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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  • Jovec - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I understand prices change regularly, but you should check the linked prices. The general use budget build is currently $70 than the chart price. (-$3 for CPU, +$5 for mobo, +$35 for HDD, +$30 for the SSD, +$3 for the DVD). The HTPC build is $68 higher and the DVD burner chosen is listed as discontinued. The gaming build is $59 higher than the chart.
  • randinspace - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    As the author said, it's important to watch out for price changes during the holidays as 16GB of Ram was available at 8GB prices (outside of 4GB quad kits anyway...), and I personally got a 2TB HDD for less than what 1TB internal drives and 500+ GB external ones are going for "on sale" this week....

    That said, these guidelines might have done people more more good had they come out before some of the year's best sales rather than in the middle of some of its worst ones (I'm looking at you, Newegg "Cyber Week"), but such is life.
  • Parhel - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I'm glad I'm not the only one to notice what Newegg's been doing. Most of their "deals" were old tech they're trying to clear out of inventory, even on Black Friday.
  • MrRez - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I just built a system around the A10 5800k circa $600 all up, and I am really enjoying it! I paired it up with a 6670 1gig DDR5 cost me 80bucks and has given me a huge boost in some games.

    The main reason I went with the Trinity was that I had a small budget and needed something that I could do my work on, encode some video and play the odd game. I did alot of research and couldn't get an Intel system for the same money that would even come close to what the trinity could do.

    Anyway I would recommend this type of system to anyone on a budget.
  • StevoLincolnite - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Conversely, I came from an "old" Phenom 2 x6 1090T @ 4ghz to a Core i7 3930K @ 4.8ghz and in games I noticed zero difference when gaming at 5760x1080 as I'm always going to be GPU limited.

    However, encoding saw *massive* increases, but that's not a task I do very often and I usually do it during the night whilst I am asleep anyway.

    Hardware today is still going to be more than ample for games of tomorrow, heck I know a few gamers still kicking around old Core 2 Quads that are heavily overclocked and game happily without a single issue, which says something about the state of games today not pushing the limits anymore.
  • dishayu - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Heavily overclocked Core 2 Quad user here and i approve of this message.
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I know "LOTS" of gamers still on Quad 6600s.. C2D 8400s.. and Amd PIIs all happily playing along with decent video cards..

    The thing "today" is we really haven't hit the new big cpu yet. That was the Core2 and before the the Athlon64. Are cpu's better? Absolutely but they've been going in a sideways arc... with power+features rather then noticable brute power. I can go from my 2700K to a Q6600 to a E8400 to a PII920 to a 5800K all with enjoyable experiences provided the gpu power is there with 4Gigs of ram.

    Overclocking adds more umph on top of that but it's not neccessary.
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    As a aside.. anyone on a C2D E6400 or under... time to move on. Every last cpu on the market today will give very noticable boosts right straight from the $60 cpu on up to the latest and greatest.
  • JonnyDough - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    I finally upgraded from an Opteron 185 system (which I'm using to type this) to an i5 Ivy system. I also found an E8400 in the garbage and it works. It just needed a power supply a video card, and a hard drive. I have all of the above "just laying around" here so my girlfriend is getting a new system for Xmas too. :) Windows 7 is on sale at the Egg for $80.
  • AndrewJacksonZA - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I agree. I'm gaming, programming and encoding on a Core2Duo E6750 and an AMD 6670 on Windows 8.

    I can run *ALL* my games on their maximum resolution and detail settings seeing as my monitor is a 19" and runs at 1280 x 1024... and that I really dig my old games :-) However, my point is that the equipment I am using right now is "good enough" for my particular needs. Would I consider an upgrade? Definitely - but for something that runs much (much!) cooler and quieter. Is that a high priority in my life? Not right now.

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