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AMD provided us with an A8-3850 CPU and an ASRock A75Pro4 ATX motherboard for the review. Purists might balk at the idea of a 100W TDP processor being used in tests intended to test the HTPC capabilities. However, we have to make do with whatever sample was sent to us. A look at the Lynx lineup indicates that the same product with a 2.6 GHz core clock (A8-3800) has a 65W TDP. I intended to underclock the CPU to 2.6 GHz. However, Llano clock adjustments are a minefield, as Ian points out in his ASRock Extreme6 review. The idle power usage in my testbed was good enough (as we shall see in a later section). My time was better spent debugging the HTPC related issues, and therefore, I didn't take the trouble to underclock.

As soon as I finished setting up the testbed, I found that Blu-rays would play correctly, but local file playback had a host of issues. Noise reduction and cadence detection wouldn't get activated for local files with ESVP on. Turning it off resulted in dropped frames and high load on the GPU. It was turning out to be very similar to the DDR3 based MSI 6450 we had reviewed earlier.

Being a new platform, BIOS updates for the ASRock A75 Pro4 were flying thick and fast. To confound the issue, different BIOS versions had different behaviors with the default UEFI settings. With some BIOS versions, even Blu-ray playback had the same issues as local files.

After going back and forth with AMD about the local file playback issue, we discovered that the BR softwares use a proprietary API for video playback from discs with DRM. For local file playback, most players use the DXVA API. These are different code paths and may result in different GPU utilization numbers.

Couple of days back, AMD finally discovered that the BIOS was forcing the shared GPU memory to an absurdly low value. The GFX memory settings forced by the user in the BIOS were also not honored. There was an update to the BIOS to fix this and set the default GFX memory to 512 MB. After this, both Blu-ray and local file playback improved enough for us to be able to get down to exhaustive testing. AMD did acknowledge that there exists an issue with local file playback having higher than normal GPU utilization, but that hasn't been resolved as yet.

The table below lists the components in our Llano HTPC testbed.

AMD Llano HTPC Testbed Setup
Processor AMD A8-3850 - 2.90GHz, 4MB Cache (1MB/core)
Motherboard ASRock A75Pro4 ATX
OS Drive OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) F3-10666CL7D-4GBRH CAS 7-7-7-21
Video Cards None / Sapphire DDR3 6570 (for Crossfire)
Optical Drives ASUS 8X Blu-ray Drive Model BC-08B1ST
Case Antec Skeleton ATX Open Air Case
Power Supply Antec VP-450 450W ATX
Operating System Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Display / AVR Acer H243H / Onkyo TX-SR 606 + Toshiba Regza 37RV530U
.

The most important part of the testbed from a reviewer's perspective was the open air case from Antec. I had used the Antec VERIS Fusion MAX for the NAS / Fall 2010 HTPC testbed. The case was a HTPC beauty, and kept my lab neat and orderly (instead of having components all over the table and the floor). However, the fact that I had to open the case to swap PCI-E cards in and out made it slightly impractical.

The Antec Skeleton is a full ATX open air enclosure, and what really sealed the deal for me was the fact that the motherboard was easily accessible, and upto 4 SATA drives could be mounted on the side. It also has support for upto three 11" PCI-E cards. There are Quick Relase 5.25" and 3.5" bays, but I chose to mount only one optical drive in the 5.25" bay, leaving the rest open to route the cables. The four externally mounted 3.5" bays can also be used to mount 2.5" drives, as I did with the OCZ Vertex 2 SSD in the gallery below.

I keep moving my testbeds back and forth between the home theater setup with the bitstreaming / 24 Hz capable gear and the test lab upstairs with the ordinary monitors (so as to not disturb my family's usage of the HT gear). In the Antec Skeleton case, the grips on the top railing (on either side of the top fan) can be used as handles. This makes it very easy to carry around.

The fancy LED lights on top around the huge fan make it look very attractive and it is sure to turn heads.
The last thing was from an OC / gaming enthusiast viewpoint and not really from a reviewer's perspective!

Let us now proceed to the actual HTPC benchmarking of the Llano.

 

Lynx: Llano for HTPCs HQV 2.0 Benchmarking
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  • duploxxx - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    You mention that 6550D is a good first step to counter the intel GPU HTPC market, I would turn it around.... provide any reason why there would be a need for any Intel HTPC without additional graphics with Liano released?

    Liano Display Quality and performance HTPC wise is better
    Liano total cost is lower, at least when you take the right board for it. (not like the asrock extreme review bold compare max vs low)
    Liano can actually play a game, can't on the Intel parts for any decent level and quality
    Liano will consume less power on idle, htpc use
    the boards have standard better features.

    anything left? oh yes unfortunate... its not an Intel branded logo...
    Quicksync is a marketing part just like the amd smooth
    Reply
  • L. - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Clearly, the opinion in the last AT reviews about the Liano is biased, and it's a pity.
    Good thing AT is not the only website that reviewed it, shows just how much of a threat this is for Intel.

