Ever since the arrival of Conroe back in 2006, we've only really recommended AMD for its (sometimes incredible) value. Recommending AMD for those looking for absolute performance pretty much ended when the Pentium 4 retired.

AMD is looking to change that with the arrival of its first Fusion APUs. These APUs marry one or more AMD x86 cores with dozens if not hundreds of Radeon "cores" on a single die. While today the APU is little more than a cohabitation of these two computing architectures, the end goal is something far more integrated:

Llano is AMD's second Fusion APU, the first being Zacate which we met earlier this year. Llano shouldn't be all that unfamiliar to you either, the notebook version of the APU launched just two weeks ago. Our conclusions were as you'd expect: sub-par x86 performance but competitive battery life and great gaming performance for a value notebook. If gaming is going to be the most intensive thing you do on your notebook, you may find yourself wanting one based on a Llano APU.

Now it's time to look at Llano on the desktop. We previewed the desktop Llano alongside the mobile version but today we're back with much more detail. This article will focus on the basics: CPU performance, GPU performance and the associated details. Ian has a final review of one of the first desktop Llano motherboards - the ASRock A75 Extreme6 as well as a look at overclocking the new desktop APU. Finally Ganesh's article takes an in-depth look at how Llano works as an HTPC platform.

The APU

Although mobile Llano has to worry about fitting into thin and light notebooks, the desktop version has a lot more breathing room and as a result it comes to us in a pretty traditional package. Motherboard backwards compatibility is thrown out the window as you need pins to get video output from the APU to an on-board VGA/DVI/HDMI header and as a result we have a new platform: Socket-FM1.

Socket-FM1 is a 905-pin ordeal that looks reminiscent of the original Clawhammer CPU:

Despite the socket change, heatsink specifications haven't changed. All existing Socket-AM2/AM2+/AM3/AM3+ heatsinks should work just fine as long as they can handle the rated TDP of the chip you're cooling.

The desktop Llano launch starts small. AMD is only introducing four parts today, two of which will be available later:

AMD Llano Desktop Lineup
  GPU Total TDP (GPU + CPU) CPU Cores CPU Clock (Base/Turbo) GPU Cores GPU Clock Price
AMD A8-3850 Radeon HD 6550D 100W 4 2.9GHz 400 600MHz $135
AMD A8-3800 Radeon HD 6550D 65W 4 2.4/2.7GHz 400 600MHz $??
AMD A6-3650 Radeon HD 6530D 100W 4 2.6GHz 320 443MHz $115
AMD A6-3600 Radeon HD 6530D 65W 4 2.1/2.4GHz 320 443MHz $??

The A8-3850 and A6-3650 are going to be the first Llano APUs available, both carry a 100W TDP rating. While this may seem high, do remember that 100W is for the CPU and GPU combined.

Although Llano does support AMD's new Turbo Core technology, neither of the parts launching today have it enabled. The A8-3850 and A6-3650 run at 2.9GHz and 2.6GHz, respectively. The 3800 and 3600 will drop base clock speeds to hit a lower TDP but allow you to turbo up depending on workload. For an explanation of how Turbo Core works, flip back to our mobile Llano article.

Pricing is pretty reasonable. For $98 you can buy an Athlon II X4 640 running at 3.0GHz. For $37 more AMD will sell you an A8-3850 APU, effectively determining the price of the integrated GPU. AMD expects to see desktops built around the A6 to sell for $500 - $600, and A8 based systems to go for between $600 and $700

CPU Specification Comparison
CPU Manufacturing Process Cores Transistor Count Die Size
AMD Llano 4C 32nm 4 1.45B 228mm2
AMD Thuban 6C 45nm 6 904M 346mm2
AMD Deneb 4C 45nm 4 758M 258mm2
Intel Gulftown 6C 32nm 6 1.17B 240mm2
Intel Nehalem/Bloomfield 4C 45nm 4 731M 263mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 4C 32nm 4 995M 216mm2
Intel Lynnfield 4C 45nm 4 774M 296mm2
Intel Clarkdale 2C 32nm 2 384M 81mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT1) 32nm 2 504M 131mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT2) 32nm 2 624M 149mm2

Architecturally desktop Llano is no different than its mobile counterpart. These are all quad-core parts with updated 32nm cores, boasting a ~6% increase in IPC over their 45nm Athlon II predecessors. Each core has a private 1MB L2 cache for a total of 4MB per quad-core APU.

