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The Llano APUs come in 2, 3 and 4 core variants. The table below lists all the retail SKUs available, along with current pricing. Note that the A4-3420 (which was initially OEM only, and was later supposed to debut in a retail model), A6-3600, A6-3620, A8-3800, and the A8-3820 don't seem to be available with any of the first-tier retailers, so we've left them out of the charts.

AMD Llano APU Lineup (Desktop)
APU Cores Frequency
(Turbo)
GPU GPU Config
(Shaders:TMU:ROP
@ Frequency)
Memory
Support
TDP Pricing
A4-3300 2 2.5GHz 6410D 160:8:4 @ 443MHz DDR3-1600 65W $60
A4-3400 2 2.7GHz 6410D 160:8:4 @ 600MHz DDR3-1600 65W $66
A6-3500 3 2.1GHz
(2.4GHz)
6530D 320:16:8 @ 443MHz DDR3-1866 65W $80
A6-3650 4 2.6GHz 6530D 320:16:8 @ 443MHz DDR3-1866 100W $85
A6-3670K 4 2.7GHz 6530D 320:16:8 @ 443MHz (Unlocked) DDR3-1866 100W $105
A8-3850 4 2.9GHz 6550D 400:20:8 @ 600MHz DDR3-1866 100W $110
A8-3870K 4 3.0GHz 6550D 400:20:8 @ 600MHz (Unlocked) DDR3-1866 100W $119

With the choice of available APUs out of the way, it is now time to take a look at the two Fusion Controller Hubs (FCHs) available for Lynx, the Llano desktop platform:

AMD Fusion Controller Hubs for Lynx (Desktop Llano)
Chipset Code Name Unified Media Interface SATA USB 3/2/1.1 TDP
A55 Hudson-D2 x4 Gen 2 + Display Port 6 x 3Gbps 0/14/2 7.6W
A75 Hudson-D3 x4 Gen 2 + Display Port 6 x 6Gbps 4/10/2 7.8W

The three main motherboard form factors of interest to us are (in order of size):

  1. mini-ITX (17cm x 17cm)
  2. micro-ATX (24.4cm x 24.4cm)
  3. ATX (30.5cm x 24.4cm)

Scenarios which don't involve high quality gaming/complex TV tuner systems can make do with mini-ITX motherboards (only one expansion slot). On the other hand, for moderate gaming and/or the installation of capture cards/internal TV tuners, multiple expansion slots such as those in the micro-ATX motherboards might be required. For high end HTPCs that also double up as gaming rigs with cards in CrossFire and/or network DVRs with custom capture cards, ATX motherboards (which have up to seven expansion slots) are necessary.

We're not going to recommend any specific board for each size as being "best", as what qualifies as such will vary from person to person. However, it is worth nothing that the motherboard choice can have wide ranging effects on the overall stability and functionality of a system. If you buy an inexpensive board, it may or may not work with all memory modules, it might lack fine-grained fan control, overclocking features may not be present, and there's even a potential for incompatibilities with certain peripherals and/or SSDs. If any of those items are of particular importance to you, we'd suggest reading up on some of the motherboard reviews to see how the various boards compare. All of the boards listed below should work for a basic HTPC setup, but some are going to be better than others.

The following table gives you an idea of the various mini-ITX motherboards currently available. All boards have a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 expansion slot, 4x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2, and are based on the A75 chipset. All of these are targeted towards small form factor systems suitable for use as HTPCs, as they have both HDMI output as well as optical SPDIF for multi-channel audio.

HTPC Oriented mini-ITX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano)
Vendor Board Name Memory Slots Misc. Notes Price
ASRock A75M-ITX 2x DDR3 2400+ GbE + 4x USB 3.0 $90
Asus F1A75-I DELUXE 2x DDR3 1866 GbE + 2x USB 3.0 + 1x USB 3.0 Internal Header $140
AzureWave Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0
Mini-Remote/Keypad
Gigabyte GA-A75N-USB3 2x DDR3 2000+ RealtekGbE $74
Zotac A75ITX-A-E 2x DDR3 1866 DualGbE $133
802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0
6x USB 3.0

Moving on to the micro-ATX configurations, we have a large number of choices. All options have HDMI output with audio. However, not all HTPC setups have a receiver capable of parsing audio over HDMI. In order to experience multi-channel audio in such a scenario, it is necessary to take advantage of the SPDIF output. The table below lists the six boards which satisfy this criteria. If optical SPDIF is not needed, we have many more choices.

