Ever since the arrival of Conroe back in 2006, we've only really recommended AMD for its (sometimes incredible) value. Recommending AMD for those looking for absolute performance pretty much ended when the Pentium 4 retired.

AMD is looking to change that with the arrival of its first Fusion APUs. These APUs marry one or more AMD x86 cores with dozens if not hundreds of Radeon "cores" on a single die. While today the APU is little more than a cohabitation of these two computing architectures, the end goal is something far more integrated:

Llano is AMD's second Fusion APU, the first being Zacate which we met earlier this year. Llano shouldn't be all that unfamiliar to you either, the notebook version of the APU launched just two weeks ago. Our conclusions were as you'd expect: sub-par x86 performance but competitive battery life and great gaming performance for a value notebook. If gaming is going to be the most intensive thing you do on your notebook, you may find yourself wanting one based on a Llano APU.

Now it's time to look at Llano on the desktop. We previewed the desktop Llano alongside the mobile version but today we're back with much more detail. This article will focus on the basics: CPU performance, GPU performance and the associated details. Ian has a final review of one of the first desktop Llano motherboards - the ASRock A75 Extreme6 as well as a look at overclocking the new desktop APU. Finally Ganesh's article takes an in-depth look at how Llano works as an HTPC platform.

The APU

Although mobile Llano has to worry about fitting into thin and light notebooks, the desktop version has a lot more breathing room and as a result it comes to us in a pretty traditional package. Motherboard backwards compatibility is thrown out the window as you need pins to get video output from the APU to an on-board VGA/DVI/HDMI header and as a result we have a new platform: Socket-FM1.

Socket-FM1 is a 905-pin ordeal that looks reminiscent of the original Clawhammer CPU:

Despite the socket change, heatsink specifications haven't changed. All existing Socket-AM2/AM2+/AM3/AM3+ heatsinks should work just fine as long as they can handle the rated TDP of the chip you're cooling.

The desktop Llano launch starts small. AMD is only introducing four parts today, two of which will be available later:

AMD Llano Desktop Lineup
  GPU Total TDP (GPU + CPU) CPU Cores CPU Clock (Base/Turbo) GPU Cores GPU Clock Price
AMD A8-3850 Radeon HD 6550D 100W 4 2.9GHz 400 600MHz $135
AMD A8-3800 Radeon HD 6550D 65W 4 2.4/2.7GHz 400 600MHz $??
AMD A6-3650 Radeon HD 6530D 100W 4 2.6GHz 320 443MHz $115
AMD A6-3600 Radeon HD 6530D 65W 4 2.1/2.4GHz 320 443MHz $??

The A8-3850 and A6-3650 are going to be the first Llano APUs available, both carry a 100W TDP rating. While this may seem high, do remember that 100W is for the CPU and GPU combined.

Although Llano does support AMD's new Turbo Core technology, neither of the parts launching today have it enabled. The A8-3850 and A6-3650 run at 2.9GHz and 2.6GHz, respectively. The 3800 and 3600 will drop base clock speeds to hit a lower TDP but allow you to turbo up depending on workload. For an explanation of how Turbo Core works, flip back to our mobile Llano article.

Pricing is pretty reasonable. For $98 you can buy an Athlon II X4 640 running at 3.0GHz. For $37 more AMD will sell you an A8-3850 APU, effectively determining the price of the integrated GPU. AMD expects to see desktops built around the A6 to sell for $500 - $600, and A8 based systems to go for between $600 and $700

CPU Specification Comparison
CPU Manufacturing Process Cores Transistor Count Die Size
AMD Llano 4C 32nm 4 1.45B 228mm2
AMD Thuban 6C 45nm 6 904M 346mm2
AMD Deneb 4C 45nm 4 758M 258mm2
Intel Gulftown 6C 32nm 6 1.17B 240mm2
Intel Nehalem/Bloomfield 4C 45nm 4 731M 263mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 4C 32nm 4 995M 216mm2
Intel Lynnfield 4C 45nm 4 774M 296mm2
Intel Clarkdale 2C 32nm 2 384M 81mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT1) 32nm 2 504M 131mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT2) 32nm 2 624M 149mm2

Architecturally desktop Llano is no different than its mobile counterpart. These are all quad-core parts with updated 32nm cores, boasting a ~6% increase in IPC over their 45nm Athlon II predecessors. Each core has a private 1MB L2 cache for a total of 4MB per quad-core APU.

The GPU side isn't different architecturally either, you're still looking at a Sumo core derived from AMD's Radeon HD 5570. Desktop Llano is available with either 400 GPU cores or 320 cores (you can get the mobile part with only 240 cores enabled as well). While the mobile parts top out at 444MHz, the extra TDP available in a desktop chassis allows AMD to ratchet up the GPU clock to 600MHz for the A8-3850.

