going to be the junk ram and so/so audio that one finds in laptops, but madVR running at 35 or potentially even 17watts? If you're crazier than me (bought an HP Pavilion desktop just to get my hands on an A8-3800) and can't wait for the desktop parts I could see a case made (literally) for gutting a ~$5-600 laptop for the sake of building a low profile HTPC...

    Pfft... now that I think about it, I suppose this is ultimately one of those "posts from an irate reader who has other requirements" that you were trying to avoid. I'm not really irate though, just loquacious and taking the opportunity to procrastinate from editing...
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Your post is quite informative :) In fact, these sorts of comments are what makes AnandTech articles even better for the rest of the readers out there.

    madVR vs. EVR : For all Llano lovers out there, better learn not to fall in love with madVR :) Personally, I don't mind either of the renderers (and actually love EVR because it is so lean on the system resources).

    You caught me out on the point that the iGPUs are not good enough for HQ madVR rendering. I should have qualified that with the fact that HQ madVR rendering is not advisable with the Llanos for interlaced videos.

    Can you repeat your tests with some 480i60 / even 720p60 (where 720p must get upscaled in both luma and chroma components to 1080p) / 1080i60 content (quite common in US broadcast recordings) ? I believe the iGPUs should start to hiccup under those circumstances.
    Reply

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