AMD launched their first APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) platform codenamed "Llano" in 2011 which merged the GPU and CPU architecture on a single die. We have already seen integrated graphics solutions from Intel on their processors under the HD Graphics brand so what was so special about these newly released chips by AMD when Intel has already been doing the same thing since Sandy Bridge generation of processors?
What AMD has did with their APUs is that they added a graphics parts that was already available on the discrete graphics solution, merged it along side the CPU core and what consumers got were much more visual horsepower to manage visually demanding applications in a low power package. The first APU platform was co-developed for both laptops (Brazos based on Bobact architecture) and Llano for desktops which is based on the K10 architecture
Although the first generation of APUs failed to attract a wider desktop audience which later become a known reason for the delay of AMD's second generation APU platform since the company wanted to clear out the remaining chips that hadn't been sold. Though they didn't gain much attention over at the desktop end, AMD still had faith and with a strong know-how of the new APU platform waited for the right moment to launch their 2nd generation of APUs codenamed "Trinity".
AMD Trinity Merges x86 CPU With Radeon Core
In October 2012, AMD released their latest "Trinity" APU platform as the worlds first Accelerated Processing Unit that featured x86 architecture and powered with Radeon cores.
The processor was launched a year later after the Bulldozer architecture arrived in October 2011. Bulldozer is highly regarded as the biggest flop of AMD's history one which hit the company so hard that it cost the CEO of the company "Dirk Meyer" his job (Via PCWorld). But that hit was a lesson learned hard for AMD and they know that bringing the x86 Bulldozer architecture to the desktop market would mean in-efficiency with mediocre performance so they wanted and a year later introduced "Trinity", not with their older x86 Bulldozer architecture but with the new and improved x86 "Piledriver" revision. Piledriver got the things right which Bulldozer couldn't at its launch. AMD's Trinity APU accommodates 1.303 billion transistors on its die which measures 246mm2.
The new revision meant higher efficiency over the older Bulldozer architecture that allowed AMD to fuse their Radeon core architecture (VLIW4) from HD 6000 series on top of the APU die. This meant that the CPU side was about to get a major boost over the older K10 architecture in the Llano APU and at the same time, improved visual performance was expected from the new APUs due to the addition of Radeon Cores. The APUs were still based on the 32nm architecture which meant that the TDP would remain higher and the x86 performance was not much impressive against a year old Intel architecture. But the graphics side shined and Intel had competition at such a competitive price range which their Core i3 and Core i5 chips couldn't outlast.
But bringing the high-performance x86 architecture "Piledriver" wasn't feasible for an processor which had to accommodate a enhanced graphics core that would result in higher cost and inefficiency so a few features had to be cut down. The major thing that was cut out from the APU model was L3 cache since it was most demanding in power consumption and the least performance awarding. AMD's APUs were limited to L2 cache since AMD chose efficiency over performance for their new Fusion platform.
The graphics side was merged with a Radeon Core fused with 384 stream processors which is quarter the size of what consumers got on the Radeon HD 6970. The graphics core was based on the VLIW4 architecture which was an update over the VLIW3 based Llano APUs HD 6000 iGP. The graphics core was smaller but much more power ful and efficient which allowed AMD to not only use the latest Turbo Core 3.0 technology on the CPU side but also on the GPU side which allowed the APU to adjust clock speeds when under load by a demanding application or based on the available TDP room the clocks would go higher.
The second generation AMD A-Series APU provides higher performance and capabilities over the first generation:
- More than 700 GFLOPS of compute performance;
- Up to 4.2 GHz max frequency;
- Unlocked Central Processing Unit (CPU) with AMD OverDrive software for up to 6.5 GHz of extreme overclocking performance.