    Fact of the matter is you can build your HTPC with just a Liano for cheaper, it does better and consumes less.

    Yes Liano is not half as good as it should be, but that's still much better than the Intel alternative, no matter how much you attempt to downplay the GPU part of this APU.

    Either way, platform costs will always make AMD a better option, the cheapest P67 mobo is around 100 euros, the first Liano mobos are 100 bucks, with a good price drop coming as usual.
    Reply
  • cacca - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    I second your analysis, here is getting ridiculous.

    They even split the review to not close their analysis saying that as a generalist solution llano is the best for buck for medium/low market.
    Reply
  • prdola0 - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Sorry but this back-patting squad seems like the AMD PR department on a posting spree.

    If AMD wanted to make waves, they shouldn't come with a half-done product. For gaming, the best Llano APU is barely able to play some new games at minimum details. Great. But that is only the top product. All the other Llanos are just going to be worse. Did you miss that?

    For the $30-$40 you can save on the expensive memory needed for Llano to get a half-decent gaming result, you could just invest into a low-end discrete GPU (AMD or NVIDIA, i don't care) and Intel i3-2100 and you get a more powerful CPU, better graphics power- and quality-wise and the ability to actually upgrade the GPU and CPU parts independently, should such a need arise.

    Please AMD PR, stop throwing your paid posters at every review that is just and fair - even if unfavourable to your product. Thanks.
    Reply
  • cacca - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    i think you have a reading comprehension problem.

    Llano is for medium/low market and if you go around you will see that it can run at medium settings with dX11 a lot of games and even some of the new.

    HD3000 can't run DX11 and not even at medium setting. That the reasono for the other review using not even AntiAliasing and/or super crappy quality/resolutions

    Is not problem of PR marketing or not.

    If i want a high market PC i would go intel 2500k/2600K overclock it and buy a 6950 mod to 6970 and overclock. Because INTEL has the best top processor.

    But at medium/low market for the same money Llano just puts a big torn in the ass to i3 and other half assed intel GPU. Are really 2 different worlds.

    If Intel halves the prices for motherboards and i3s they would get back the crown as system but not as single jack of all trades chip.
    Reply
  • prdola0 - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    It is really a simple, elementary school type, equation. You save some money when you buy a i3-2100 instead of A8. You save some money by going for just DDR3-1333, which is enough for the i3, instead of DDR3-1600 or even DDR3-1866, that are needed in order to get decent performance. Buy a low end GPU with that saved money, and you get better CPU power, better HTPC video quality, possibly better gaming framerates and the ability to upgrade the parts separately.

    It can't be simpler. You may even buy an Athlon II X4 instead of the APU for pretty much the same effect with more money to spend on the GPU. I don't care about the brands.

    Llano is only half-done and your AMD PR relation is too obvious. The rhetoric is too similar on most of the review sites. And most of the sites stated that Llano is far from expectations (on the desktop side, mobile is decent).
    Reply
  • silverblue - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Here's what I expected:

    1) Llano's GPU would be bandwidth constrained and faster RAM would help ease these issues.
    2) Llano's GPU would approach DDR3 HD 5570 performance. It may not surpass it, but we're talking relatively close.

    In terms of its gaming performance, Llano has turned out pretty much as I expected. I can't be the only one to have this opinion.
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    I suggest you read again what you posted....

    HTPC Quality is better on Liano vs

    Mobo Price is lower for liano when you compare the same type of mobo, not the cheapest intel and the most expensive AMD like anandtech did. SO total price is already lower from the start not to mention the additional gpu cost and power consumption.

    you don't need 1866, 1600 has shown to be more then adequate and actually you can just use 1333 for HTPC only. Price of 1333-1600 is equal btw...

    Features are better on AMD chipsets

    Liano is able to play at least games on the same CPU, Intel not

    you can always add a gpu on liano, even a cheaper one in cf will do better.
    Performance idle and playback is lower then Intel
    Reply
  • cyrusfox - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Agreed, Super BIAS!

    Ganesh that whole bit about Intel getting the GPU on die quicker than AMD didn't mean anything for Intel as the GPU was very very weak. Even now on SB its still at the bottom of the discrete pile. Its also why Brazos is creaming atom and the only reason the ion market ever took off.

    Llano/Lynx is a great value proposition, you get AMD's superior GPU drivers and a bumped up Phenom ii performanc. With the A75 Chipset you also are getting usb3, when is Intel going to make that standard, 2012? Sure Intel has the fastest CPU's on the market, even in this price range. AMD 32nm is on the market! Can you imagine the impact fusion will have especially when it is this cheap.
    Reply
  • mino - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Just FYI, Clarkdale did NOT have a GPU on-die.

    It was a MCM - essentially a northbridge & CPU put on the same package.
    Reply

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