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Gigabyte A75-D3H 'AMD Llano' board hands-on

by Tarinder Sandhu on 30 May 2011, 04:38

Tags: Gigabyte (TPE:2376), AMD (NYSE:AMD)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qa54t

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AMD is banking on the upcoming Llano APU to provide significant revenue in 2011. Launching first as a laptop-orientated chip in coming weeks, Llano, which combines the CPU and GPU on to one chunk of silicon, will be migrated on to the desktop a little while later.

Our best guess is that desktop-based Llano is to make an appearance sometime in July 2011. The chip'll amalgamate up to four Phenom II-derived CPU cores and a low-end Radeon HD 5000-series GPU, if reports are to be believed. The natural competitor to Llano is Intel's second-generation Core chips, formerly known by the code-name Sandy Bridge.

The introduction of Llano means that AMD's mid-range chips, just like Intel's, will move away from being merely CPU-only silicon in most markets. The bringing together of CPU and GPU is a radical enough shift for Llano to require a new breed of motherboard.

Gigabyte provided HEXUS with a desktop Llano board for preview purposes. The dead board shan't yield any performance numbers - they're under NDA anyhow - but gives us an opportunity to see how a tier-one manufacturer is designing around the new APU.

Board

The GA-A75-D3H is a slimline ATX board that doesn't feel at all cluttered, thanks mainly to Llano requiring a solitary supporting chip. Breaking away from the AMx tradition, the board uses what is called the FM1 form factor. The bad news is that it's not compatible with current chips, so users with Phenom or Athlon processors will need to reinvest if going down AMD's APU route.

There's considerable room around the socket to mount beefy coolers on the two retention brackets that run parallel to the FM1 socket, and the DIMM slots tell us that Llano supports dual-channel DDR3, presumably at 1,600MHz speeds.

Board

The single AMD-provided chip is known as Hudson D3, hidden under Gigabyte heatsink. Like the FM1 socket, Hudson is brand-new introduction. It's reckoned to support six SATA 6Gb/s storage ports - of which Gigabyte has five on the PCB itself - four native USB 3.0 ports, and, together with Llano, an eclectic range of digital displays.

Board

A peek at the expansion slots indicates Llano continues with venerable PCIc - Gigabyte's board has three such slots - and has two PCIe x16 slots and a couple of x1 for add-in cards. The way the chip apportions lanes for graphics hasn't been disclosed yet, but an educated guess would suggest that a total of 16 lanes are reserved for graphics, bifurcated to x8 in two-card mode. The nature of the layout also tells us that Llano is a decidedly mid-range offering; the enthusiast-class chip will be the Bulldozer-based Zambezi, scheduled to launch shortly after this APU.

Board

Llano's inherent qualities lend themselves to a board geared for HTPC usage as much as general computing. Gigabyte's A75-D3H goes for the visual output trio of VGA, DVI and HDMI that are powered from the graphics portion of the APU. We'd expect the chip to provide the latest version of AMD's UVD video-acceleration technology.

Four USB 3.0 ports are all run off the Hudson D3, while Gigabyte also brings in eSATA into the mix. Looking to woo users who want a general-purpose PC with a particular bias towards multimedia usage, the A75-UD3H will make sense if AMD manages to price retail Llano APUs at decent levels.

We're intrigued to find out how AMD's APU will compare against Intel's established Core i3 and Core i5 Sandy Bridge chips, and should it prove to be good, motherboard maufacturers will be lining up to provide Llano-supporting boards.

Tempted by how Llano and its supporting boards are shaping up? Reckon that Intel's Sandy Bridge is a better bet? Let us know your thoughts in the HEXUS.community.



HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

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Even if AMD's Llano proves to be better technology or differentiated technology, it is doubtful that OEMs will dare to line up to use it and risk Intel's monopolistic wrath.

The last time I checked, it was revealed (through court evidence) that Intel was bribing and threatening Dell, HP, IBM and others billions of dollars (6-billion in Dell's case) to limit their use of AMD's products - to keep AMD's market share under 5%.

So, unfortunately, it seems that business success will depend less on innovation and more on coercive (and at least slightly illegal) business practices? Still, though, Llano will at least compel Intel to engage in faster innovation and lower prices. AMD might not benefit from Llano due to Intel's unusual tactics, but customers will.

Keep in mind that European investigators discovered (through actual Swat style raids) that Intel was bribing retailers to not stock AMD products.

Now, if that is how things work with Intel, why would anyone sell Llano?

:yucky:
momoma
Even if AMD's Llano proves to be better technology or differentiated technology, it is doubtful that OEMs will dare to line up to use it and risk Intel's monopolistic wrath.

The last time I checked, it was revealed (through court evidence) that Intel was bribing and threatening Dell, HP, IBM and others billions of dollars (6-billion in Dell's case) to limit their use of AMD's products - to keep AMD's market share under 5%.

So, unfortunately, it seems that business success will depend less on innovation and more on coercive (and at least slightly illegal) business practices? Still, though, Llano will at least compel Intel to engage in faster innovation and lower prices. AMD might not benefit from Llano due to Intel's unusual tactics, but customers will.

Keep in mind that European investigators discovered (through actual Swat style raids) that Intel was bribing retailers to not stock AMD products.

Now, if that is how things work with Intel, why would anyone sell Llano?

:yucky:

Which year are you in?

It would seem things have changed since the allegations and investigations you mention since it's been a while all that happened. Either I'm out of the loop or OEMs actually do stock AMD products when they're competitive. It's just that AMD is falling so far behind in manufacturing (size) that the products don't seem as good as Intels.
Intel got massively sued by AMD for their tactics, and rightly so. And if you believe the fanboy speak then you'd assume Intels products are somehow better. However, if you actually take the trouble to do some research of your own you'll find for a given price you often get more for your money with AMD, especially mid-range stuff and their current Thuban chips offer exceptional value for money, especially for multithreaded apps that can take advantage of all 6 cores. And they're not ‘so far behind’ - yes, they are on 45nm but as I've said before and will say again they are just numbers, AMD have refined the 45nm process so it performs better than Intel's previous 45nm process. I could also say that AMD have only just needed to switch to high-k dielectrics on their 32nm chips whereas Intel have needed to use it since 45nm to control leakage. There is also the whole SOI vs CMOS thing but I'm just throwing words up, my point being it's all irrelevant - performance and price matter. And something people often forget to factor in is the platform cost - Intel motherboards tend to be more expensive for some reason and you need to use low-voltage DIMMS with Intel which are generally more expensive.
I'm wondering if there is a 45w/energy efficient desktop Llano APU in the works.. say a modern equivalent to the Athlon II x4 610e. Its not far fetched idea, since a very similar chip will be coming out for the laptop market. If it does emerge, it would be awesome for a near silent small form factor build.
The Hand;2084608
I'm wondering if there is a 45w/energy efficient desktop Llano APU in the works…

I'd be amazed if there wasn't. As you say, there will be laptop Llano chips, based on very similar silicon, at below 45W. Whether we'll get a quad core desktop Llano for 45W I don't know, given that the quad core parts have much beefier GPUs incorporated (the low power quads might end up at 65W, like the low power Phenom IIs), but I'd be surprised if there wasn't at least one dual core APU at 45W - which isn't bad when you consider that the chip will be the equivalent of an Athlon II X2 and a HD6450 rolled into one…