AMD Trinity Tech Specs:
- Die size: 246mm2
- 1.303B Transistors
- Process: 32nm SOI
- 2.09W MM07 Power
- 1.08 idle Power
- Power reduction during HD media playback
- Unified Northbridge (UNB)
- Quad Core and Dual core configurations
- Updated AMD Radeon DirectX11 GPU
- Northern Islands GPU With Upto 384 Cores 2.0
- 3 dedicated display outputs
- 4 independent display controllers
- DisplayPort 1.2 with symbol rates of 1.62, 2.7 and 5.4 Gbit/s
- UVD and AMD Accelerated Video Converter
- IOMMU v2
All in All, AMD tasked their team to make one of the most efficiency processor that delivers on both the CPU and GPU end under normal usage at an affordable price range that's much lower compared to their competitors. The new APU platform is also targeted towards budget gamers since options such as CrossfireX and Dual graphic give a boosted performance to the overall gaming experience at a low cost. You can see from the slides below that AMD has done some aggressive marketing with their Trinity APU platform:
AMD FM2 Socket and A75 / A85X Chipset
For the new Trinity platform, AMD released the new FM2 socket motherboards which meant that the FM1 socket would only last one generation of APUs. The FM2 socket is only compatible with Trinity and Richland Accelerated processing units. Users with Llano APUs can't upgrade to FM2 since the new socket isn't pin-compatible with the older processors.
However, AMD is still using the A55 and A75 chipsets on their new FM2 motherboards along with the latest A85X chipset codenamed "Hudson D4" that's built to unleash complete features available on the Trinity APU platform. The A85X chipset is going to be shipped with the high-end FM2 motherboards allowing upto 8 SATA 6GBps ports, four USB 3.0, ten USB 2.0 ports, High Definition audio and AMD CrossfireX support. AMD has arranged their new chipsets in three tiers; A55 Chipset for Entry FM2 solutions, A75 chipset for media users and gamers while the A85X chipset is targeted towards performance users who want to feast upon all the features available on the APU platform.
AMD Trinity APU Lineup
AMD has a total of eight SKUs under its Trinity platform of APUs, six of these APUs fall under the A-Series branding while the remaining two are branded as Athlox X4 parts. AMD would later on continue the Athlon branding for their APUs but do note that these models come without a integrated graphics core but go for a much affordable price with higher clock speeds and better performance compared to Athlon II processors.
The AMD Trinity APU lineup is listed below:
AMD Trinity APU Lineup
Athlon X4 750K
Athlon X4 740
|CPU Clock (Base/Turbo)||3.8/4.2 GHz||3.4/4.0 GHz||3.6/3.9 GHz||3.2/3.7 GHz||3.6/3.8 GHz||3.4/3.6 GHz||3.4/4.0 GHz||3.2/3.7 GHz|
|L2 Cache||4 MB||4 MB||4 MB||4 MB||1 MB||1 MB||4 MB||4 MB|
|Integrated Graphics "Radeon"||HD 7660D||HD 7660D||HD 7560D||HD 7560D||HD 7540D||HD 7480D||Discrete GPU required||Discrete GPU required|
|GPU Clock||800 MHz||760 MHz||760 MHz||760 MHz||760 MHz||724 MHz||Discrete GPU required||Discrete GPU required|
|GPU Cores||384 Cores||384 Cores||256 Cores||256 Cores||192 Cores||128 Cores||Discrete GPU required||Discrete GPU required|
AMD A10-5800K - The Flagship Trinity
The APU we have today for testing is the flagship "Trinity" desktop part aka the A10-5800K that replaces the A8-3850 Llano APU from 2011. The A10-5800K is powered with four x86 piledriver cores and a VLIW4 architecture based Radeon GPU with 384 cores.
The A10-5800K comes with a clock speed of 3.8 GHz with Turbo core frequency boosting it upto 4.2 GHz which is a absolute treat for an accelerated processing unit. The HD 7660D graphics core operates at 800 MHz and can be configured to run at idle mode when not under operation or direct load from a demanding application. The graphics core can support "Dual graphics" allowing select motherboards that allow the features to pair up the graphics core with a discrete graphics solution allowing an operation similar to CrossfireX in which power can be utilized from both cores.
The A10-5800K comes with a TDP of 100W which is high compared to its counterparts from Intel but its due to the 32nm process which Intel's Piledriver architecture is built around. Heat is the least of an issue for the new processors.At launch, the A10-5800K had an MSRP of $122 which is quiet a reasonable price for a chip that packs the CPU and GPU with fast clock speeds.
Gigabyte FM2A85X-UP4 Motherboard
There are a wide variety of FM2 motherboards to choose from, all of which fall under the sub-$150 price range. We used Gigabyte's latest FM2A85X-UP4 motherboard for testing which is the manufacturer's flagship product for the FM2 platform equipped with the latest A85X "Hudson D4" chipset.