The GPU side isn't different architecturally either, you're still looking at a Sumo core derived from AMD's Radeon HD 5570. Desktop Llano is available with either 400 GPU cores or 320 cores (you can get the mobile part with only 240 cores enabled as well). While the mobile parts top out at 444MHz, the extra TDP available in a desktop chassis allows AMD to ratchet up the GPU clock to 600MHz for the A8-3850.

AMD calls the two GPU configurations the Radeon HD 6550D and 6530D. Just like you can with mobile Llano, you can also pair a desktop Llano APU with a discrete GPU to have them both run in an asymmetrical CrossFire mode (with limitations of course):

AMD Radeon Dual Graphics Branding
Discrete GPU 6550D 6530D
HD 6670 HD 6690D2 HD 6690D2
HD 6570 HD 6630D2 HD 6610D2
HD 6450 HD 6550D2 HD 6550D2

The Chipset

I hate to keep drawing comparisons between desktop and mobile Llano APUs but we also have two chipsets on the desktop side: A75 and A55. The A75 chipset is the high end option with 6 x 6Gbps SATA ports and 4 x USB 3.0 ports:

The A55 is the lower power, cost effective option that gets rid of all USB 3.0 support and backs down to 3Gbps SATA:

The Direct Competitor: Intel's Core i3-2105
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  • zac05 - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    was waitting for this reviw very badily......

    probabily amd llano desktop version is just a beafed up amd apu mobile version, it has a clear winnig point on its mobile platform ( added advantage of batterylife and graphics performance for relatively lower price than the intel counter part )

    but for desktop its a mixed review....i think the bulldozer family apu..which is the real desktop apu variant must come into picture, for a face to face comparison with the intel counter part ...phew we have to wait another 4-5 months for that i guess.

    a8-3850 would be good for casula gamers....else i3 will provide more performance and lower tdp for others
    Reply
  • Musafir_86 - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Hi Anand,

    -Thank you for the nice review, but would you add image quality (IQ) comparison as well? From what I found around the internet, Intel HD 2000/3000 still lacking competitive/comparable quality of the rendered images. So, it would be better to show what's the actual IQ the user will see even when the frame rate (FPS) looks like it's playable.

    Thanks again.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Yes, that is coming up in a separate review. Give me a couple of hours. Reply
  • Musafir_86 - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    -Wow, what a quick reply, thanks!

    -Hmm, Anand said you're covering HTPC scenarios, right? So would that mean video (output) quality only? Or that will include 3D games as well?

    Regards.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Thanks. very much looking forward to that t, being gaming or video. Reply
  • AnandThenMan - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Seconded, a comparison of image quality would be nice. I'd also like to see 1024x768 dropped from testing, who runs that resolution? Looking at a couple of other reviews, the tests were done@ 1680x1050 with good frame rates on Llano. If a game has to be dropped down to 1024 to play then why bother, it's going to look ugly anyway. Reply
  • Musafir_86 - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    -In my place, budget/value systems often bundle with second-hand 15" or 17" CRT (sometimes LCD too) to reduce the sale price. So, I think 1024x768 (and 1280x1024) resolutions are still relevant. :)

    Regards.
    Reply
  • L. - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    The third world is a dreadful place indeed...
    17 inches *shivers*
    Reply
  • ppeterka - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Hey, you dissin' me? My home rig is 17", my work rig is 2x17", and not gonna change soon. I don't want to. I enjoy life even at sub-HD resolutions too... Reply
  • L. - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Just kiddin', my laptop is 17" too ... 17" of eye-killing 1920*1200 madness.

    No reason to change, except you can get LED pannels for like 130 euros now .. and damn it's good for the movies.
    Reply

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