Over the past several months we did quite a bit of work and published reviews of almost two dozen LGA 1155 mainboards. Of course, our interest in these products is quite logical, because it is the newest and most current, interesting and universal platform, which allows building all types of systems, starting with entry level and finishing with the high-end ones. We will most likely continue reviewing LGA 1155 mainboards, because it will be a while until Intel launches their new platform. Now we got the opportunity to take a closer look at some alternative products offered by AMD. I didn’t use the term “competitor products” deliberately, because even though there is competition between AMD and Intel processors, it only applies to the entry-level and low-end mainstream price segments, while the high-end price segment is fully dominated by Intel. This isn’t good. The today’s desktop market is under a lot of pressure from the growing more popular mobile devices, tablets and smartphones. However, the relatively slow-pace development of the desktop systems can also partially be explained by the fact that AMD has failed to roll out any worthy competition to Intel Core processors since 2006. While there is practically no competition, Intel has no stimulus to move forward fast, which has a slowing-down effect on the overall evolution of the desktops.
Last fall AMD announced new Socket AM3+ processors from Vishera family. We have already discussed them in great detail in our review of the flagship AMD FX-8350 processor and then in the overview of the entire new processor family. Of course, the improvements are obvious compared with the first Bulldozer processors, but they still remain slow and energy-inefficient compared with the Intel processors that is why we decided not to proceed with a series of Socket AM3+ mainboard reviews, because AMD didn’t have much to boast in that segment and their positions were pretty weak. Instead, we decided to move on to the new FM2 platform, where the company does have a few trumps up the sleeve, so there is a bigger chance for success. Unlike the processor segment, where direct comparison against Intel turns out pretty sad for AMD, the acquisition of the ATI did allow AMD to become a powerful player in the graphics segment and successfully compete against Nvidia there. It is quite logical that they decided to use this to their advantage and introduced a new processor category – APU (Accelerated Processing Unit). While tablets are just a completely new kind of devices altogether, it may be tricky to distinguish between an ultrabook and a notebook, and the difference between the new APU and a CPI with the integrated graphics core may also be not that obvious. However, it is there and implies that graphics cores are not only responsible for displaying the image on the screen, but may also help processors to solve computing tasks.
The idea of joining forces of computing and graphics cores seems very promising, but doesn’t work that well, because its successful implementation depends on the proper software support, which is not quite there yet. However, the FM2 processors turned out pretty interesting and got a lot of positive responses from reviewers. The new Trinity processor family is based on the same Piledriver microarchitecture as the desktop Vishera processors with the physical AMD Radeon from Northern Islands family added to it. The only downside is that the production process for the components is still the same 32 nm one that is why Trinity processors had to give up the L3 cache in order to fit the graphics cores, which take almost half of the processor die. However, the integrated Devastator graphics core turned out pretty powerful for contemporary 3D games. So, once we got our hands on the top A10-5800K processor in the family, we decided to check out a few Socket FM2 mainboards based on the new AMD A85X chipset in order to form our own opinion about the new mainboards, processors and the platform as a whole. We would like to begin this series of reviews with Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-UP4.