AMD Llano HTPC Builders Guide

http://w w w .anandtech.com/print/5906 June 7, 2012

by Ganesh T S on 6/5/2012 8:02:00 AM Posted in CPUs , AMD , Llano , HTPC , Guides Home Theater PCs (HTPCs) are becoming more and more popular due to a number of reasons. The desire of consumers to watch and enjoy their media (be it Blu-rays / DVDs or broadcast content) in an independent manner (i.e, not tied down by DRM restrictions such as the Tivo recordings or even just optical media) has enabled the HTPC industry to gain a lot of relevance (as opposed to getting tied down with non-upgradeable consumer electronics equipment). All the three major vendors (Intel, AMD and NVIDIA) pay quite a bit of attention to the HTPC market in their products. It is universally agreed that AMD presents some of the most economical HTPC building blocks targeted towards budget system builders. It has been almost a year since the Llano lineup was launched. By integrating a CPU and GPU into the same die (and bringing along AMD's expertise in the GPU arena for HTPCs), these APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) offer a lot to the budget HTPC builders.

In today's piece, we will be taking a look at how to build a HTPC system using the Llano platform. Options based on various form factors, performance and cost will be analyzed. Note that the Llano processors might not be the latest and greatest, but, when it comes to pricing, it is going to be quite difficult to beat till the desktop variants of Trinity come around. We will also assume that you are aware of the technical merits of the Llano APU lineup, because we will not be covering any benchmarks or doing any comparative study across products from other companies.

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Home Theater PCs (HTPCs) are becoming more and more popular due to a number of reasons. The desire of consumers to watch and enjoy their media (be it Blu-rays / DVDs or broadcast

264 profile to another). All the three major vendors (Intel. By integrating a CPU and GPU into the same die (and bringing along AMD's expertise in the GPU arena for HTPCs). Recording and/or editing video files: This involves using a TV tuner to capture broadcast content and record it onto a physical drive. Therefore. This enables the consumers to enjoy the content on their purchased discs without the annoying trailers and advertisements. It has been almost a year since the Llano lineup was launched. Some users might also want to use their HTPC for activities such as: Gaming: This is. not tied down by DRM restrictions such as the Tivo recordings or even just optical media) has enabled the HTPC industry to gain a lot of relevance (as opposed to getting tied down with non-upgradeable consumer electronics equipment). AMD and NVIDIA) pay quite a bit of attention to the HTPC market in their products.content) in an independent manner (i. these APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) offer a lot to the budget HTPC builders. we will also assume that you are aware of the technical merits of the Llano APU lineup. the most common extension of a HTPC outside its original application . we will not be covering any benchmarks or doing any comparative study across products from other companies. The recorded content could then be edited to remove commercials or for any other purpose before being stored away. Sometimes. It is universally agreed that AMD presents some of the most economical HTPC building blocks targeted towards budget system builders. convert from one H. This is much more computationally intensive compared to splitting / joining media streams with similar characteristics. it might be necessary to transcode video files also (say.e. by far. The purpose of a HTPC system is to enable one or more of the following activities: Media playback: The media could be either stored locally (on a hard drive or NAS / on a Bluray or DVD) or be streamed from the Internet (over sites such as Netflix or Hulu). In this guide. Media files include pictures and music files in addition to videos. Optical disc backup creation: This involves archiving of Blu-ray and DVD movies on a physical disk (such as a hard drive or a NAS) after removing the DRM protection.

thanks to integrated hardware decoding. feel free to let everyone know in the comments section.area.6 GHz 2. we have seen that the Llano APUs are quite good with almost all games at mainstream quality settings. A6-3600. Network DVR / IP Camera recording: This is quite uncommon.99 With the choice of available APUs out of the way.5 GHz 2. General PC Tasks: These include basic web browsing. downloading and other similar tasks (which almost all HTPCs are bound to be good with) If you are using your HTPC for any purpose other than those mentioned above. If a budget gaming+HTPC build is in your radar. Note that simple playback tasks are going to be quite power-efficient. but some users might like to have IP camera feeds viewable / recordable through their HTPCs. Thanks to the powerful integrated GPU.99 $79. the Llano desktop platforms : . it is now time to take a look at the two FCHs available for Lynx. we will take a look at the choices available.99 $104.4) GHz 2.88 $65. Note that the A4-3420 (which was initially OEM only. along with current pricing.99 $118. The table below lists all the retail SKUs available. Page 2 The Llano APUs come in 2. The choice of the Llano APU. A8-3800 and the A8-3820 don't seem to be available with any of the first-tier retailers.9 GHz 3. AMD's Llano lineup includes a range of processors with TDP ranging from 65 to 100W.99 $84.3 and 4 core variants. A6-3620.99 $109.7 GHz 2. AMD Llano APU Lineup (Desktop) APU Cores Frequency (Turbo) 2.0 GHz GPU GPU Config (Shaders/TMU/ROP) and Frequency 160:8:4 @ 443 MHz 160:8:4 @ 600 MHz 320:16:8 @ 443 MHz 320:16:8 @ 443 MHz 320:16:8 @ 443 MHz (Unlocked) 400:20:8 @ 600 MHz 400:20:8 @ 600 MHz (Unlocked) Memory Support DDR31600 DDR31600 DDR31866 DDR31866 DDR31866 DDR31866 DDR31866 TDP Pricing A43300 A43400 A63500 A63650 A63670K A83850 A83870K 2 2 3 4 4 4 4 6410D 6410D 6530D 6530D 6530D 6550D 6550D 65 W 65 W 65 W 100 W 100 W 100 W 100 W $59. you can't go wrong with the Llanos. The high TDPs shouldn't put one off. There are plenty of FM1 socket motherboards based on the A55 / A75 FCHs (Fusion Controller Hubs). motherboard form factor and other components should be made depending on the desired usage scenario. and later supposed to debut in a retail model). In the next few sections.1 (2.7 GHz 2.

