AMD A8-3850 Quad Core Desktop APU (updated July 10)

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Chipset & Motherboard

AMD has two chipsets, the flagship A75 offering essentially the same functionality of what's currently available for AM3, along with native USB 3.0 support, a first for a desktop chipset. The lower-end A55 chipset lacks USB 3.0, SATA 6 Gb/s, and FIS port multiplication switching, but both chipsets support SecureDigital and Consumer IR.

A75/A55 chipset block diagram.

Our test motherboard is the Gigabyte A75M-UD2H, a feature-rich microATX model with SATA 6 Gb/s, eSATA, USB 3.0, FireWire and all the standard video connectors: DisplayPort, HDMI, dual-link DVI, and D-Sub. It retails for about US$110.

The box.

The board.

While this is a new platform, the board doesn't look any different from an AM3 board aside from the slimmed-down heatsink retention bracket. Heatsink mounting remains the same, though, so AM3 supported coolers are compatible with FM1 as well. The board ships with what Gigabyte calls a "Hybrid EFI" BIOS that is basically a standard BIOS that through some technical magic, supports EFI, allowing the board to boot from hard drives larger than 2TB.

The BIOS has the standard features you would expect from a mainstream Gigabyte AMD motherboard: A variety of adjustable voltages, GPU overclocking up to 2000 MHz, CPU frequency up to 500 MHz (100 MHz is the base frequency for Llano APUs), and multiplier adjustment up to 47x, though this was a dummy setting for anything over the 29x default of our A8-3850 sample; the first crop of Lynx APUs are multiplier locked. The A75M-UD2H has a simple 4+1 power phase system so it's not exactly built for heavy overclocking.

APU in socket.

The socket design remains very similar, though FM1 chips have 905 pins compared to AM3's 941.

When considering the cost of a system, the CPU/APU is only part of the equation as the price of motherboards varies greatly from platform to platform. In the chart above we added the price of the chips we're comparing today to the price of compatible motherboards from Newegg. We considered the prices (after any applicable rebates) of all Intel/Asus/Gigabyte/MSI DDR3 microATX and ATX models that had at least three basic features: USB 3.0, SATA 6 Gbps, and gigabit ethernet, and used both the lowest and average cost. For the Core i3-2100 we omitted the P67 chipset boards as they are unsuitable/unlikely choices for i3 users.

The prices turned out to be US$80/$166 for LGA1155, US$78/$118 for AM3, and US$100/$117 for FM1.

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