Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H Review and Llano Overclocking

New AMD Socket FM1 (Lynx) platform for Llano processors looks very appealing for those who prefer integrated systems, and broad overclocking-friendliness make it even more interesting. Let’s see what AMD A8-3850 is capable of when paired with a pretty advanced Gigabyte GA-A75-ED4H mainboard.

by Ilya Gavrichenkov
08/19/2011 | 10:36 AM

The belief that the recently announced AMD A-series (Llano) processors caused a serious commotion among computer enthusiasts is actually not true, to put it mildly. At this time Llano is looking good for mobile systems, while in the desktop segment there isn’t much they can offer. The major advantage of the new processor is its hybridity: this APU combined processor cores with a high-performance graphics core supporting OpenCL software interface. Theoretically, it should allow creating super-efficient applications, which will work on Llano way faster than on ordinary processors by utilizing combined capacities of the CPU and GPU. But at this point applications like that are not a reality yet.

 

So, Llano is making its way into desktops at a very uneager pace. In terms of pure processor performance, A-series products lose even to the good old Athlon II and Phenom II solutions. As for their graphics core, which is indeed much more advanced than any other integrated solutions, is only comparable in performance with 50-dollar contemporary graphics accelerators. As a result, the suitable application field for Llano based systems is in fact pretty narrow. This AMD platform is too expensive for office systems and entry-level home PCs, but at the same time is too slow for fully-fledged multi-functional desktops.

Nevertheless, the new Hybrid AMD processors can find a place in contemporary desktops. First, they are very well fit for media centers. Due to the integrated UVD3 unit and four computational cores Llano copes well with playback and initial processing of high-definition video content, including 3D. Our tests showed that if you do not use the maximum image quality settings, then the integrated graphics core is powerful enough to deliver acceptable performance in 1680x1050 in many popular games.

But computer enthusiasts have another reason to be interested in Llano. Even though this processor doesn’t boast sufficient computational and graphics performance, but it may be additionally overclocked. These APUs are manufactured with the latest 32 nm process, which means overclocking them may produce a substantial performance gain. So, Llano most likely will after all become a pretty appealing mainstream solution in skillful overclockers’ hands.

The mainboard makers also confirm the probability of such scenario. Over a pretty short period of time there appeared a lot of special overclocker mainboards for Socket FM1. And it is clear evidence that overclocking Llano makes sense, and a good step towards uncovering all of Llano’s hidden potential would be buying a full-size mainboard with an enhanced voltage regulator circuitry and extensive options for voltages and frequencies adjustment.

To get a good idea of what an overclocked Llano based system could be capable of, we decided to review one of the latest Socket FM1 mainboards for computer enthusiasts. It is Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H, which we have already worked with during the tests of the top Llano processor – AMD A8-3850.

Package and Accessories

It is pretty hard to find anything new about the packaging and accessories that come with the Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H mainboard. Gigabyte offers us a typical bundle in a traditional packaging. The box is white and is generously decorated with numerous colorful logotypes. There is a small photograph of the mainboard on the back and a detailed description of all features that make this product truly unique.

 

Inside the box you find (besides the mainboard):

PCB Design and Functionality

After the first encounter with Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H mainboard we got a solid impression that Gigabyte has two independent engineering teams: the first one works on Intel products, while the second one deals with mainboards for AMD platform. Moreover, the “AMD team” is only secluded in some geographically remote location, but even speaks a completely different language. This is why Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H designers seemed to have no idea about new mainboard design trends, such as stylish black textolite and same-color slots. This is the only explanation we have for the fact that GA-A75-UD4H doesn’t look anything like mainboards for enthusiasts in the Intel segment, which have been available in the market for the past 6 months. While Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H is a completely new product, it looks like a solution from 2009-2010 model line-up.

However, this is just the first impression. In reality, GA-A75-UD4H is a quality contemporary mainboard from the company’s signature Ultra Durable 3 series, i.e. it is uses super-reliable high-quality electronic components and a doubled-layer copper PCB.

