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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  • superjim - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I don't understand how noise is a problem in HTPCs even with 4 fans running at moderate speeds during movie/music playback. How low is the volume and how close are you sitting to it?

    In my world, an HTPC is meant to playback all media on a close-proximity display. If you want to be able to stream said media to any device in the house, that's what an energy-efficient, always-on NAS is for. I only turn-on/use my microATX HTPC when I want to watch a Blu-ray, digital videos/music or some light gaming. It runs 4 fans from 60mm to 120mm and I can't hear them even if I listen for them from 3 feet away. A microATX build gives me options for expansion later. Want to add a cable card? Done. Faster GPU for heavy gaming? Done. Turn it into a DVR with more HDD space? Done. With a mini-ITX build you would have to get a bigger case.

    That said, Trinity is unmatched for HTPCs and budget laptop gaming.
  • MadMan007 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Agreed. People talk about an HTPC being on 24/7, when the usage they mention means they are really talking about a hybrid HTPC+server. That's great if you want both together but for the storage alone you're looking at a larger box than it needs to be. To me an HTPC is a 'set top box PC' which is on when actively being used and with no significant local storage.
  • benedict - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Why is the OS included in the price list? Does Zach receive a paycheck from Microsoft to promote their products? The article is about hardware, leave software out of it.
  • frozentundra123456 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Huh?? I have always thought it was bogus to NOT include the OS. What do you do, pirate yours? It is a valid expense unless you have a family license or something, and even then you have paid for it at some point.
  • jabber - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    All PC CPUs have been 'good enough for basic computing' since around 2005-6.

    I think we need a better definition or metric really.

    In the real world very few folks actually do video encoding etc.
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Disagree. Top end X2's and low end Core2duo's really show their age in comparison to what's been on the market since 09. I work on them from time to time and it's very noticable now.
  • jabber - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Hmm could that be due to the fact those machines are also using a 2006 spec HDDs also?

    In most cases yes. Stick a SSD or modern large capacity HDD in and the difference largely disappears.
  • just4U - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    sadly.. yes that's using newer HDDs. While their totally usable .. the slow down is very noticable. The way I see it, once you can really start to notice the difference between an older computer and more modern stuff with even simple tasks then it's time to maybe consider upgrading.
  • jabber - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    If a C2D machine is struggling with Office or the Web then I feel the problem lays elsewhere.

    Not the CPU's fault.

    More likely a poor build.
  • just4U - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - link

    now now .. these are systems built by me, and 95% of them last 5+ years with quality part selection. Lets see if I can word this better.

    I don't see slow downs (much) for most programs on Quads and dual cores above 6550s. X2s and the 6300 I was on though were quite noticable. Even on fresh installs you can still tell the difference.

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