Building an AMD 'Trinity' desktop PC

Building an AMD 'Trinity' desktop PC

Summary: Now that AMD's new "Trinity" APUs have hit the shelves, let's take a look at what you need to take advantage of these next-generation processors.

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TOPICS: Processors, Hardware, PCs
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Now that AMD has officially released new desktop versions of its A-series APUs (Accelerated Processing Units), let's take a look at what you'd need to take advantage of these new processors.

First, a little background. These processors are the second-generation iteration of AMD's all-in-one CPU and GPU silicon. They follow-on from the first-generation "Llano" APUs, but they offer a solid advantage over the old parts in every respect.

Mobile versions of the "Trinity" APUs debuted back in May, but it has taken some time for AMD to get desktop versions ready for release. Put simply, "Trinity" is AMDs answer to Intel's "Ivy Bridge" processors and contain much of the same functionality, such as a GPU and PCI Express connectivity. The idea is to integrate as much onto the chip as possible so as to save space, save power, and reduce costs.

Here is the current desktop "Trinity" line up:

Model Cores Speed/Turbo
(GHz)
L2
(MB)

GPU Clock
(MHz)

TDP
(W)

Price
$
A10-5800K 4 3.8/4.2 4 800 100 122
A10-5700K 4 3.4/4.0 4 760 65 122
A8-5600K 4 3.6/3.9 4 760 100 101
A6-5500 4 3.2/3.7 4 760 65 101
A6-5400K 2 3.6/3.8 1 760 65 67
A6-5300 2 3.4/3.6 1 724 65 53

Note the processors featuring the "K" suffix have unlocked multipliers for overclocking.

If you're interested in building a "Trinity" based desktop system, here's what you will need. Note that I do not include a chassis or peripherals in the build, and you will also need an operating system -- most likely Windows -- to install onto the system.

Processor

Let's start with the most obvious component -- the processor.

After a quick shop around I've found four different models in stock. There's the top-of-the-line A10-5800K for $130, the A8-5600K for $110, the A6-5400K for $75, and the A4-5300 for $65. Take your pick of what you need based on your budget and performance requirements.

Motherboard

After you've picked the processor, it's time to choose the motherboard.  

To make use of the "Trinity" APUs you will need a motherboard with the new Socket FM2. No amount of hammering will get these new APUs into existing Socket FM1 motherboards. Given that Intel made its Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors backward compatible, this socket switch by AMD might be seen by some as unnecessary.

There are three compatible chipsets for "Trinity" processors. A55 and A75 have been around for some time on Socket FM1 motherboards, but the A85X is new and brings some new enthusiast and gaming features to the Fusion platform. That said, there's not much difference between A75 and A85X chipsets.

Socket FM2 motherboards are available from a whole raft of manufacturers, including BioStar, ASUS, ASRock, MSI and Gigabyte.

Since these are relatively cheap processors, I don't see much point in spending too much on the motherboard, so my eye is drawn to the BioStar TA75MH2 running the A75 chipset for $80, or the BioStar Hi-Fi A85W with the newer A85X chipset for $95. Both are solid boards with a broad array of features, and both feature USB 3.0 ports. The main difference between the two boards is that the BioStar TA75MH2 has 2 x 240 pin DDR3 slots, while the BioStar Hi-Fi A85W has 4 x 240 pin DDR3 slots.

RAM

Nothing fancy here. 4GB (2 x 2GB) of Mushkin Enhanced DDR3 1066/PC3 8500 will do the trick for $20.

Power Supply Unit

To bring your system to life you will need a power supply unit (PSU). Again, cheap and cheerful is what you want and I like the Thermaltake TR2 W0070RUC 430W PSU for $40.

Storage

Finally, some storage.

What you pick here is really down to your budget and storage needs. The sweet spot in terms of price/storage seems to be around the 1TB mark, and the Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ for $85 is a very good deal.

Image source: AMD.

Topics: Processors, Hardware, PCs

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19 comments
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  • Hmm, this looks perfect for an office machine, thanks

    I might just consider adding a raid-0 SSD for maximum speeds.
    the_tyrant
  • MSI over BIOSTAR

    I have had much better luck with MSI, BIOSTAR just did not make the grade last time.

    1 BIOSTAR - not so good
    3 MSI - all great
    BrentRBrian
  • ***VERY BAD ADVICE ON RAM****

    Do not go for Cheap Ram. The APUs are very sensitive to Ram Speed. Get 1866 or at the very lowest get 1600. The faster ram speed the better off you will be.
    AceOfClubs
    • Not neceesarily ...