I can’t complain about the features either. Overall, considering the peculiarities of the AMD A75 chipset, the features set is quite typical. Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H equipped with a Socket FM1 is compatible with all A-series processors. Besides, the mainboard supports integrated Llano graphics as well as external graphics accelerators, which can be installed into the two PCI Express x16 slots. These slots share 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes that is why they will switch to x8 mode if two graphics cards are installed. As for multi-GPU configurations, the board supports traditional CrossFireX as well as AMD Dual Graphics technology, which allows using integrated processor graphics together with an external GPU.

The PCI Express x16 graphics bus controller in Llano based systems is located inside the CPU. Therefore, there is no need t use high-speed HyperTransport bus to set up the connection between the processor and the chipset. Lynx platforms use a special UMI (Unified Media Interface) for that matter, which is similar to PCI Express x4. In fact, AMD A75 chip is a South Bridge, which delivers most of the functions and features of the mainboard in question.

Among these features we should mention support for additional PCI Express x1 and PCI slots, five SATA 6 Gbps ports, four USB 3.0 ports and a set of USB 2.0 ports. In addition to that Gigabyte engineers doubled the number of USB 3.0 ports by putting a pair of Etron controllers, implemented two IEEE1394 ports with a VIA VT6308 controller and integrated a Realtek RTL8111E Gigabit network controller.

As a result, GA-A75-UD4H mainboard is even more advanced than many of the Z68 based boards in terms of expansion and connectivity capabilities. Just look how loaded the back panel is:

Here you can find the following ports and connectors:

At the same time, there are a few free onboard pin-connectors that can be transformed into additional ports: eight USB 2.0, four USB 3.0 and one serial port.

I have to say that all USB ports on Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H are designed to support much higher current than declared by the official specifications. USB 2.0 ports can produce up to 1.5 A, while USB 3.0 ports – up to 2.7 A. this allows charging all sorts of contemporary gadgets really fast using USB ports.

The processor voltage regulator circuitry is composed of 10 phases, two of which are assigned to the graphics core and memory controller. Half of the transistors in this circuit (Gigabyte’s traditional Lower RDS(on) MOSFET) are cooled with a heatsink fastened using push-pins with springs. The other half of transistors do without any additional cooling.

The chipset is topped with a low-profile but very broad heatsink held in place very tightly with retention screws. It warms up moderately and doesn’t require additional cooling. Nevertheless, Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H has four fan connectors, two of which are four-pin ones.

There is enough room around the processor socket to accommodate large processor coolers. The only thing we could be concerned with is probably the fact that memory DIMM slots are located a bit too close to the Socket FM1. As a result, tall memory modules may interfere with some coolers. By the way, note that even though the retention frame around the processor socket has been slightly transformed and now consist of two separate parts, Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H mainboard is still fully compatible with all the existing Socket AM3 coolers.

Overall, the design of Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H is pretty convenient for system assembly and use inside a closed case. However, even though this mainboard is targeted for advanced users and overclockers, it is missing some very handy little things. While it is the top-of-the-line Gigabyte product for Socket FM1 processors, it has no Power On, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons, no contact spots for manual voltage monitoring, no POST-controller, no info-LEDs, etc. It is a real pity. However, omission of all these things allows pricing Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H at a really affordable level.

Let’s sum up all the major features of our today’s hero – Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H:

BIOS Setup

The BIOS of Gigabyte mainboards seems to get more of the ancient feel. The company continues avoiding the graphics UEFI interface and prefers Hybrid EFI that allows retaining traditional archaic text interface and at the same time implementing contemporary functions such as support of HDDs with over 3 TB storage capacity.

Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H is even more behind in this respect. Its BIOS interface takes us back to the far away past, because it is not just text interface, but it doesn’t even have the convenient hierarchal structure of the contemporary Gigabyte mainboards for Intel processors that we are so used to. However, most of the major settings have been moved to the first section called MB Intelligent Tweaker.

Here we have all options for adjustment of processor and memory multipliers, base clock generator frequency and voltages. Here you can also configure memory timings and processor graphics core parameters, which have been placed into individual sub-sections.

Memory parameters could be really fine-tuned, although automatic configuring is only available for all settings at the same time.

For the graphics core you can set the frame-buffer size and frequency. This is an obvious error in the BIOS. The graphics core frequency in Llano processors cannot be increased independently that is why this option doesn’t work and simply confuses inexperienced users by being here.

