AMD Trinity: A10-5800K & A8-5600K 2nd Gen APUs

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Compared to Llano, or more specifically, the A8-3850, the high-end Trinity offerings deliver a boost in performance but more on the CPU side of the equation. The A8-5600K and A10-5800K were about 10% and 15% faster respectively in our CPU tests, lifting them up to the level of the Phenom II X4 955 and 965. In a typical usage scenario, the 5600K also had a modest edge in power consumption of about 6% over the A8-3850 while the 5800K was slightly worse, though if you factor in its overall performance, the newer APU comes out ahead per Watt.

The 5800K's 7660D and 5600K's 7560D graphics chips are also a bit faster than the A8-3850's 6550D, which makes them far more capable than any of the integrated graphics in Intel CPUs. They're capable of running most games smoothly, albeit with less than full eye candy and at lower than 1080p, but they're budget solutions comparable to sub-US$50 discrete graphics cards. If you're on a strict budget and desire a general purpose PC with some gaming capability, Trinity is definitely the way to go rather than similarly priced dual core Intel machines with their much weaker integrated HD graphics. It's also a splendid choice for a home theater PC, though the quad core models are overkill unless video encoding/transcoding is on the menu; the cheaper dual core A4 and A6 should suffice for most. We hope to examine the 65W TDP chips in the near future, as they are more apropos for HTPC applications.

If you prefer to use discrete graphics, Trinity presents a bit of a quandary. For these users, purchasing an APU that allocates half of its hardware to graphics may be a bit of a waste unless you're thinking of running a Dual Graphics configuration with an HD 6570/6670. That leaves the Athlon X4 750K and 740 as your best value for money, but neither offers the speed of the flagship 5800K; the 750K's unlocked multiplier can help make up for the lower clock speeds through overclocking though. Still, the processing power of the Piledriver CPU core is pretty competitive with Phenom II X4 discrete chips, so a graduated upgrade path with the unlocked 5800K and 5600K to a mid-range or higher-end graphics card is not an unreasonable plan for Trinity buyers with gaming interests. (KitGuru explored this idea seriously in their examination of an A10-5800K system with an AMD HD7970 discrete graphics card and reached positive conclusions.)

One question is whether FM2 will offer much in the way of upgrades down the line. For DIYers, you'll most likely pop in a CPU/APU and never take it out again and only change peripherals through the rest of its lifetime, essentially making it a one-and-done system. Enthusiasts are often wary of investing in platforms that don't have a long shelf life. It doesn't sound like a PC many enthusiasts would build for themselves but rather for a friend or family member with general needs and a smaller budget. In any case, competitive pricing of both the APUs and motherboards will definitely be a factor in how much penetration Trinity achieves among DIYers.

For the value and office market, Trinity's much improved efficiency at idle and low power modes combined with its improved overall performance makes it competitive with Intel offerings. It's not hard to imagine lots of Trinity-based value PCs being released by smaller system integrators, and by AMD's big brand partners in the very near future. Let's face it, we all know that the big numbers for PCs is in the value market well under $1,000. For DIYers, it works well for HTPC and as a general purpose PC for less serious gamers. Trinity is a significant evolutionary improvement on the Llano platform, and launch pricing is definitely more attractive than FM1. AMD has raised the bar a rung or two for what can be expected from an APU.

Our thanks to AMD and ASUS for the A10-5800K, A8-5600K, and F2A85-M Pro samples used in this review.

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