      It's less about raw speed than it is about wait-states. There no point in having fast RAM of the processor has to add wait-states to access RAM. L2/L3 cache is more important than RAM speed.
      M Wagner
      • It is better for APU to wait...

        than for the RAM to wait - since the APU will be waiting regardless based on processor choice. Also I tend to lean at faster RAM since this is often the bottleneck in many IGP motherboards, barring the obvious HD bottleneck. Using RAM that can exceed the max speed of the processor or GPU is always preferable. With the cost of DDR3 RAM so low there is really no excuse to use cheap ram when considering performance, also if a lower grade processor it is better to spend once than to need new memory to support the faster processor.
        In my case I built my last system with a AMD Phenom X4 9750 but did not go cheap on the RAM or motherboard and was able to upgrade just the processor to the Phenom II 1055T. No new board, no new RAM, no new GPU, no new HD's... As the addage goes... Pay now or pay later :) This methodology has always allowed me to do cheap simple upgrades over 5 to 8 years time while keeping up with gaming requirements. Average upgrade per year was around $55, as-with my current system I average $38 per year so far in upgrade costs and still able to play the latest intense games.
        For sure my next system will be built on FM2 likely next year with my last build done in 2008. I keep regular tabs on AMD processor ever since my first K6/K7 in the mid-late 90's, this will be the next good chipset to sit with for a few years.
        ryanstrassburg
        • Phenom to FM2?

          I'm not sure that's exactly an upgrade. FM2 is AMD's mainstream platform, so don't expect much in the way of future upgrades for it. Once the Trinity chips run their course, I would bet that AMD will change the socket again. Their higher-end platform is better for future upgrades, but you'll need a discrete GPU for it. You can also get Athlon II variants for FM1 & FM2 but because they don't have any GPU cores, you'll need a discrete gfx card for those too. Mainstream systems are sold to average consumers wanting more than just the bottom-of-the-line system, so they have modular components, but the CPU platform will get changed out more frequently than with the AMx sockets. The bottom rung for AMD (C-series which will probably get phased out, and the E-series) uses soldered chips on the motherboard, much like Intel Atom (but also run much faster than Atom).
          Joe_Raby
          • FM2 is suppose to be supported for next 2 generations

            The stories I have read suggest the the FM2 is a "long term support" socket supporting the next two "trinity upgrade" generations. It seems the FM1 was the 939 and now the FM2 is planned to be like the AM2/AM2+/AM3. Intel's record on socket changes is much worse than AMD's.
            tinkerer09
        • ryanstrassburg .. i'm not convinced

          The A-Series are necessarily worth upgrading to over a Phenom II X3/X4/X6.

          http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/321704-28-3500-phenom

          http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?p=4298166

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwN56L87-P0

          (..just a few examples)

          I certainly wouldn't upgrade my Phenom II X3 720 B.E to any of the APU's first gen' or 2nd. I can see why a business would want to: less hardware requirements & power savings.

          The other thing most people fail to take into account is the law of diminishing returns. That especially applies to die sizes on current technology processors. The return (MHz) / core actually decreases with each subsequent processor added. I think 4-5 cores is where the current architectures hit the sweet spot and believe the output / core tapers off somewhat beyond that. Don't interpret that as X4 > X8 .. just that return per core diminishes beyond a certain threshold.

          It's hardly news, but until Intel and AMD devise an effective way of either (1) overcoming that logical 'stone wall' or (2) completely re-design and provide an architecture that aren't limited by current die space factors, than i don't see a huge reason to upgrade to 6-8 cores from 3-5 for most folk. Those in production environments (e.g. HD video production, gaming dev', CAD industries) certainly require more & more GPU-centric processing power, i'm not convinced most lay people do.

          YEMV, but i think the Phenom II X3/X4/X6 ranges - or even the Intel i3/i5 ranges - are well equipped to handle what most folk will need, processing-wise for some time yet. Granted, these new generation APU's look sweet ... but call me old fashioned, i'll stick with my Phenom II.
          thx-1138_
        • Ryan and Ace are right.

          Gonna have to side with Ace on this one. Ever since the A series debut real world testing has shown the the greater the RAM speed the better the on die GPU functions, especially in the case of tweakers who have overclocked the GPU to twice it's stock speed (not using the stock cooler of course).

          True, Intel still has an advantage processing multiple threads due to HT and how the majority of instructions are written, but straight out price vs performance, Intel really has never been able to compete, even in gaming Trinity is proving to be extremely competitive with Intel CPUs costing 2x as much and higher.
          dajomo
  • Why do you need Socket FM2, you ask?