There are no options here for setting up processor power-saving technologies. All of them have been moved to other upper-level sub-section called Advanced BIOS Features.

Overall, Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H has everything necessary for successful Llano overclocking, although these options are not very convenient to work with. The table below shows supported voltages and their adjustment ranges:

There is only one disapointment: the lack of CPU loadline calibration option.

The base clock generator frequency may be changed with 1 MHz increments, and DDR3 SDRAM frequency may be set using one of the four multipliers: x5.33, x6.66, x8.0 and x9.33.

For your convenience, the mainboard allows saving up to eight settings profiles, and there are an integrated utilities for BIOS updating and viewing the system CPU info.

System monitoring is limited to four voltages, two temperatures and rotation speeds of four system fans. It is not a very detailed report, but all the critical system units are under control.

The rotation speed of the processor and one of the system fans can be adjusted depending on the temperature. However, the BIOS offers only one standard configuration for this dependence. There are no detailed algorithms for fan rotation speed adjustment.

In other words, the same thing we have just concluded about the Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H layout is also true about the BIOS. We have no serious problems with it and it is quite suitable for CPU overclocking. But it doesn’t look like a BIOS developed in 2011. Moreover, the TouchBIOS utility, which should limit your use of the inconvenient interface to the minimum also doesn’t work on Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H.

Llano Overclocking: Theory

Before we start our overclocking experiments with the new Llano processor, we should define clearly what parts of the processor we are going to overclock. It is not a common processor, but a hybrid one, which consists of the computational cores as well as a graphics core working at its own clock frequency. Moreover, Llano has one more part that could in the end affect the overall system performance. This is a memory controller. And one shouldn’t underestimate the importance of its high performance. The memory in Socket FM1 system is shared between the computational cores and integrated graphics that is why the practical bandwidth of the DDR3 SDRAM in this system is of utmost significance.

So, Llano processors have three major frequencies, which have direct effect on performance and which could be overclocked:

All these three frequencies are derived from the same exact formula, when the resulting value equals base clock generator frequency (BCLK) times corresponding multiplier. The nominal BCLK frequency for the Llano based systems is set at 100 MHz.

Each processor model has its own clock frequency multiplier, because they determine the clock frequency. This multiplier may be changed, but only to a lower value. In other words, you can’t overclock Socket FM1 systems by increasing the processor clock frequency multiplier.

Unfortunately, the multiplier for the graphics core frequency cannot be increased either. Each processor series has the same constant multiplier that is why it is impossible to overclock graphics core independently from all the other processor units.

However, the multiplier for the memory frequency gives you some flexibility and freedom. In nominal mode Socket FM1 processors support DDR3-1067, DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600 and DDR3-1867 SDRAM. It means that Llano memory controller offers you a choice of four multipliers for the DDR3 frequency: 10.66x, 13.33x, 16.0x and 18.67x.

Since there is no way to increase the clock frequency multipliers for the computational and graphics core of the Llano CPUs, the only possible overclocking strategy is to increase the BCLK clock. However, you will encounter one very serious problem here. The thing is that BCLK frequency is used not only for the processor and memory, but also for the I/O frequency of the AMD A75 chipset. Therefore, when you increase the BCLK clock, we automatically speed up PCI Express, USB, SATA and either bus controllers. Unfortunately, it may sometimes quickly lead to system instability, which in this case isn’t caused by the CPU or memory.

I believe I don’t have to remind you that the same exact issues killed the clock generator frequency overclocking approach for Sandy bridge processors in LGA1155 systems. Luckily, things are not so hopeless with Socket FM1. Firstly, the maximum threshold for the BCLK frequency is not as close to 100 MHz as it is in LGA1155 systems. Secondly, In Socket FM1 platforms this threshold depends a lot on the peripheral devices, hard disk drives in the first place. So it is quite possible to put together a more overclocking-friendly configuration for Llano processors. And thirdly, once you exceed 133 MHz BCLK frequency, AMD A75 chipset automatically adjusts the multipliers for frequencies of peripheral controllers, which guarantees normal operation of the system.

