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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  • mrsmegz - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Is there any reason to use an A85X chipset other than the extra 16x slot/lanes for Xfire?
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I would say no until the price comes down... I bought one and regret wasting the extra $60 as it simply wasn't neccessary. I don't even see a reason to pick Trinity for crossfire setups as that should be handled /w their new Piledriver proccessors or a intel offering.
  • lmcd - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Yeah, if you're going to do XF anything it better be dual graphics, or you're wasting your money.
  • Medallish - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    It supports SLI afaik too.
  • ThomasS31 - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Yes. If you need more that 6 hdd, you need the A85x.
    I personally planning to build a media PC which can contail all my old HDDs with videos. I have 8HDDs... so this is my only choice. :)
  • dingetje - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    i would drop the burnarrrr and drop windows (aarrrrr), and add an ssd daaarrrrive
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I've bought a i7 860 (Socket 1156) and that only lasted for that one generation. I bought a A6-3500 (Socket FM1) and that only lasted one generation. That's the reason I'm not upgrading to IVB, and will only upgrade to Haswell when I know that socket lasts at least another generation. :D

    Good guide, always interesting to see other peoples suggestions for these builds.
  • xxtypersxx - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    How were you able to play Amazon HD video? Last time I tried (admittedly a couple months ago) it indicated HD couldn't be played in browsers and required approved devices (eg. Roku 2's). Has this changed or do you have some secret I desperately want to know?

    As others have said, pricing is tough during the holiday season as it fluctuates so much. Your writing however is excellent.
  • bill.rookard - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    from someone who was having troubles with it and Win8. So - I took the tower computer, gutted it, dropped it into my HTPC case and did an install of Win7x64. Runs great. Geekbenches at 6100 or so with no clock adjustments which is right around what my Athlon quad-core benched at - at half the power budget.

    More than enough power for HTPC use at a very reasonable power envelope with enough processing power for most anything I'd need to use it for.
  • Esben - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Thanks for an interesting buyers guide, and good choice on components. An important feature for me to note with the ASRock FM2A55M-DGS is the support for 2560x1600 using the DVI-output. None of the Intel boards support dual-link DVI. Only through DisplayPort is this resolution possible. Intel boards with DisplayPort are usually much more expensive than boards with only DVI/HDMI.

    Would it be possible for you to verify if the DVI output of the A55 can also support audio, if used with a DVI->HDMI converter?

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