ASRock A75 Extreme6 Review and Desktop Llano Overclockingby Ian Cutress on June 30, 2011 12:05 AM EST
If we're comparing Desktop Llano to Sandy Bridge, we essentially have to look at the best Llano package, the A8-3850, against a low end Sandy Bridge, the i3-2100. This makes sense, as Desktop Llano comes to the market as a beefed up mobile processor, whereas a Sandy Bridge second-generation Core series CPU is a scaled down performance product.
If we consider the current and expected prices of motherboard and processor combos, the high end ASRock A75 Extreme6 will cost $150 (so I'm told), and the A8-3850 is expected to retail at $150 also. With the i3-2100, we're looking at a H67 board (most of which are below $100) and the processor will cost $125 (all prices from newegg.com), totalling $225. The question now becomes, is Desktop Llano worth the extra $75?
The chipset features are the best place to start - on A75 there are six native SATA 6 Gbps ports, whereas the H67 will only have two (both motherboards may have more from controllers). Memory speed on the A75 will natively accept DDR3-1866 MHz, whereas the H67 will only allow DDR3-1333 MHz. Both motherboards will accept one GPU at 16x, or on Llano this can be split into two at 8x. You can pick and choose with your network, audio, and USB 3.0 controllers - the exact features and warranty will be determined by which model a consumer ends up buying.
In terms of performance, this board and the A8-3850 were tested in several key areas. Compared to Sandy Bridge, the Desktop Llano single thread performance is abysmal - but this is what was to be expected, given that Desktop Llano is based on a K10 core and performs like a Phenom II X4. In multi-threaded performance, it's a case of whether the full four cores of the A8-3850 can outshine the two cores with hyperthreading we find on the 2100.
The one area Desktop Llano stands out in is the integrated GPU. The A8-3850 has 400 streaming processors, wrapped in a HD 6550D. Technically, we're dealing with a DirectX 11 product. Compared to the Sandy Bridge solution, we're looking at nearly double frame rates for the Llano at the resolutions we've tested. That's a clear tick in the Desktop Llano department.
So, for pure iGPU performance and more SATA 6 Gbps ports, can I personally recommend Desktop Llano over a Sandy Bridge model, for an extra $75? In my non-HTPC oriented mind, only in the integrated GPU arena does it make sense. If you're a GPU developer and don't want to tie up a discrete GPU, then yes, it can make sense, as long as you can access that GPU. If you're a multi-GPU gamer, the odd Crossfire scaling leaves something to be desired, and P67 is just a minor step up over H67 prices. Desktop Llano certainly isn't a low power system - the A8-3850 is rated at 100W, so if you want something to word process, look at emails and play flash games, an AMD Fusion board for $150 will do all that quite easily for all under 60W. If you want to do almost anything else (except play 23.976 fps video), in my opinion, I'd recommend the Sandy Bridge route as it commands that extra CPU grunt.