AMD targeted desktops in emerging markets last month and announced its AM1 platform and the first Kabini-based socket APUs. The Kabini architecture came out last year for ultra-mobile and embedded devices and brought 28nm chips with a TDP power of only 3.9W, although most parts were designed for 8 to 15W.
When first landed, Kabini chips were BGA parts with the FT3 socket and contained either two or four cores with the Jaguar microarchitecture. In contrast to Kaveri desktop APUs with a two-channel DDR3 memory controller, Kabini parts are limited to a single-channel DDR3 controller with 1600 MHz.
Low-end desktop SoCs are typically soldered onto motherboards, including AMD's 2011 Brazos platform with the E-350 and Intel Bay Trail-D architecture. Because updatability is limited in this scenario anyway, many people consider tablets and related options to be more practical given their price and portability.
AMD hopes to change this with its AM1 platform, which currently offers four APUs and a range of affordable motherboards from Asrock, Asus, ECS, Gigabyte and MSI. This gives the platform an advantage over previous budget SoCs because it gives beginners the flexibility that the rest of the desktop market enjoys.
When we checked out the new AM1 APUs, we picked up a lot of potentially competing chips that we had on hand, and we selected the Intel Core i3-4130, the Pentium G3220, and the Celeron G1820. This should provide a clear picture of what is available in the low-end CPU market and help determine which solution is right for you.
AMD AM1: Desktop Kabini
The AM1 platform was launched with four APUs. However, we assume that the number of options will increase as the platform runs longer. The most important functions of these new APUs are listed in the following table.
|Athlon 5350||Athlon 5150||Sempron 3850||Sempron 2650|
|CPU frequency||2.05 GHz||1.60 GHz||1.30 GHz||1.45 GHz|
|GPU frequency||600 MHz||600 MHz||450 MHz||400 MHz|
|Storage frequency||1600 MHz||1600 MHz||1600 MHz||1333 MHz|
|L2 cache||2 MB||2 MB||2 MB||1 MB|
|RRP ($)||$ 55||$ 45||$ 36||$ 31|
The brands Athlon and Sempron are back (unfortunately Duron has not returned).
The Athlon 5350 is at the top of the AM1 food chain with 4 cores, 2 MB L2 cache and an operating frequency of 2.05 GHz. It also has the 128 SPU GPU that comes clocked at 600 MHz. At just $ 55, the Athlon 5350 is today's most expensive AM1 APU.
At $ 45, the Athlon 5150 is available for $ 10 less and is the same as the Athlon 5350 except for the clock speed, which has been reduced to 1.60 GHz.
The Sempron 3850 is even cheaper at just $ 36, and although all four cores are serviced, they are clocked at just 1.30 GHz. The GPU was also clocked down to 450 MHz and still the same 25 W TDP power applies.
Finally, the cheapest is a dual-core version for $ 31 called Sempron 2650, which is clocked at 1.45 GHz and a GPU clock speed of 400 MHz and is limited to DDR3-1333 memory. The L2 cache has also been reduced to just 1 MB, while the 25 W TDP rating continues to apply. When it comes to $ 31 processors, the Sempron 2650 is the beginning and the end.
Although the platform is called AM1, the socket is actually called FS1b. There are currently no standard ATX motherboards, most of which are based on the MicroATX form factor, and some mini-ITX boards that we prefer.
The motherboards themselves are extremely simple, as the AM1 processors are SoCs with integrated memory, PCIe, USB, Gigabit Ethernet and SATA controllers. You get a single-channel 64-bit memory controller that supports DDR3 / DDR3L memory, two USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, PS / 2 support, up to four eDP / DP / HDMI video outputs and a VGA Output, four PCIe 2.0 lanes for a discrete GPU / PCIe device, two SATA 6Gb / s ports and four PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes, although one is intended for the Gigabit Ethernet controller.
With the most expensive AM1 APU for just $ 55, we don't expect crazy motherboard designs or feature sets. We largely suspect motherboard manufacturers will leave the APU to provide most of the functionality.
The same applies to the CPU cooler, since we suspect that most systems are equipped with AMD's low-profile serial cooler. The cooler uses a pushpin retention system, which is somewhat cumbersome and not nearly as elegant as the latch-leaver system used on Intel's mainstream platforms. Given that the AMD cooler uses a small fan, we hope to see some passively cooled solutions in the future.
Back to the motherboards: the best AM1 example we've seen so far is the Asrock AM1H-ITX. It's just one of three Mini-ITX AM1 boards that we know of. The other one is made by MSI and although this card has some nice overclocking features, we don't like how it needs the 4-pin power connector.
The Asrock AM1H-ITX has another significant advantage: a DC socket on the I / O panel that is compatible with a 19 V power supply. This makes the $ 59 Asrock AM1H-ITX our first choice for any AM1 build.