The motherboards based around the FM2 socket would not be loaded with features as those based on AM3+ or Z77/Z87 chipsets but the main reason behind that is the price to performance ratio which manufacturer's are targeting with the FM2 boards. The want to keep the prices of these boards low and bundle enough features, technologies to make consumers happy about their purchase. The Trinity platform doesn't even require high-end motherboards since these slimmed out boards offer the same performance at a much lower cost allowing the manufacturer's to spend R&D on other key features for the boards.
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 is a standard ATX size motherboard that comes with the Ultra Durable 5 design. As a part of their Ultra Durable 5 design, the company has featured PowIRStage IR3550 integrated circuits that will combine power delivery MOSFETs for longer stability and higher cooling performance. Though, this does increase the overall cost of the motherboard by a bit but whether or not it makes any kind of difference compared to other boards is something we will see later in this review. So let's take a closer look at the board itself.
Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 Features
|Price||$129.99 US (Newegg Link)|
|Size||ATX Form Factor|
|CPU Interface||FM2 Socket|
|Chipset||AMD A85X "Hudson D4" Chipset|
|Memory Slots||Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 64 GB
Dual Channel, 1066-1866MHz
|Onboard LAN||Realtek 8111|
|Onboard Audio||Realtek ALC892|
|Expansion Slots||2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x16/- or x8/x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
3 x PCIe 2.0 x1
1 x PCI
|Onboard SATA/RAID||7 x SATA 6 Gbps, Supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps
|USB||4 x USB 3.0 Ports (Chipset) [2 back panel, 2 internal]
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 Ports (Etron EJ168) [2 back panel]
10 x USB 2.0 Ports (Chipset) [2 back panel, 8 internal]
|Onboard||7 x SATA 6 Gbps
1 x USB 3.0 Header
4 x USB 2.0 Headers
5 x Fan Headers
1 x COM Header
1 x S/PDIF Output Header
1 x TPM Header
Clear CMOS Button
|Power Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX Power Connector
1 x 8-pin CPU Power Connector
|Fan Headers||1 x CPU (4-pin)
4 x SYS (4-pin)
|IO Panel||1 x PS/2 Combination Port
2 x USB 3.0 (Etron)
2 x USB 3.0 (Chipset)
Optical S/PDIF Output
2 x USB 2.0
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps
1 x Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek)
|Warranty Period||3 Years|
A Closer Look At Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4
The motherboard is packed within a standard cardboard packaging which has quiet a lot of technology and feature labels on it. Both the front and backside detail the Ultra Durable 5 power design while a specification sheet at the back provides compatibility and support list for the F2A85X-UP4 motherboard.
There's no foam or any handling material that's shipped inside the package which will make it a bit risky while shipping the board from one place to another. The motherboard is contained inside a anti-static sheet which helps protect it from magnetic surges.
Beneath the motherboard, we found three black SATA cables, a motherboard manual and a driver installation disc. There's nothing else inside the package and i guess nothing more was needed since most of the features are already available on the motherboard.
The motherboard comes with a matte black 2x Copper PCB with humidity protection technology. This is great for humid areas since it would prevent the motherboard from rusting or instability.
The motherboard comes with a black and grey color theme, the FM2 socket is the only one that comes with a white color which looks unusual but most of it becomes hidden when equipped with a processor. Its hard to spot any major difference in the FM1 and FM2 socket but processors from both platforms are incompatible due to a different Pin layout.
Gigabyte's F2A85X-UP4 comes with a 6 +2 Phase VRM each linked to a choke upto 60A. It should be noted that only a single aluminum heatsink with cooling pad is located on one side of the VRM module, the other side is kept bare. The CPU socket is powered through an 8 Pin connector.
There are four DDR3 DIMM slots that offer support for DDR3 2400(OC)/1866/1600/1333/1066 MHz memory modules with capacities upto 64 GB in Dual channel mode. Right next to the DIMM slots, we can find the 24-Pin ATX connector plus a Clear CMOS and power On/Off switch.