As a result, when we overclock a Llano based system, we have two BCLK frequency ranges at our disposal: starting at 100 MHz and at 133 MHz. Note that the maximums in both ranges are determined by the specific configurations and in certain situations these intervals may merge into one.

Our practical tests show that in normal conditions maximum BCLK frequency that can be used in Llano systems is 140-150 MHz. In most cases it is enough for overclocking of the A8 series processors. Although AMD has now started using 32 nm process, the highest Llano frequency that can be achieved with reasonable voltage increase and air-cooling is around 3.6 GHz. So, taking into account relatively high nominal multipliers, we can expect BCLK overclocking approach to help us fully uncover the frequency potential of the computational Llano cores even with a default processor clock frequency multiplier. We may only experience a problem if the BCLK frequency we need falls into the “instability interval” before it hits 133 MHz, but it can be resolved by lowering the processor clock multiplier.

However, overclocking approach when we raise the BCLK frequency is not the most optimal one. Llano is not a common processor, but an APU with an integrated graphics core inside. When you increase the BCLK frequency, the graphics core also gets overclocked together with the computational processor cores, but the tricky part is the higher relative frequency potential of the Radeon HD 6550D graphics core in Llano processors compared with their computational cores. While 25% frequency increase is considered normal processor overclocking, the graphics core can work just fine at up to 800-900 MHz, which is 40-50% higher than its nominal 600 MHz frequency. And the only way to utilize this potential is to additionally increase the BCLK frequency, since the GPU multiplier is locked. So, if you simply increase the BCLK speed, it will eventually hit the overclocking maximum for the computational cores. Therefore, Socket FM1 systems will benefit much more from increasing the base clock frequency if you previously lower the processor clock multiplier. As a result, BCLK frequency will be higher and the integrated graphics core will speed up more.

There is one more thing to keep in mind. The memory frequency in Socket FM1 platforms greatly affects the graphics core performance. The integrated Radeon HD 6550D graphics core shares the system memory with the processor cores that is why the memory bus width becomes a bottleneck. This happens in all integrated systems, but in Llano’s case the situation is aggravated because Radeon HD 6550D is a pretty fast graphics accelerator that requires high-speed memory. Llano processors offer a choice of multipliers for memory frequency, but the intervals between them are way too big. Therefore, in most cases it may be better to set the BCLK frequency a little below its maximum, so that you could set higher multiplier for DDR3.

Summing up everything we said in this chapter of our review, we can put together the following Llano overclocking plan that will produce the best result in terms of overall system performance.

  1. Preparation stage. Seriously lower the processor clock multiplier and the memory frequency multiplier. This should allow you to determine the maximum BCLK frequency without any limiting factors.
  2. Increase the CPU Voltage (computational cores) and CPU NB Voltage (graphics core). The extent of this increase may depend on the efficiency of the CPU cooling system, but we wouldn’t recommend hunting for millivolts, as it doesn’t affect llano overclocking success that much. The most optimal increase would be from +0.1 V to +0.15 V for both parameters.
  3. Find the maximum BCLK frequency, at which the system still works. Maximum frequency may depend on the potential of the integrated graphics core, as well as on the peripheral devices connected to the mainboard (primarily those connected via SATA interface, as they are the trickiest ones). Therefore, we recommend to start from the second frequency interval beginning at 133 MHz. This will give us maximum overclocking of the graphics core integrated into the processor.
  4. Once we found the maximum BCLK frequency, we have to determine the maximum processor clock frequency multiplier. As a result, we now have not only an overclocked GPU, but also and overclocked CPU. However, priority should be with graphics, because its frequency has more significance for gaming performance.
  5. We add memory overclocking. Try setting the highest possible multiplier for the DDR3 SDRAM and don’t be afraid to use less aggressive timings for that matter. Keep in mind that higher memory frequency is worth losing a few megahertz of the BCLK speed, as the resulting performance won’t be any worse in this case. But if we have to lower the BCLK, then repeat step 4 one more time.