99 . ATX (30. All of these are targeted towards small form factor systems suitable for use as HTPCs. a miniITX motherboard (with just 1 expansion slot) is more than enough.0x16 expansion slot. for moderate gaming and installation of capture cards / internal TV tuners. mini-ITX (17cm x 17cm) 2.4cm x 24. 1x eSATA2 and are based on the A75 chipset. Notes GbE + 4x USB 3.4cm) If the end usage scenario doesn't involve high quality gaming / complex TV tuner systems. as they have both HDMI output as well as optical SPDIF for multi-channel audio. For high end HTPCs which also double up as gaming rigs with cards in CrossFire / network DVRs with custom capture cards.99 $158.30 Price $89.5cm x 24.11 b/g/n Gigabyte Zotac GA-A75NUSB3 A75ITX-AE 2x DDR3 2000+ 2x DDR3 1866 Realtek GbE Dual GbE 802.1 0/14/2 4/10/2 TDP 7. HTPC Oriented mini-ITX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano) Vendor ASRock Asus Board Name A75M-ITX F1A75-I DELUXE Memory Slots 2x DDR3 2400+ 2x DDR3 1866 Misc. multiple expansion slots such as those in the micro-ATX motherboards might be required.0 GbE + 2x USB 3. On the other hand.6 W 7. All boards have a 1x PCI-E 2.11 b/g/n Bluetooth 3.AMD Fusion Controller Hubs for Lynx (Desktop Llano) Chipset A55 A75 Code Name HudsonD2 HudsonD3 Unified Media Interface x4 Gen 2 + Display Port x4 Gen 2 + Display Port SATA 6 x3 Gbps 6 x6 Gbps USB 3/2/1.99 $144. micro-ATX (24. ATX motherboards (which have upto 7 expansion slots) are necessary. 4x SATA 6 Gbps.0 + 1x USB 3.0 $73.4cm) 3. The following table gives you an idea of the various mini-ITX motherboards currently available.0 Internal Header AzureWave Wi-Fi 802.8 W The three main motherboard form factors of interest to us are (in order of size): 1.

x4).0 Price $84. Some might also want PCI-E / PCI slots for multiple capture cards. 1x PCI 1x PCI-E x16.99 ECS A75F-M 6x SATA 6Gbps. 1x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps.0 Moving on to the micro-ATX configurations. 1x PCI-E x1.99 Gigabyte GA-A75MD2H $69. it is necessary to take advantage of the SPDIF output. as we mentioned in the last section. 1x eSATA2 6x SATA 6Gbps $74. Notes 6x SATA 3Gbps.6x USB 3. one of the above motherboards should suffice. A selection of fullsized ATX motherboards for such purposes is provided in the table below.99 For most readers looking to build a Llano-based HTPC. However. HTPC Oriented micro-ATX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano) Vendor Asus Board Name F1A55M/CSM Memory Slots 4x DDR3 2250+ PCI Configuration 2x PCI-E x16 (x16. 2x PCI 2x PCI-E x16 (x16.0 Headers 6x SATA 6Gbps.99 ASRock A75M 2x DDR3 2400+ 4x DDR3 2400+ 4x DDR3 1866 4x DDR3 1866 2x DDR3 2400+ 1x PCI-E x16. 1x PCI Misc. 2x USB 3. 1x PCI-E x1. The table below lists the six boards which satisfy this criteria. All options have HDMI output with audio. 2x PCI 2x PCI-E x16 (x16. USB 3. 1x PCI-E x1. Notes Price . x4). 1x PCI-E x1. we have a large number of choices. 1x eSATA2 5x SATA 6Gbps. not all HTPC setups have a receiver capable of parsing audio over HDMI. HTPC Oriented ATX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano) Vendor Board Name Memory Slots PCI Configuration Misc.99 Asus $104.99 ASRock A75 PRO4-M F1A75-M PRO $79. USB 3. we have many more choices. In order to experience multi-channel audio in such a scenario. 2x PCI 2x PCI-E x16 (x16. 1x PCI-E x1. However. users might also want to use their HTPC as gaming rigs. x4). If optical SPDIF is not needed. x4).0 Headers $79.