AMD's A85X "Hudson D4" PCH is well hidden underneath a large aluminum fin array. We took it off to show you what the chipset looks like, its small compared to Z77/Z87 chipsets and within a couple of generations we would see the PCH fused on the APU die since AMD is aiming towards a SOC form with their next generation APUs. Right next to the PCH, there are Six SATA 6 GB/s ports which support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, and JBOD. The motherboard also supports Dual BIOS, a DeBUG LED is located right under the BIOS chips.
Expansion slots are provided in the form of three PCI-e 2.0 x16 (Electrical; x16/x8/x4), three PCI-e 2.0 x1 and a single PCI slot. Though AMD has PCI-e 3.0 compliant graphics card out since January 2012, they still haven't brought PCI-e 3.0 functionality to their AM3+ or FM2 motherboards.
The backpanel I/O has two USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports while in total the board offers 4 USB 3.0 (2 through internal header) and 10 USB 2.0 ports. Additionally the motherboard features PS/2 port, D-Sub, DVI, Optical s/PDIF, HDMI, Display Port, eSATA 6 GB/s, RJ-45 port and a 6 channel audio jack. The motherboard is bundled with a backpanel I/O shield that can easily be equipped on the rear of the chassis.
The Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 can be considered a high-end motherboard for the FM2 platform. It comes with a solid PCB design and supports technologies such as 2-Way CrossfireX, Dual graphics, All Digital Power and 3D UEFI Bios. The motherboard costs $119.99 US which is a price that goes well with the $122 US A10-5800K and features the support for AMD's Richland platform which we will review in the upcoming week. You can check out more images in the gallery available below:
|Power Supply:||Xigmatek NRP-MC1002 1000 Watt|
|Hard Disk:||Intel SSD 520 Series 256 GB (OS)
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.12
|Memory:||4 x 4 GB Kingston HyperX 2133 MHz
10th Anniversary Edition Memory Kit
|Case:||Cooler Master HAF 932|
|Video Cards:||AMD HD 7660D
Intel HD 4600
Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 2500
|Cooling Solutions:||Corsair H60 Hydro Cooler|
|OS:||Windows 8 Ultimate 64-bit|
We used the high-end Core i7 processors just to compare the fastest available graphics chip from Intel against the fastest graphics chip available on AMD APUs. The compute test was compared against an Intel Core i3-3220 which falls within the same price range as the A10-5800K.
Overclocking the A10-5800K
Overclocking the A10-5800K was a fairly easy job, we just had to raise the multiplier from 38x to 44x without any voltage adjustments and the processor was overclocked to 4.4 GHz. This is a good improvement over the base speed of 3.8 GHz. The A10-5800K can easily reach around 4.6-4.7 GHz overclocked frequencies with better coolers. Although high-performance coolers don't make a sense with a budget APU like the A10-5800K but those who still want extra performance can go for a nice cooler around the $49-$59 range.
We didn't face any thermal throttling issues since our setup included the Corsair H60 which is adequate enough to handle overclocked loads. We also bumped the clock speed of the Radeon HD 7660D IGP to 1050 MHz from its stock 800 MHz limit. The overclock was stable for both CPU and GPU, the respective GPUz and CPUz screenshots can be seen below. We have included the overclock scores in the charts which are provided in the performance section.
AMD A10-5800K 4.4 GHz / Radeon HD7660D 1050 MHz Overclock:
X264 HD Encode Benchmark
This benchmark measures the encoding performance of the processor. It offers a standardized benchmark as the clip as well as the encoder used is uniform.
Cinebench is based on Maxon’s Cinema 4D. It is used to compare graphics as well as processor performance. We are using the CPU performance numbers for our comparison.
Some might argue against using 7-zip’s compression and decompression benchmark as a ‘real world’ test. But if you try and think about it for a minute, the benchmark does show how fast the program will either compress or decompress, while negating the impact of disk transfers.
Fritz Chess Benchmark
While 3DMark 11 was a success, 3DMark from Futuremark further pushes the boundaries of benchmarking utilies going all out with cross platform support which include Windows, Windows Phone, iOS, MAC and even Android. The utility comes with three benchmark tests configured for different tiers of high-performance PCs, Mid-range PCs/Tablets and smartphone devices.
Futuremark released 3DMark 11 in 2011 bringing support for the latest DirectX 11 GPUs at that time. Since then, the benchmark tool is used widely for evaluating performance of high-end PCs.
