A few days ago we started getting acquainted with the AMD Trinity processors that have finally come into desktops. The first review we posted on our web-site talked exclusively about the graphics components of these promising products. By posting the first review before the official launch date, we agreed to certain conditions: we had to carefully avoid any mention of the traditional processor performance. The manufacturer’s logic behind this approach to the product launch was quite transparent. Every product has its strengths and its weaknesses, and the company obviously wanted to take advantage of the strengths of their new product, which we did our best to cover in our first article. Compare with the previous generation Llano APU, the graphics core in the new Trinity processors has become about 30% faster, which allowed the newcomers not only to knock down the newest integrated competitor offerings in 3D performance tests, but also to question the need for the discrete graphics accelerators in the sub-$60-$70 price range.
However, AMD can’t delay revealing the rest of the features of their new products indefinitely. And today, on the official launch day of the first group of desktop AMD Trinity processors, we are ready to discuss their other aspects, such as specifics of the new Socket FM2 platform, performance of the x86 cores and overclocking potential.
Closer Look at Socket FM2 Platform
The first problem resulting from the introduction of AMD Trinity processors into the desktop segment is the appearance of another new platform – Socket FM2 (codenamed Virgo). As a result, the number of currently active AMD sockets has surpassed Intel, which has traditionally been criticized for lack of unification. Of course, AMD claims that now they have a very clear and understandable product structure. And this is partially true: enthusiasts using high-performance discrete graphics accelerators get the Socket AM3+ platform and FM-series processors, mainstream solutions (in AMD’s vision) are represented by new Socket FM2 and A-series processors, while compact systems should use mainboards with integrated E-series processors.
However, the same ranking has already existed before, and the launch of Socket FM2 didn’t really add any new order to the AMD processor line-up. On the contrary, since Socket FM1 and Socket FM2 processors are incompatible neither on electrical nor on the mechanical level, and the products for both these sockets are sold within the same series, this could actually cause a lot of confusion. At the same time, it is absolutely unclear why they needed to replace Socket FM1 with Socket FM2 at all. Socket AM3+ has proven that AMD processors with different microarchitecture can clearly remain compatible with the same platform, and the introduction of Trinity didn’t really add any principally new functionality that would require additional pins for whatever reason. They have the same number of memory channels and PCI Express lanes, as well as the same bus connecting the APU with the chipset. Moreover, both processor sockets, the new and the old one, look very similar and have almost the same number of pins: 905 and 904.
Of course, the old chipsets from Socket FM1 platforms could also be used with Trinity generation of processors. Therefore, a lot of inexpensive Socket FM2 mainboards will be built around the well-familiar AMD A75 or AMD A55 chipsets. Of course, with the launch of their new processors, AMD also released a new A85X Fusion Controller Hub, but in reality it is just another variation of the same thing.
The differences are truly minimal. Unlike previous chipsets, which came out with the Socket FM1, AMD A85X chipset offers two more SATA 6 Gbps ports (offering the total of eight ports now), supports RAID 5 and CrossFireX technology. Actually, the value of these innovations is quite doubtful, to put it mildly, particularly because we are talking about an inexpensive APU platform, which is primarily intended to use graphics core integrated into the processor.
In order to somehow make up for the loss of compatibility between Socket FM1 and Socket FM2, AMD assured us that they would not change the platform during the next change of APU generations.