even for renderers such as madVR.0 $74.99 Asus F1A75-V PRO 4x DDR3 1866 4x DDR3 1866 7x SATA 6Gbps. 1x DP 5x SATA 6Gbps. x4).99 ECS A75F-A 4xDDR3 2600+ $79. 3x PCI 2x PCI-E x16 (x16.x4). 2x PCI-E x1.99 Gigabyte GA-A75UD4H $104.99 ASRock A75 PRO4 4x DDR3 2400+ 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16 (x16.99 Asus F1A75-V EVO $129.99 Gigabyte GA-A75D3H 4x DDR3 1866 4x DDR3 2400+ $89. 1x eSATA2 5x SATA 6Gbps. 1xeSATA2. 3x PCI 5x SATA 3Gbps. 3x PCI 2x PCI-E x16 (x16.99 ASRock A75 Extreme6 $94. 1x PCI-E x1. 3x PCI-E x1.x8).x4). 2x PCI-E x1. There is not much point in purchasing a module with lower speeds than what the APU natively supports. 2x PCI-E x1. x4). 2x PCI-E x1. and sometimes.ASRock A55 PRO3 4x DDR3 2400+ 2x PCI-E x16.x4). 1x eSATA2 $129. the reader should go in for DDR3-1600 or DDR3-1866. 3x PCI 2x PCI-E x16 (x16. .x4). It is also better to purchase modules with lower latency specifications. 2x USB 3. 2x SATA 6Gbps. Depending on the APU chosen. 2x PCI 2x PCI-E x16 (x16. 2x PCI 5x SATA 6Gbps. 1x eSATA2 8x SATA 6Gbps. 1x eSATA2 $79.99 With the processor and motherboard chosen. 1x eSATA2 5x SATA 6Gbps. Page 3 Almost all present-day memory modules are at least DDR-1333. 1xeSATA2. It is always possible to run higher rated memory modules at lower speeds if one wants to save power or reduce heat eventually. 1x PCI-E x1. 2x PCI-E x1. 3x PCI 3x PCI-E x16(x16/x0 or x8/x8. as this has the potential to improve performance in games. 3x PCI 3x PCI-E x16(x16/x0 or x8/x8. 1x DP 7x SATA 6Gbps. let us move on to the other components of the build.

SKILL ECO 8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 : This kit also operates at a lower voltage (1. The timing is also quite good at 9-9-9-24 when operating at 1600 MHz. Moving on to storage options. This makes it an idea candidate for HTPCs which also server as gaming rigs. It operates at the standard 1. G. and can run cooler. it is not possible to get low voltage kits. if you are repurposing the HTPC for other tasks such as intenstive video and photo editing. 4 GB of memory is more than enough. it might be worthwhile to invest in 8 GB of memory.SKILL Sniper Low Voltage Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 : This kit operates at a lower voltage (1.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) : This kit comes in at $74. it is quite cheap compared to the G. you only have 8 GB of memory. coming in at $15.SKILL kit above. AMD Entertainment Edition 2GB (1 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 : This is one of the cheaper alternatives.25V) compared to similar kits.99. Users have reported that it overclocks effortlessly to 2133 MHz.35V) and has excellent timing parameters of 8-8-8-24. At these speeds. while the previous kit can give you 16 GB. While performance will not vary between brands. the choice must be made only after careful consideration. Crucial Ballistix 2GB (1 x 2GB) : Coming in at $20. we recommend memory kits rated for DDR3-1866.5V with timing parameters of 9-9-9-24. However. Some of the memory kits we recommend for the lower-end APUs (A4-3300 and A4-3400) are below: G. While a cheap SSD might sound very tempting (and may even prove excitingly fast in the initial days). Of course. It is therefore essential to choose the memory vendor and model carefully. this is one of the best kits for a low power HTPC. reliability might.For most HTPC applications.99. it is a quad channel kit. and can be used only with an appropriate motherboard. the reader has to take a stance on the HDD vs SSD debate. but operates at the same voltage and has the same timings. However. G.99.5V and has timings of 8-9-9-24. operates at 1.99. At . the drawback is that with four of these in the appropriate motherboard. For the higher-end APUs. Coming in at $51.