    It's because the new chips support Eyefinity for up to 3 displays. The extra pins were needed for the additional video connection. I was told this as an AMD trade show.
    Joe_Raby
  • USE FASTER RAM!

    Terrible choice of RAM! Choose at least 2x2G of DDR3 1600! APUs are very sensitive to RAM speed.
    verticalData
  • Adrian, you didn't say anything about graphics cards.

    In addition to the above, any suggestions for a graphics card for a "starter" gaming machine for a teenager? (He has an XBOX 360S.)
    M Wagner
    • Starter video card

      Why not let him try the on-board video? The A10-5800K has an intergrated graphics processor and the performance while not top of the line is adequate for most uses. I think the A10-5800K calls the on board video a HD 7660D.

      Please note that I am not saying the IGP is top of the line, simply that it is adequate for most uses. If your son is not happy with the performance, adding a card such as the Radeon HD 7850 or GeForce GTX 660 for around $230 Cdn. Or try a HD 6670 in a CrossFire configuration for a lower cost alternative though many games are not dual graphics card friendly.
      DNSB
    • Starter video card

      Why not let him try the on-board video? The A10-5800K has an intergrated graphics processor and the performance while not top of the line is adequate for most uses. I think the A10-5800K calls the on board video a HD 7660D.

      Please note that I am not saying the IGP is top of the line, simply that it is adequate for most uses. If your son is not happy with the performance, adding a card such as the Radeon HD 7850 or GeForce GTX 660 for around $230 Cdn. Or try a HD 6670 in a CrossFire configuration for a lower cost alternative though many games are not dual graphics card friendly.

      My daughter build her new system around the A10-5800K with an ASUS F2A85-M motherboard and 8GB (Corsair 2x4GB 1866 kit) memory and so far seems fairly happy with the results though 11 days is not all that long to be testing a new system.
      DNSB
  • RAM - 1866 FTW

    @AceOfClubs you are totally right. Anything slower than 1600 will severely hold back the APU. Here's a test that shows that really well with the A10-5800K http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/a10-5800k-a8-5600k-a6-5400k,3224-5.html . I'd recommend 1866 if you have a few extra bucks to spend, they'll provide plenty of added bang.

    Adrian, you are lucky enough to have your words published, and have credibility. But that will shed with such bad info. Read more before you write!!
    200380051
  • good choice of CPU, bad choice of ram

    AMD is a bit behind in memory throughput compared to Intel, so you want the fastest possible ram the CPU supports versus cost. DDR3 1600 would have been the best choice.

    And nothing wrong with Biostar now that they use almost all solid capacitors. However, I wont buy any board that doesn't use all solid caps. Still, other than failures from bad caps, Biostar has never any other issues in the several boards I've installed for customers. Like no bios or setup issues.

    I just ordered a pair of A8-5500 APUs to run in two servers. They were hard to track down on the web, since so newly released. Along with 8Gigs of DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) ram for one of the servers, just to see how fast it goes on an FM2 board. Can't wait to get them!
    compdoc@...
    • Solid caps is just marketing-speak

      It doesn't matter if they're fluid or solid capacitors - it's the quality of them that matters. I have several Zotac motherboards - ALL with solid capacitors - and they're waiting to be RMA'd. Yet I can have an older Gigabyte board with older capacitors that lasts longer. Solid caps can't leak, but good-quality fluidic capacitors can last a long time too, and thus, so can the board. I've seen lots of Biostar boards go bad, but have also used lots of Asus and Gigabyte AM3 boards over the last couple of years without any issue. Prior to the Athlon II systems that I used to build, most were Intel Core 2 CPU-based with Intel-branded (made by Foxconn) boards. Although I had a couple fail, most are still running just fine. And most of those are fluid capacitors. For now, I'm sticking with Asus because Gigabyte has a bad history of not supporting UEFI properly (all of Gigabytes FM1 boards use only legacy BIOS with a 3TB hard drive hack).

      Also, dust in the CPU heatsink is your enemy. Lots of customers don't know enough to keep dust out of their system. The CPU can take a lot of heat before it suffers any damage, but the VRM circuits and the capacitors around the CPU can't. This is where a lot of failures happen on crappy boards.
      Joe_Raby
  • read it two days ago

    toms hardware did compleat review on the new amd chips
    sarai1313@...
  • If anyone is having trouble with restarts after heavy load...

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-1733746/pin-cpu-connector-power-supply-seemingly-match-pin-connector-motherboard.html
    Nate650@...