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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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  • zilexa - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I disagree with the HTPC setup, it's definitely NOT an HTPC.
    HTPC should be small and completely silent (fanless) and use very, very little energy since it will be online all the time (so you can access your media in any room, your tvshows will be downloaded via rss or other system automatically etc).

    The A10 uses little power when idle but way too much for an HTPC under load.

    I understand you NEED to add a HTPC to this guide, and AMD simply doesn't have a Trinity-based HTPC solution for desktop because they lack mITX motherboards and they don't bring the 25watt and 17 watt mobile Trinitys to the desktop (BIG MISSED OPPERTUNITY!). But al least elaborate on that a bit more.
    Reply
  • Medallish - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I agree an HTPC should be small, but saying it has to be 25-17W is overdoing it, I have a mATX based HTPC and I'm using a 3870k, which works with the fanless design of my Streacom case, but obviously a 65W APU would be a better choice, and you could even go with mITX case from Streacom. The Trinity is superb as a HTPC processor.

    Another thing you're simply wrong, there is HTPC's that uses Mobile APU's ranging from the 19W APU (Sapphire VS8) to 35W A10-4600.
    Reply
  • zilexa - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    @Medallish, Streacom case is just 1 solution (only works if you buy an expensive Streacom case). No choice in cases.

    I Just want to buy a cheap ass small case such as this one:
    http://www.lc-power.de/index.php?id=122

    No need for expensive passive case. Just need a low power APU.

    The HTPC's you mention using Mobile APUs like the ones from Arctic or the miniplayers from Zotac are complete solutions (and Arctic is VERY expensive with €400. You cannot buy these mobo's with FP2 sockets (for mobile) and you cannot buy the Mobile APUs. So these solutions are not for people who want to build their own HTPC! Therefore not even related to this article.
    Reply
  • Medallish - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    You said you wanted it to be fanless, If you want a fanless design then I'm afraid you've limited your choices, and currently there's basically no one who has the solution you ask for unless you look at Brazos or Atom solutions.

    Buying any Mobile motherboard and mobile processor tends to be hard to find, as a system builder and if I wanted what you're asking for I'd probably get a A10-5700 and downclock and undervolt it like crazy, although I doubt you'd get any cooler big enough to be fanless, and that goes for the 25W APU idea too.

    You're original claim was that Trinity simply wasn't a viable HTPC solution, and I just want to point out that's false, also there is several Mini-ITX boards for FM2, from Asus, Asrock and MSI.
    Reply
  • zilexa - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Can't argue that. It's just soo sad AMD doesn't bring mobile Trinity to the desktop, would be the perfect basis for my HTPC. I am waiting for Brazos E2-1800 to arrive but I doubt it will ever arrive as motherboard (Sapphire announced the Pure White Mini E2-1800 6 months ago, I doubt they will ever release it to the market) . Reply
  • Hubb1e - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    You can reach the same wattage limits on a desktop Trinity if you are willing to underclock and undervolt. Drop that multi as low as you are comfortable with the performance, and then find the lowest voltage that makes it stable and bam, you've got your mobile trinity. Reply
  • ThomasS31 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    If you noticed usually the low TDP part are underclocked and speed cap binned.

    Who told you, that you can't reduce the multiplier to get a low power part with a K series Trinity?
    Also in case you might need processing power (like 10-bit high bitrate videos) you can alwas put it back...

    Especially if your motherboard has a good management software for this. (Or use AMD's own "oc" app.)
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Totally agree.

    Ideally an HTPC should be in a passive case (both Hdplex and wesena are good) that means the CPU needs a low TDP and should be frugal even at load (for example ripping a blu ray disc).

    HTPCs are meant to be on permanently so should be sipping not gulping energy at load.

    I would argue that an HTPC needs only a Mini-ITX board - preferably with MSata (can we have sata3 on the Msata please!) if only to reduce cable clutter in the case.

    I would also strongly recommend Samsung green low profile memory. Not only are they memory sticks potent overclockers but when they said low profile they really meant it, if you must have a CPU cooler the samsung memory will never interfere with it.

    AMD could easily take over the HTPC market, just bring the mobile CPUs to a mini0itx desktop board
    Reply
  • zilexa - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the HDPlex tip, I love the H3 case, absolutely beautiful, simple and small. But including power its $300!!! damn.. thats just an empty case. Anybody will just buy a Zotac for €230 you have complete system :(

    If the H3 would be €100 or less I would definitely go for this solution..
    Still would want a below-65watt APU.
    Reply
  • BPB - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I actually let my HTPC sleep a lot. I realize that when booting into WMC you may lose what was on the last half hour, but that's no biggie to me. WMC will wake the PC up to record shows, so I am good with letting it sleep at night. This helps save on cost when using a setup that isn't as low in wattage as you'd like. I do reboot it now and then because I find that after so many times going to sleep Windows gets messed up. Rebooting cleans that up. So if you're worried about electrical costs, let the PC sleep, it doesn't need to run 24/7. Just my 2 cents. Reply

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