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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  • MadMan007 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I am looking forward to AMD keeping up with the progress they've made with APUs. It looks like they might be going 'tick-tock' style with alternating updates to the CPU and GPU architectures. Piledriver makes these competitive-ish for their price point on the CPU side, a GCN GPU which I expect to be the next update will make these good for older games even at higher resolutions. I don't play the newest, most demanding games, so if AMD can make an APU with something like HD 7750ish-class graphics that would be awesome. I know that's asking a lot for 28nm, but maybe they can do it with GloFo's 14nm/20nm process, that will give them a lot more silicon to use.
  • MadMan007 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Oh, I also meant to say...do something like that and I might consider buying an AMD CPU for my main computer for the first time since Core 2 came out.
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    As a laptop gaming setup Trinity is damn nice.. and a great deal at current pricing.. but for desktops.. most gamers playing todays games will still want/need a little bit more umph then what the gpu offers. Pairing it up with a $75-100 card will give a happy experience for most who are not looking to win benchmark awards. The same applies to the i3 (obviously) A Radeon 7750 or a Geforce 650 (if you prefer Nvidia..) fits the bill nicely. Alternatively a 6670 which will take advantage of the hybrid crossfire.
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    As a forinstance Guildwars2 needed to be turned down a fair ammount (going to 1440x900 for good playability.. Frames were good then but most eyecandy was off.. The GPU is great at lower resolutions and older games.. but it can't quite handle the good stuff at 1680/1050. Playable? yes. Enjoyable? not so much.

    AMD is really really close but not quite there.
  • frozentundra123456 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Pretty much the problem still with Trinity for the desktop IMO. Almost but not quite good enough. The graphics is either more than the non-gamer needs or not quite good enough for gaming. Yes, you can play some games at moderate resolutions and settings. But if you are spending a few hundred dollars for a computer, not to mention buying games, why would you want to limit yourself so much.

    And if you are not interested in gaming, it still uses more power than a dual core intel without a descrete card.

    I see a good place for Trinity in laptops if the price is right. But for the desktop, not so much.
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    For budget builds it's spot on.. an i3 or Trinity does the job nicely with a decent video card and won't break the bank. There is a place for it. If you need a everyday type computer with light gaming duties it also works well with the onboard gpu.. really well infact. Great for a office computer, or a set top box in the living room.

    But yeah.. not quite there sums it up nicely for gamers looking to play todays games. Most are at 1080P or 1680/1050 resolutions and it's just not enough.
  • tocket - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I recently upgraded my HTPC from a Pentium G620 to A10-5800K and the most obvious difference is really the power consumption. With the stock cooler the A10 easily heats up to the point where the fan gets too noisy when you're watching a movie in XBMC. Even though the Intel cooler is smaller, this was never a problem with the Pentium. I would really recommend adding a good cooler to your A10 HTPC setup if you're sensitive to noise. Personally I decided to get a Big Shuriken, which I'm very happy with.
  • cyrusfox - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Do you regret the upgrade? Do you notice any performance advantage, from your comment it seems it was a bad upgrade. Whats your opinion?
  • tocket - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Oh, not at all. It was a good upgrade that I'm very happy with. The CPU is noticeably faster and the graphics are a huge improvement from the G620. I was just not fully prepared to deal with 100 W TDP in a mini-ITX system. With the upgraded cooler the system is nearly silent and the performance is great.
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I didn't bother with the included cooler so wasn't sure how temps were with it. With a $17 Zalman cooler it rarely goes to 40 in a 8 year old case with limited airflow. (older lian-li with 2 80mm fans in the front and 1 80mm in the back) What were the temperatures like in your itx case with the included cooler? Curious..

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