HTPC Oriented micro-ATX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano)
Vendor Board Name Memory Slots PCI Configuration Misc. Notes Price
Asus F1A55-M/CSM 4x DDR3 2250+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 1x PCI 6x SATA 3Gbps, 2x USB 3.0 $78
ASRock A75M 2x DDR3 2400+ 1x PCI-E x16, 1x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $75
ASRock A75 PRO4-M 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 2x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $84
Asus F1A75-M PRO 4x DDR3 1866 2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 1x PCI 6x SATA 6Gbps $105
ECS A75F-M 4x DDR3 1866 1x PCI-E x16, 1x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI 6x SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0 Headers $80
Gigabyte GA-A75M-D2H 2x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 1x PCI 6x SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0 Headers $70

For most readers looking to build a Llano-based HTPC, one of the above motherboards should suffice. However, as we mentioned in the last section, users might also want to use their HTPC as a gaming rig; others might want PCI-E/PCI slots for multiple capture cards. A selection of full-sized ATX motherboards for such purposes is provided in the table below. Note that several of the boards also have anywhere from $10 to $30 main-in rebates, and very likely we'll see prices continue to drop as the Q3 launch of Trinity gets closer.

HTPC Oriented ATX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano)
Vendor Board Name Memory Slots PCI Configuration Misc. Notes Price
ASRock A55 PRO3 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16, 1x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 5x SATA 3Gbps, 2x SATA 6Gbps, 2x USB 3.0 $75
ASRock A75 PRO4 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $80
ASRock A75 Extreme6 4x DDR3 2400+ 3x PCI-E x16(x16/x0 or x8/x8, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 8x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $95
Asus F1A75-V PRO 4x DDR3 1866 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 7x SATA 6Gbps, 1xeSATA2, 1x DP $116
Asus F1A75-V EVO 4x DDR3 1866 3x PCI-E x16(x16/x0 or x8/x8, x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI 7x SATA 6Gbps, 1xeSATA2, 1x DP $130
ECS A75F-A 4xDDR3 2600+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $80
Gigabyte GA-A75-D3H 4x DDR3 1866 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $90
Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x8), 3x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2 $105

One thing to keep in mind is that Llano is basically a dead-end platform. AMD's Trinity will use socket FM2, so you won't be able to upgrade to anything faster than what we've currently listed. As noted above, we will also likely see prices drop further in the coming month or two. With the processor and motherboard chosen, let us move on to the other components of the build.

Introduction Memory and Storage Options
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  • zilexa - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Anand, I have done some research via Dutch gadget sites. 90% of the people that have had a HTPC and are now looking for a new HTPC, are actually looking for a:

    1. smaller
    2. silent
    3. system with complete focus on playback
    4. very gf/family friendly

    A Llano system is therefore simply overkill. I have not found a single video yet that my old 780G-based HTPC cannot playback. 1080p60 videos are not commercially availabe. If you mean the vids you shoot with your cameras, most people choose 1 setting lower since you can record longer videos. In the next 5 yrs, a Brazos E-450 will be enough. It doesn't need a fan, is therefore completely silent and small solution.

    Actually, since most people don't care about 3D with glasses, a E-350 is fully sufficient.
    In the future, you would want to have a Brazos-like mobo that supports 4K or higher. Even Llano won't do that.

    And if you want TV record support, simply go for a DVB tv card, recording the mpeg2/4 stream without encoding it. Or go for a Intel 2150 based system (has Quick Sync).

    I am talking about people who bought a fast system a few years ago, now have experience with HTPC and realize it was a bit overkill and they simply want a small mediaplayer.. they dont even care about optical/bluray support anymore.. last time I burned a dvd or whatever is a loong time ago. Unless you have a big collection of blurays, buying a bluray reader/writer is a waste..

    People new to HTPC will think they need a faster system ''just to be safe''.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    zilexa,

    I don't disagree with you over the market research aspect. Please take a look at Anand's personal mini-ITX HTPC build. That is a very good HTPC, and quite budget friendly too.

    The purpose of this piece was to use the Llano for a HTPC, and check out the components which could be chosen around it. (There was even a thread on AVSForum about the Llano being the ideal HTPC processor).

    1080p60 : Unfortunately, I disagree with you over this. If this is not supported in a platform, then there is not much future proofing. Also, with advent of sports cameras (most of which are used at 720p60 instead of 1080p30 because frame rate really matters here), 1080p60 is bound to become popular very soon.

    Brazos E-450 is quite disappointing. Please check out our Zotac ZBox NanoXS review. Failure to deinterlace even SD content is a definite no-no for any HTPC which is not entry level or fixed function.

    3D - Agree with you here. We are not big fans of that tech here at AnandTech. (Note that we didn't talk about 3D at all even in our Ivy Bridge HTPC a month or so back or the Llano HTPC review last year)

    TV record support : Different people like different solutions, and as I stated earlier, suggesting an Intel system was out of scope for this piece, since the basic premise was that the end user had already decided upon using a Llano APU.