Testbed Configuration

All tests were performed on the following testbed:

Practice: A8-3850 Overclocking on Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H

Let’s try and apply the above described overclocking strategy to a real system. We will also try to estimate how far we can go in our overclocking attempts using Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H mainboard. In our opinion, maximum overclocking is a mode when the processor and all other system components work at the maximum possible frequencies, but the system remains fully stable. We test system stability using or traditional tools. Processor stability is verified with LinX 0.6.4, and graphics core stability is confirmed in Furmark 1.9.1 and Futuremark 3DMark 11.

I have to stress that 3DMark 11 is an irreplaceable tool during Llano overclocking. It not only allows estimating the practical effect from increasing the processor and graphics core frequencies, but may also be considered an excellent system reliability test. The thing is that even if you confirm stability of the graphics and computational cores separately, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the complete Llano system is going to be stable, too. The best way to perform this final stability check is to run Combined Test from 3DMark11 suite. It simultaneously loads the graphics core as well as the computational cores and the memory controller, and in most cases it crashes the system that has just successfully passed both: LinX and Furmark tests.

Among other utilities that may be helpful during Llano overclocking I should also mention some diagnostic tools. Unfortunately, A-series processors aren’t supported in AMD’s proprietary Overdrive utility for some marketing reasons. So, we will have to resort to third-party tools. For example, there is absolutely no way we could do without CPU-Z, which versions 1.58 and higher report the current frequency of the Socket FM1 processors absolutely correctly.

Things are not rosy with processor temperature monitoring. The existing utilities monitoring CPU temperatures do not work well with Llano. They do have access to the thermal diodes inside the CPU cores, but cannot interpret the readings correctly. Therefore, such programs as Aida64, HWMonitor, CoreTemp, SpeedFan and others do show some processor temperatures, but the readings sometimes look pretty strange and hardly have anything to do with the real processor temps.

Therefore, the best option in this case would be the monitoring utilities offered by the mainboard makers. Gigabyte’s utility is called EasyTune6. Even though programs like this take their temperature readings off the thermal diodes beneath the processor socket, their readings are much closer to reality than what the utilities get from the thermal diodes inside the CPU cores. Another advantage of EasyTune6 is the option for adjusting the BCLK frequency right from the operating system environment and without any system reboot to follow.

So, let’s check out the obtained results now. Our Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H with AMD A8-3850 processor remained fully stable at the maximum BCLK frequency of 141 MHz.

Frankly speaking, we could increase this frequency even more, as the system was still able to pass most of the tests, but it was at this particular frequency that its stopped passing the Combined Test from 3DMark11 suite. Therefore, we decided to play it safe and to stop at this setting. The graphics core in this case worked at 846 MHz.

When we increased the processor core voltage by 0.125 V and the graphics core voltage by 0.1 V, the system remained stable at the maximum CPU clock multiplier of 26x. In other words, the computational cores proved operational at 3.66 GHz frequency.

At this point maximum processor temperature reached 88°C according to under-the-socket diode, but we didn’t have any overheating issues during the stability tests.

As for the memory frequency, at 141 MHz BCLK we could only use x13.33 multiplier, so our modules functioned as DDR3-1879.

However, GeIL EVO PC3-1700 modules used in this test session can work at a much higher speed of 2133 MHz. That is why we also tried a different overclocking approach: by lowering the BCLK frequency to 133 MHz and switching the memory to DDR3-2133 mode with x16.0 multiplier. In this case the graphics core frequency is 800 MHz, and we can use 27x processor clock multiplier setting the processor core frequency to 3.59 GHz.

However, despite all this, the results in 3DMark vantage are just as good: higher memory frequency makes up for lower GPU frequency and lower CPU frequency, too. So, this alternative approach to A8-3850 overclocking also proves absolutely justified.

Performance

Continuing with the Llano overclocking discussion, we investigated how big of a performance gain overclocking of this APU may produce for us. To create a complete picture we compared the performance of AMD A8-3850 working in nominal mode at 2.9 GHz frequency against its performance in three different overclocked modes. The first one was a “straight-forward” mode when we simply increased the BCLK frequency but used the default x29 multiplier. The second mode was “intelligent” mode when the BCLK frequency was increased to its maximum (141 MHz in our case) and the processor clock multiplier was set at x26. And the last one was the “creative approach” mode when the focus was on reaching the maximum memory frequency (DDR3-2133 in our case), which required lowering the BCLK frequency to 133 MHz and increasing the processor multiplier to x27.