3DMark Vantage is still used to this date as a complete benchmark suite for GPU and CPU performance.
Resident Evil 6
Capcom brings the horror back to the screens with their blockbuster Resident Evil 6 title which was well received among the community. The game features three playable campaigns which include Leon, Chris, Jake and downloadable content for Ada Wong.
The Tomb Raider franchise was rebooted this year with the latest title in the long running franchise. The players start off their journey with a younger and under-trained version of Lara who goes off on her first survival action journey.
Grid 2 is the sequel to the highly successful racing game – GRID. While the game runs great on graphic cards, the developers have also optimized their coding for the latest Haswell processors with fourth generation HD graphics core which features AVX2/AVX and DirectX 11.1 support.
Metro Last Light
Metro Last Light once again puts us in the foots of Artyom, a survivor of the nuclear holocaust that shattered Russia. Metro: Last Light is considered as the best looking game to be released to date making use of intensive DirectX11 Tessellation, High-Res Textures, Global illumination lightning and more.
The Elders Scroll: Skyrim was released by Bethesda in fall 2011. The game featured one of the most largest worlds ever created in an Elders Scroll game taking the RPG genre to the next level.
When it comes to power consumption, it should be noted that while AMD has been focusing on increasing the IPC performance of their CPU core, Intel has opted to improve the power efficiency of their already powerful core processors. Below, you can see that AMD has higher wattage compared to Intel processors due to its 32nm design which has got older, Intel on the other hand aims for 22nm with their Haswell and Ivy Bridge processors.
AMD's Richland APU which we will be reviewing next week improves the power efficiency on AMD's end but still lacks against Intel's offerings. Kaveri APU which is planned for Q4 2013 would be based on the 28nm architecture and is supposed to improve performance and efficiency on all ends. But let's just focus on the Trinity A10-5800K part and see how much watts it consumes in idle and load:
Testing out the AMD A10-5800K was interesting for me since this is the first time i tested an APU. The A10-5800K tuned out to be a great processor with just enough power to fulfill any users needs.
The new Piledriver architecture brought new technologies such as Turbo Boost and better x86 performance but at the same time, the performance wasn't any better than the older K10.5 LLano core. This was a let-down for me but i expected this since Piledriver is an updated Bulldozer core with minor enhancements. Still, the Trinity APU holds all the horsepower to run average office and home applications but just a little bit slower than the similar priced Core i3-3220.
While the CPU side sounds like a disappointment, users would be delighted to learn that the Radeon HD 7660D featured in the A10-5800K is faster than the recently released Haswell HD 4600 chip. This means alot, the Intel i3-3220 features the HD 2500 chip while the i3-3770K features the HD 4000 chip which are much slower than the HD 7660D on the IGP. Not only that, the A10-5800K can run some games at 1080P such as Skyrim and Sleeping Dogs with medium settings at a playable frame rate which is something achievable by Intel's destkop lineup uptill Haswell architecture. Putting a discrete GPU architecture on the APU die was something that AMD did right, many people these days go for an all in one solution and media/HTPC users who rely on low-end discrete GPU solutions can now go for an AMD APU that offers similar performance in a single package.
One thing to note is that the A10-5800K costs only $129.99 while the motherboard is available for $119.99. Cheaper motherboards are also available but the price of both products is just a $20 over the $219.99 Core i5-3570K. With the extra cash, users can buy a discrete GPU solution for faster graphics performance or an SSD solution that offers improved boot times.
The Piledriver architecture on the A10-5800K also allows high overclocks, so if you got a K-unlocked APU, you can easily reach 4.5 GHz for extra performance out of a budget processor.The AMD A10-5800K is the best choice for household and office usage. I would also recommend the APU platform for HTPC builders since the integrated GPU core can easily run high-definition videos with you saving the space on a discrete GPU. If you want a processor with enough horse power to run your everyday apps, a graphics core that's enough to handle games on HD resolutions and value that no one else in the competition has to offer, then the AMD A10-5800K is the ideal choice for you.
Here's a tilt of hat to the good folks at AMD Middle East, who were kind enough to share a 'AMD A10-5800K Trinity' with us and made the review possible.