    Optical disk drives : Agree with you here. Not a big fan of playing DVDs or Blu-rays right off the disc. Still strongly suggest at least 1 PC in the house with a Blu-ray drive for ripping your discs and enjoying it on your own terms by streaming a copy off a NAS or storage server.

    faster system "just to be safe" : Unfortunately, don't agree with you here. I will never ever recommend an Atom based system (or Brazos / Zacate, for that matter) because sometimes even things like Flash start crawling. At the minimum, your configuration should be able to do software decode of all types of media files you are interested in without dropping frames. That said, no point going in for a i7-3770K when a SNB i3 would do..
    Reply
  • zilexa - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    And also, what I am missing here: recommendations to choose your (low voltage) RAM modules carefully. Some have high heatsinks, won't fit in smaller cases. Also, if CPU is maxed (for instance when you boot up or do live tv recordings with on the fly encoding), CPU will get hot and with 100w TDP you will definitely hear the cooler (I believe even with 45w). rather go for Brazos with no or passive cooling, mount a 6 or 8db 80mm fan in your case for airflow and buy a usb/seperate encoder in that case.

    Also missing: advice people to buy low RPM storage, absolutely no need to have a 500GB or 3TB 7200rpm harddisk if you use it for storage. It takes longer to spin up (will be idle a lot, at least in my case I dont want a spinning harddrive all the time) uses more power and makes a little bit more noise. And for what? You have no need for 7200rpm drive for HTPC. Should be 5400rpm.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Good advice on the separate encoder, but again, I won't recommend Zacate / Brazos / Atom, because I have personally seen almost all who go in without understanding the limitations end up getting very disappointed.

    As for low RPM vs. high RPM storage, at densities of 1TB platters in 3.5" drives, it looks like not much difference in power (more like 40 cents a year apparently) :

    http://storageeffect.media.seagate.com/2011/11/sto...
    Reply
  • unmesh - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Maybe I missed this but which of these solutions if any offer the ability to wake the HTPC from sleep with an infrared MCE remote control?

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    I am not sure about other vendors, but the first motherboard mentioned (from ASRock) supports what you want:

    A75M-ITX : This has a CIR header.

    http://www.asrock.com/mb/spec/card.asp?Model=Smart...

    With the SmartRemote, it can wake up even from S5 state (So, S3 shouldn't be an issue).

    I haven't taken the trouble to investigate this aspect for the rest of the motherboards.
    Reply
  • somedude1234 - Thursday, June 07, 2012 - link

    I can't say enough good things about CIR. I'm using it with the Intel Media Series motherboards (DH67CF in my case) and it works perfectly.

    With a fast SSD for the OS (Win7 ultimate) I can press the power button on the remote from S5 and be navigating the XBMC UI within 10 seconds (faster than my PS3, faster than my DTV receiver).

    CIR rocks and I hope it gains additional traction.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Particularly as I am just about to build an HTPC for myself

    You missed one critical part of the case - it also has to look in keeping with the rest of your AV kit. I have gone high end with an Hdplex case which is fanless, Streacom do a nice selection of cases as well.

    As for a PSU, Pico-PSU is fine as long as you do not mind an external power brick.

    In terms of what to use the HTPC for like Ganesh I store my media on a NAS but the HTPC does need to be pretty good at ripping blu rays down to the NAS. There is no point if that takes all night.

    For playback the crucial thing is that the IGP must support the correct FPS. If I remember correctly AMD have been capable of that for a while but Intel could not until HD4000.

    For my HTPC I will be going for a i7-3770T: overkill I know but not all motherboards fit in a Hdplex 3.
    Reply
  • Kaggy - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    I'm more towards an ARM based HTPC nowadays.
    Since it is smaller, lower power consumption and cheaper.

    The only problem i have now is sharing my drobo which i couldn't confirm if i can access with ARM processors.

    Still waiting for A10(the arm one) processors to get fedora or some proper linux build so i can test it out.
    Reply
  • UrQuan3 - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    Every time HTPC comes up, I wish I could see a review of audio quality. I have had varying luck with digital outputs since drivers often mess with the sound before sending it out. The analog output of motherboards have been a wide range of quality as well. Some are fine, some are really bad. No one seems to check anymore. A quick listen for cross-talk would have saved me a bunch of grief in the Nehalem/Phenom II time period.

    Of course, I am in an odd situation compared to most readers. I found a few years back that the DA converter in a $100 sound card was better than the DA converter in my $250 receiver.

    There hasn't been a on-board or soundcard review in years, but the last time Anandtech tried to do one, the readers were furious. I never understood why.
    Reply

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