Moreover, we ran all tests twice for the configuration with 133 MHz base clock generator frequency: with the memory working at 2133 MHz and with the previous multiplier – as DDR3-1774. Comparing these results will allow us to conclude how efficient memory overclocking is in Socket FM1 systems irrespective of the effect from other components frequencies.

As a result, the diagrams below show 5 columns corresponding to the following operational modes:

To estimate the average system performance we used PCMark 7. It measures the speed of typical real-life algorithms that are very popular in every-day tasks.

The computational SuperPi test is a great way of checking the performance in single-threaded mode. This test calculates 32 million digits of the Pi:

Multi-threaded performance during intensive calculations was checked using wPrime 2.04 test.

To test the performance during data archiving we took a benchmark built into WinRAR 4.0 archiving utility.

Final rendering speed was tested in Cinebench 11.5.

The x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 on the diagram below transcodes a small video clip in two passes and the entire process is then repeated four times. We are providing average results of the second pass.

We measured the performance in Adobe Photoshop using our own benchmark made from Retouch Artists Photoshop Speed Test that has been creatively modified. It includes typical editing of four 10- megapixel images from a digital photo camera.

To check out the performance during HD-video transcoding we measured the time it took to transcode a 10-minute H.264 1080p video clip into an iPhone 4-friendly format in lower resolution. We used a popular commercial utility from Cyberlink called MediaEspresso 6.5, which utilizes computational resources of the graphics core via AMD Stream technology.

Judging by the results of typical processor tests we can conclude that Llano overclocking makes a lot of sense and you shouldn’t neglect it if the opportunity presents itself. 26% increase in the processor frequency from the nominal 2.9 GHz to 3.66 GHz allowed to boost the performance almost proportionally: by 25% on average. At the same time, when you overclock by raising the BCLK frequency and at the same time reducing the processor clock multiplier delivers a guaranteed better result, even though the memory doesn’t work at its maximum speed at 141 MHz BCLK. Overall, memory frequency doesn’t affect the purely processor tests that much at all. The performance difference will be on average 2.5% when you change the DDR3 frequency multiplier by 1 step.

We should have a much more interesting picture in gaming tests, which employ all parts of Llano at the same time: computational cores, graphics core and memory controller. We are going to start discussing the results of our 3D tests with 3DMark11, which in our case worked with Performance profile.

Even the synthetic 3DMark11 shows clearly how important fast memory is for Socket FM1 systems. Just a 360 MHz increase in memory speed results in an almost 6-percent performance boost. Therefore, AMD A8-3850 processor overclocked to 3.59 GHz and working with DDR3-2133 memory is almost 32% faster than AMD A8-3850 in its nominal mode with standard DDR3-1600. Such overclocking when we also increase the BCLK frequency to 133 MHz seems to be the most optimal even though the graphics core works at only 800 MHz. However, the other approach when the BCLK speed is at 141 MHz and the graphics core works at 846 MHz is only 1% slower because DDR3 memory works as DDR3-1879. Of course, we could have achieved maximum results if at 141 MHz BCLK we could get the memory to work with a higher multiplier, but our modules failed to conquer 2256 MHz frequency.

To study the gaming performance we chose Crysis 2, Far Cry 2, Dirt 3, Metro 2033 and Starcraft 2 games. All tests were performed in 1680x1050 resolution with medium image quality settings. The only exception was made for Crysis 2 where we used high quality settings, but lowered the screen resolution to 1280x800.

Fast memory matters even more in games. When we overclock by setting the BCLK frequency to 133 MHz, another 1-step increase in the memory frequency multiplier produces more than 10% fps boost. Therefore, if you are planning a Llano platform to become your entry-level gaming rig, then you should definitely make sure to get the fastest DDR3 SDRAM modules. The combined graphics core and memory overclocking allows to improve A8-3850 performance by up to 32%, which is a great result. If you don’t have fast memory, then raising BCLK frequency to its maximum may give you 25% performance boost, which also good enough. The only overclocking approach that doesn’t really do much is the “straight-forward” one, when you do not lower the processor clock frequency multiplier. In this case increasing the processor clock speed to 3.6 GHz will only give you 11% fps rate increase.

