Single page Print

A new platform: Socket FM2
The changes to Trinity are sweeping enough that they require a new CPU socket. Thus, Llano's Socket FM1 gives way to the new Socket FM2.

Physically, Socket FM2 looks very similar to multiple generations of desktop sockets from AMD, but the pin layout is different to prevent the insertion of an incompatible processor by all but the most determined.

Block diagram of the platform. Source: AMD.

The basic platform layout is depicted in the diagram to the right. Trinity requires only a single support chip for I/O, but AMD offers several variants of that product. The entry level version is the A55, which has enough features for a basic PC. The A75 enables a few extras, including USB 3.0 support, six SATA 6Gbps ports, and some overclocking features. Top o' the line is the A85X, with eight SATA 6Gbps ports, even more overclocking options, and support for dual discrete GPUs in CrossFire configurations. Having a trio of chipsets for a CPU lineup that spans the rather limited gamut from $53 to $122 seems like overkill to us. AMD must have been planning for better days.

Perhaps those days will come eventually. AMD expects Socket FM2 to stick around for a while, at least long enough to support the generation of APUs after Trinity. Presumably, that means the APU code-named "Kaveri," which should have 2-4 Steamroller cores and Radeon graphics based on the current GCN architecture.

Motherboard makers have introduced a robust slate of Socket FM2-compatible offerings to play host to Trinity, including MSI's snappily named FM2-A85XA-G65 mobo pictured above, which served in our testbed. This is a relatively high-end board, with dual PCIe slots for CrossFire and a gaggle of SATA ports. Around back, it serves up four display outputs, with everything from VGA to DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort.

The competition

Pictured above is the Core i3-3225, a dual-core, quad-threaded Ivy Bridge chip clocked at 3.3GHz with a 3MB L3 cache. The "5" at the end of the model number means something important, believe it or not: this chip has Intel's full-fat HD 4000 graphics implementation, not a cut-down variant. The list price for the i3-3225 is $134, making it arguably the A10-5800K's closest competitor. As a low-end part, the i3-3225 is missing certain amenities like Turbo Boost and, somewhat freakishly, support for the AES-NI instructions that accelerate encryption. (Intel's product segmentation is way, way too complicated.)

The one place where this Core i3 and the A10-5800K diverge most obviously is on power: the Core i3-3225 has a TDP, or max power rating, of just 55W. The 5800K's power envelope is nearly twice the size at 100W, which gives it more headroom to push on both CPU and graphics performance.

We also have some competition lined up for the A8-5600K in the form of the Pentium G2120. The G2120 lists for only $86, so it's a bit cheaper than the A6-5600K, but we think it's the closest competitor in Intel's lineup. The Pentium G2120 is also a seriously gimpy chip. Although it's based on 22-nm Ivy Bridge silicon and has two cores running at 3.1GHz, the G2120 lacks support for a whole lexicon of marketing names and acronyms, including AVX, Turbo, Hyper-Threading, AES-NI, HD 4000 graphics, and QuickSync. Sometimes, it simply refuses to do math, until you ask again nicely. Even so, the G2120 fits into the same 55W power envelope as the Core i3-3225, so it has a huge handicap versus the 100W A8-5600K.

We'll see how the new Trinity-based APUs compare to these chips and a huge host of others on the following pages, in what has to be the most data-rich review we've ever produced. Apologies in advance for the overload.