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AMD “Virgo” Platform: 2nd Generation APU


When we reviewed Bulldozer, we felt that the new architecture had potential despite its luckluster performancer. Trinity is the first APU from AMD that features the much improved Piledriver core and the result is that compared to Llano, Trinity is a step forward for AMD. The single thread performance for Trinity is either same or faster than Llano but its multi-thread application is definitely faster than Llano (provided the load is not heavy on float-point computations). Compared against the Core i3, the Intel still has the same advantage on the single thread as it is always been, but multi-thread favors AMD due to the extra integer calculation unit. 

While the float point calculation of Trinity falls short of Llano because of reduction in the FPU (2 vs 4), it’s actually more efficient than the Bulldozer. As a result, despite lower theoretical numbers, its performance per unit is actually higher than both Llano and Trinity.

As expected, AMD continues to move forward on the GPU front. Ivy Bridge is almost as fast as Llano and now Trinity moves AMD even further ahead of the competition. Not to mention that Trinity also supports 3+1 display configuration and have the ability to pair with another Radeon card for added performance. Trinity’s power consumption is also looking good. Its idle power is lower than Intel platform but its load power is higher than Intel’s offering due to its 100W TDP vs Intel’s 95W (Sandy Bridge) or 77W (Ivy Bridge). 

We are happy to see Trinity brings all updated instructions that includes AVX and FM3 which helps out with the floating point calculation. In addition, the hardware assisted AES encryption and dedicated VCE and UVD3 engine for media encoding and encoding  makes Trinity an even more competitive processor at performing these special tasks not only against the older CPU from AMD but also against the Intel Core i3. It also helps to alleviate some of its weaker floating-point performance. We like that AMD did not cripple their APU line up by disabling some of these features. No matter which APU you choose, you will get all of these ISAs. The only difference is that you would be choosing an APU with different clockspeeds for CPU and GPU; or if you choose Athlon models, it will not come with the integrated GPU (note that Athlon models will also lack the UVD3 and the VCE as well). 

With Trinity, it is not hard to see AMD is marching forward with the idea of heterogeneous computing. Trinity improves on CPU and GPU performance. While its floating point is still weak compared to Llano due to the reduction in the floating-point units, it is more efficient than its predecessor. As we see with HandBrake, if software is able to tap into the OpenCL, then Trinity can definitely keep up and even performs better than Llano in every aspect. Ultimately, the CPU industry is going through the same evolution as when the industry moved to multi-core where the hardware is here and ready but the software still need to catch up in order to fully take its advantage. The current list of software title is much better than a year ago and we do hope that it will grow with more software companies take advantage of the new technology. 

Retailing at around $100, Trinity is a good all around APU. For day to day computers, it is fast enough for the average user. As a platform, Trinity and A85X chipset offer a good combination of chipset (SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0), CPU, and GPU power for anyone who are looking for a mainstream and budget PC.  In fact, with a more powerful integrated GPU than Intel’s offering and VCE for assisting encoding, Trinity would make a great HTPC.

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