AMD calls the two GPU configurations the Radeon HD 6550D and 6530D. Just like you can with mobile Llano, you can also pair a desktop Llano APU with a discrete GPU to have them both run in an asymmetrical CrossFire mode (with limitations of course):

AMD Radeon Dual Graphics Branding
Discrete GPU 6550D 6530D
HD 6670 HD 6690D2 HD 6690D2
HD 6570 HD 6630D2 HD 6610D2
HD 6450 HD 6550D2 HD 6550D2

The Chipset

I hate to keep drawing comparisons between desktop and mobile Llano APUs but we also have two chipsets on the desktop side: A75 and A55. The A75 chipset is the high end option with 6 x 6Gbps SATA ports and 4 x USB 3.0 ports:

The A55 is the lower power, cost effective option that gets rid of all USB 3.0 support and backs down to 3Gbps SATA:

The Direct Competitor: Intel's Core i3-2105
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  • mino - Sunday, July 03, 2011 - link

    Tell ya what. The benefit is we get paid trolls like you over here. Reply
  • jaydee - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    How many monitors can you connect to this with a discrete gpu? Can you do 3 or more DVI/HDMI montors between the motherboard output and a discrete gpu? Reply
  • j_iggga - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    The other dude hit it on the mark. The target for this is OEM parts for budget desktops. So the point about the discrete GPU being more cost effective is moot

    So given that...it's great that finally everyone can game adequately.

    1920 x 1080 on integrated? unheard of in my time
    Reply
  • HangFire - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    OK, so maybe it's better than i3 for laptops. But what I was looking for in Llano was a greatly improved per-clock efficiency in the CPU, something that will drag AMD back into true competitiveness with Intel.

    Instead we get slight tweaking.

    If Bulldozer doesn't deliver a better CPU than oft-tweaked cores dating back to Hammer, AMD is dead on the desktop. Low-end laptops will be the only place they can compete, at least until Intel completes implementing DirectX 10 and 11.
    Reply
  • L. - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Bulldozer will deliver .. and it will kill Intel at it's price point, I bet your head on that ;)
    And Intel will be dead on the Server market, you can expect a 30+% perf/watt advantage for Interlagos on release day, only dampened when Intel will release their first 22nm Xeon ---

    More blood in the water, better market for us.
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Bet taken. Bulldozer will be an underclocked, overheating monster. AMD is 2 years minimum behind with Bulldozer.

    Ivy Bridge will be out before Bulldozer... Bet on that.
    Reply
  • L. - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    AMD is 2 years in advance with bulldozer, as it is not designed as a desktop processor, but a byproduct of Interlagos, which will very likely take a lot of server market share from Intel.

    I'd like to see how AMD could be two years behind, when Intel has been stretching a core design from core1 to sandy bridge ;)

    Bet on the fact that AMD has always priced their stuff right, Bulldozer is in i7-2600k range, that means it will beat it hands down.

    Ivy will be a win in desktop for Intel, but then again, this depends on how fast both Intel and GF can get to 3d-gate 22nm. (which if we look at current trends would mean Intel 6 months before GF more or less).
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    You are completely wrong. Bulldozer was scheduled for release in 2009. It is 2011. Hence 2 years.

    Considering Conroe processors still dominate Phenom II x2, x4, and x6 processors from AMD. I would say AMD is behind. About 3 generations.

    GF is just now shipping its first 32nm chips. Still not a single heavyweight chip at 32nm. Intel has 32nm 6-core processors for over a year. Ivy Bridge is out this fall at 22nm.

    Are you just completely drinking the AMD Kool-Aide or what?
    Reply
  • silverblue - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    If I remember correctly, Bulldozer's design was torn up and started again from scratch in 2008. This would undoubtedly increase development time, especially if they completely changed the design.

    And for the final time, stop spreading BS about Conroe dominating Phenom II. Even Penryn doesn't. There are plenty of instances where K10.5 beats the Core 2 family and in most cases where Core 2 wins, the difference is marginal at best, not to mention that a) there aren't any hexacore Core 2s out there nor any with any turbo technology, and b) any sufficiently high performing Core 2 parts are massively more expensive than anything AMD is shipping.

    I dedicated a HUGE post on this topic to you on Toms using Anandtech Bench data and you've obviously decided to ignore it so... believe what you like. :)
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I exaggerated. But the only way to deal with the diluted is to use such devices. Perhaps they will think and research.

    Phenom II vs Core 2 is not even close clock for clock.

    Phenom II only wins in scenarios where it is grossly clocked higher than the similar Core 2. The 9650 is a 3GHz part, Ph II 980 a 3.7GHz part.

    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/49?vs=362

    The recently released 980 barely outperforms the 3 y/o Penryn Core 2.
    Reply

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