Power Consumption

Besides the performance tests we were also interested in checking out how greatly the power consumption of a typical Socket FM1 platform will increase during overclocking. Of course, even though Llano processors are manufactured with 32 nm process, they can’t compete with Sandy Bridge processors in energy-efficiency. Their typical calculated TDP is either 100 W or 65 W. Mobile models with smaller power appetites work at much lower frequencies. However, the increase in power consumption during system overclocking will allow us to conclude whether Llano processors require high-end cooling to function properly.

The graphs below show the full power draw of the computer (without the monitor) measured after the power supply. It is the total power consumption of all the system components. The PSU's efficiency is not taken into account. The processors are loaded by running the 64-bit LinX 0.6.4 utility. We also used FurMark 1.9.1 to load the graphics cores. We enabled all the power-saving technologies for a correct measurement of the computer's power draw in idle mode.

I have to say that Cool’n’Quiet technology works on Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H even when we manually adjust the processor clock multiplier and increase its core voltage. In idle mode the multiplier was lowered to x8 and the Vcore was dropped.

Well, we don’t need any tests to tell you that Llano is one hot fellow. When the processor frequency increases, it gets to the point that you can’t stay close to the test system, as the heat waves make you feel really uncomfortable.

The numbers indicate exactly the same thing. When we overclock our A8-3850 to 3.6 GHz one way or another, the overall Lynx platform power consumption under load increases by almost 1.5 times, and the entire platform may consume around 180 W. It is actually quite a lot considering that we do not have a discrete graphics card inside the system. Just for the sake of comparison let me tell you that a system built around Intel Core i5-2500K processor overclocked to 4.7 GHz with a discrete Radeon HD 6970 inside consumes just about the same amount of power during high CPU (not GPU) load. So, obviously, an overclocked Llano is not fit for an energy-efficient system at all.

Conclusion

The obtained results show clearly that overclocking Llano processors in Socket FM1 systems is a rewarding thing. As we can see from the experiments with our A8-3850, the processor core frequency may be successfully increased to 3.6 GHz and the graphics core can work at about 850 MHz. Such overclocking boosts the performance by about 25-30% in both: computational tasks as well as gaming applications. This boost allows us to view Lynx platform with a hybrid Llano processor as an entry-level gaming solution, as it provides comfortable gaming experience with acceptable quality settings even in the latest gaming titles. And I have to admit that it sounds fantastic, especially since we are talking about a processor with an integrated graphics core inside.

The actual Llano overclocking procedure is fairly easy and requires increasing the clock generator (BCLK) frequency. It is important to remember that for the best results you have to set BCLK frequency as well as memory frequency to their maximums.

Since Llano is pretty power-hungry and runs quite hot, it would help a lot if you had a high-performance processor cooler. It is also highly recommended to get a quality mainboard that could ensure stability at high BCLK frequencies and at the same time have a powerful voltage regulator circuitry.

According to these criteria, Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H has every chance to become a good Socket FM1 platform for enthusiasts. It has everything this user group usually needs. The voltage regulator is very well made, has 8+2 phase structure and uses only high-quality components. The BIOS has all settings and parameters necessary for successful overclocking. The expansion capabilities are also very promising. The mainboard supports one or two external graphics accelerators. It has a lot of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, and SATA ports support 6 Gbps speed.

Nevertheless, once we’ve take a real close look at Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H, we are left with the feeling that this mainboard is not at the forefront of modern technology in many aspects. And it is not about the exterior appearance, but mostly about the fact that its BIOS, actually, takes us a few years back. Its interface is obsolete and its internal structure is very confusing. However, these issues do not affect the performance and overclocking success, so in a way we can overlook them.

On a much broader scale, however, we have to question whether we really need mainboards like Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H at all. Having designed a full-size high-quality mainboard with a powerful voltage regulator circuitry and a number of additional onboard controllers, Gigabyte got to the point where the final price of a product like that reached as much as $123. In other words, its price is in the range of the top Socket FM1 processor – A8-3850 ($135). So, it turns out that Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H is an expensive mainboard for inexpensive systems. So, why will be the target user group in this case?