Our AMD Trinity review comes about a week after launch, because I wanted to spend the extra time with this APU to be able to provide readers with as clear a picture as possible on every aspect of performance. On the following pages, you’ll be reading about general CPU performance as usual, but with a major focus on gaming – both with a discrete GPU, and comparing the IGP to that of an identically priced Core i3 from Intel. Not only will we be considering the huge AAA games, but some indie titles as well, which may be more suitable for a budget system with integrated graphics.
We’ll also look at overclocking performance, as well as undervolting performance. I know many people will skip right to the conclusion, but for those that want to know absolutely everything about the AMD Trinity APU and the A10 5800K in particular, please be sure to read every page! Countless hours went into making this article not the first, not the shortest, but perhaps the most focused and informative review you’ll find on this product.
This is especially important for AMD, because the Trinity launch – which introduces the Piledriver core to the desktop – is a very important one for them.
What Is Trinity?
So what is Trinity anyway? You know it is a codename for the the APU, but how does that all fit in with other codenames like Piledriver and Devastator that are being mentioned along with it?
Trinity is the name for the midrange “AMD Fusion” products (A10 and A8) replacing “Llano”. Whereas the Llano A8 APUs were built with “Stars” CPU cores (which is what mobile Phenom II was based on), and “Evergreen” GPU shaders (Radeon 5000 series), Trinity is based on Piledriver CPU cores and Devastator GPU shaders (which, GPU-wise is like the Radeon 6000 series aka Northern Islands). That brings us to Piledriver.
What is Piledriver?
Piledriver is AMD’s codename for the CPU cores used in Trinity, which are based on Enhanced Bulldozer modules. We already know about Bulldozer, and that the launch was a bit of a stumble for AMD due to low per-clock performance and extremely high power consumption.
Piledriver addresses both of these issues directly, and is more indicative of what ‘should have been’. The pipeline has been shortened, and per-clock performance was dramatically increased. This allows for decent performance without having to hit high clock speeds. That fact, and some other improvements made to the fabrication process, have also led to better power consumption.
There is still the issue of each module having dual integer cores, but only one shared FPU. This is where it gets tricky when you want to call the A10-5800K a “quad core” CPU, because sometimes it only works as a dual core. This design has also led to issues with Windows not scheduling threads as efficiently as it should. This has been addressed with a pair of software updates, but will be fixed fully in Windows 8.
Crucially, the use of the newest cores add the latest ISA instructions, such as FMA3/4, AVX, XOP, and AES acceleration. As you’ll later see, these can provide a huge performance benefit to the end user.
A New Platform: FM2
To use Trinity, you will need to have an FM2 motherboard. Although the Controller Hub is nearly identical to those we saw on FM1 boards, the pin layout is different. These boards are available in three flavours; A85X, A75, and A55. As you can guess, the A85X is the high end option, and it supports up to eight (yes!) SATA3 ports, and is the only one that allows the x16 PCI-E lanes to be split into a pair of x8 slots, allowing for support of CrossFire X.
As you can see, A85X is just about as modern a controller hub as you’ll find, and in fact in a few ways is superior to Intel’s latest Z77 PCH. The Z77 is severely hampered by only having a pair of SATA3 ports, while AMD offers eight ports, all with full SATA3 support. What this platform is missing is an SSD cache system though – as we have found, an SSD cache is all but a must-have in every system, so this is a pretty big omission. AMD users will have to use a product that comes with its own caching software, such as the Crucial Adrenaline. Fortunately, we have found such products to perform just as well as Intel’s caching software.