If the HTPC is to be used in the backend as a media server / download or recording machine (and a media streamer or some other device is going to be used in the front-end). Some of the SSDs / hard drives that we recommend for HTPCs are below: SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC064D/AM 2. a more cost effective purchase would be the SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC256B/WW 2. and Samsung has a good track record of reliability. a worry-free experience even with unusual HTPC usage scenarios is worth it. A quick search on the various SSD forums indicates that SandForce-based SSDs usually don't like hibernation or sleep mode. On the other hand. If you want more storage in your SSD. the price per GB is much higher than the budget drives. .5" 256GB SSD which is currently on sale for $249. it is suggested that you go in for a 2 or 3 TB hard drive in addition to having a 64 GB SSD as a boot drive. Unfortunately. because it is quite common to put HTPCs in the sleep mode when not in operation. I have personally been using the OCZ Agility 3 240 GB SSD in my personal laptop. trust us.99. I have experienced annoying random BSODs whenever I try to hibernate or put the laptop to sleep even with the latest firmware. if you are planning to use your HTPC as a recording or download machine. but. most of the SSDs which get reviewed go into production machines. a SSD is not needed at all.99.AnandTech. At $89. If you plan to use your HTPC just as a front-end for local media residing in a NAS / optical drive.5" 64GB SSD: Samsung's 830 series was well received by us. This is just something to keep in consideration. a 128 GB SSD should serve you well . It is based on the SandForce SF-2281 controller.

one is most likely to end up with a noisier CPU fan). but that is the price one pays for the silence. Page 4 Unless the HTPC is going to double up as a full-blown gaming rig. SeaSonic X series SS-400FL 400W 80PLUS GOLD PSU: Coming in at $129. Seagate's Barracuda 3TB (ST3000DM001): This hard drive is currently priced at $157. the PSU is a bit costly. This has 3x 1TB platters and delivers better performance than the initial 5x 600MB ones. . 3 TB is definitely not an overkill when it comes to hard drive capacity.99.99 on Amazon. with 65 and 100W processors. Users concerned with noise might want to go in for a fanless model (though.which is currently on sale for $249. For users using the HTPC to record TV shows / download media files.99. it is not necessary to go in for more than a 450W power supply.

for the budget builder. one can't expect modular cables and other such niceties. At this price.Antec VP-450 450W PSU: At $37. The choice of the chassis depends on the form factor of the chosen motherboard. this is a no-frills PSU presenting a very good value.99. it is an optimum choice. However. as well as the usage scenario. .

The design also makes it stand out (albeit.50 (but temporarily out of stock at the time of this article going live). . in a good way) in a home theater setup. Dustin liked the case a lot and even considered it worthy of an award.99 [ ] and also on Amazon at $129.mini-ITX: SilverStone FT03 Mini is currently on Newegg at $164.

If you are in search of something mainstream and also including a MCE remote. and I have a Smart TV. It is currently on Amazon at $213. the integrated GPU is still not powerful enough for 1080p60 H. we will just leave it to readers to pick and choose components from those listed above.264 decoding. we recognize that our readers have varied requirements when looking at a buyer's guide. The good news is that many of the issues cited have been fixed.99. we have taken a look at the options available to readers setting out to build a Llano based HTPC.74. the Antec Fusion VERIS Remote Max is an excellent choice which I can recommend from personal experience. which are not required by all HTPC builders.micro-ATX and ATX: I am going to take this opportunity to suggest nMEDIAPC's wooden case currently available on Newegg at $89. Hence. I have also not discussed general HTPC add-ons such as capture cards and TV tuners. This unique case is bound to steal the show even in the most fancy of home theater setups. Page 5 In this buyer's guide. it is strongly suggested that one of the quad core APUs be picked up so that . However. All my media is streamed off a NAS. My requirements from a HTPC would just be a low power head end to play files off my NAS using XBMC or JRiver Media Center 17 or some other similar software. Before concluding the piece. I could build a system fitting my requirements by selecting components from those presented in the previous pages and present the total cost to the readers. thanks to its unique construction and industrial design. but that is bound to invite comments from irate readers who have other requirements. At AnandTech. I would like to link to our review of the Llano from a HTPC perspective last year. If your usage scenario involves playback of such files.

we may cover such platforms at a later date. In the meanwhile. . Depending upon the interest from readers. They make very good platforms for low power NAS systems and media storage servers. High quality madVR rendering is not possible with the integrated GPU (it is not possible with the Intel Sandy Bridge HD 2000 / HD 3000 series either). I have not touched upon the usage of APUs complementary to the Llano such as the E-350 (Zacate). readers are invited to use the comments section to discuss their existing or planned Llano builds. It is quite important that the system builder be fully aware of the capabilities of the APUs before embarking on the build.one has enough grunt for multi threaded software decode. In this buyer's guide.

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