AMD Llano HTPC Builders Guideby Ganesh T S on June 5, 2012 8:02 AM EST
The Llano APUs come in 2, 3 and 4 core variants. The table below lists all the retail SKUs available, along with current pricing. Note that the A4-3420 (which was initially OEM only, and was later supposed to debut in a retail model), A6-3600, A6-3620, A8-3800, and the A8-3820 don't seem to be available with any of the first-tier retailers, so we've left them out of the charts.
|AMD Llano APU Lineup (Desktop)|
|A4-3300||2||2.5GHz||6410D||160:8:4 @ 443MHz||DDR3-1600||65W||$60|
|A4-3400||2||2.7GHz||6410D||160:8:4 @ 600MHz||DDR3-1600||65W||$66|
|6530D||320:16:8 @ 443MHz||DDR3-1866||65W||$80|
|A6-3650||4||2.6GHz||6530D||320:16:8 @ 443MHz||DDR3-1866||100W||$85|
|A6-3670K||4||2.7GHz||6530D||320:16:8 @ 443MHz (Unlocked)||DDR3-1866||100W||$105|
|A8-3850||4||2.9GHz||6550D||400:20:8 @ 600MHz||DDR3-1866||100W||$110|
|A8-3870K||4||3.0GHz||6550D||400:20:8 @ 600MHz (Unlocked)||DDR3-1866||100W||$119|
With the choice of available APUs out of the way, it is now time to take a look at the two Fusion Controller Hubs (FCHs) available for Lynx, the Llano desktop platform:
|AMD Fusion Controller Hubs for Lynx (Desktop Llano)|
|Chipset||Code Name||Unified Media Interface||SATA||USB 3/2/1.1||TDP|
|A55||Hudson-D2||x4 Gen 2 + Display Port||6 x 3Gbps||0/14/2||7.6W|
|A75||Hudson-D3||x4 Gen 2 + Display Port||6 x 6Gbps||4/10/2||7.8W|
The three main motherboard form factors of interest to us are (in order of size):
- mini-ITX (17cm x 17cm)
- micro-ATX (24.4cm x 24.4cm)
- ATX (30.5cm x 24.4cm)
Scenarios which don't involve high quality gaming/complex TV tuner systems can make do with mini-ITX motherboards (only one expansion slot). On the other hand, for moderate gaming and/or the installation of capture cards/internal TV tuners, multiple expansion slots such as those in the micro-ATX motherboards might be required. For high end HTPCs that also double up as gaming rigs with cards in CrossFire and/or network DVRs with custom capture cards, ATX motherboards (which have up to seven expansion slots) are necessary.
We're not going to recommend any specific board for each size as being "best", as what qualifies as such will vary from person to person. However, it is worth nothing that the motherboard choice can have wide ranging effects on the overall stability and functionality of a system. If you buy an inexpensive board, it may or may not work with all memory modules, it might lack fine-grained fan control, overclocking features may not be present, and there's even a potential for incompatibilities with certain peripherals and/or SSDs. If any of those items are of particular importance to you, we'd suggest reading up on some of the motherboard reviews to see how the various boards compare. All of the boards listed below should work for a basic HTPC setup, but some are going to be better than others.
The following table gives you an idea of the various mini-ITX motherboards currently available. All boards have a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 expansion slot, 4x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2, and are based on the A75 chipset. All of these are targeted towards small form factor systems suitable for use as HTPCs, as they have both HDMI output as well as optical SPDIF for multi-channel audio.
|HTPC Oriented mini-ITX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano)|
|Vendor||Board Name||Memory Slots||Misc. Notes||Price|
|ASRock||A75M-ITX||2x DDR3 2400+||GbE + 4x USB 3.0||$90|
|Asus||F1A75-I DELUXE||2x DDR3 1866||GbE + 2x USB 3.0 + 1x USB 3.0 Internal Header||$140|
|AzureWave Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n|
|Gigabyte||GA-A75N-USB3||2x DDR3 2000+||RealtekGbE||$74|
|Zotac||A75ITX-A-E||2x DDR3 1866||DualGbE||$133|
|6x USB 3.0|
Moving on to the micro-ATX configurations, we have a large number of choices. All options have HDMI output with audio. However, not all HTPC setups have a receiver capable of parsing audio over HDMI. In order to experience multi-channel audio in such a scenario, it is necessary to take advantage of the SPDIF output. The table below lists the six boards which satisfy this criteria. If optical SPDIF is not needed, we have many more choices.
|HTPC Oriented micro-ATX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano)|
|Vendor||Board Name||Memory Slots||PCI Configuration||Misc. Notes||Price|
|Asus||F1A55-M/CSM||4x DDR3 2250+||2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 1x PCI||6x SATA 3Gbps, 2x USB 3.0||$78|
|ASRock||A75M||2x DDR3 2400+||1x PCI-E x16, 1x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI||5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2||$75|
|ASRock||A75 PRO4-M||4x DDR3 2400+||2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 2x PCI||5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2||$84|
|Asus||F1A75-M PRO||4x DDR3 1866||2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 1x PCI||6x SATA 6Gbps||$105|
|ECS||A75F-M||4x DDR3 1866||1x PCI-E x16, 1x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI||6x SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0 Headers||$80|
|Gigabyte||GA-A75M-D2H||2x DDR3 2400+||2x PCI-E x16 (x16, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 1x PCI||6x SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0 Headers||$70|
For most readers looking to build a Llano-based HTPC, one of the above motherboards should suffice. However, as we mentioned in the last section, users might also want to use their HTPC as a gaming rig; others might want PCI-E/PCI slots for multiple capture cards. A selection of full-sized ATX motherboards for such purposes is provided in the table below. Note that several of the boards also have anywhere from $10 to $30 main-in rebates, and very likely we'll see prices continue to drop as the Q3 launch of Trinity gets closer.
|HTPC Oriented ATX Motherboards for Lynx (Desktop Llano)|
|Vendor||Board Name||Memory Slots||PCI Configuration||Misc. Notes||Price|
|ASRock||A55 PRO3||4x DDR3 2400+||2x PCI-E x16, 1x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI||5x SATA 3Gbps, 2x SATA 6Gbps, 2x USB 3.0||$75|
|ASRock||A75 PRO4||4x DDR3 2400+||2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI||5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2||$80|
|ASRock||A75 Extreme6||4x DDR3 2400+||3x PCI-E x16(x16/x0 or x8/x8, x4), 1x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI||8x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2||$95|
|Asus||F1A75-V PRO||4x DDR3 1866||2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI||7x SATA 6Gbps, 1xeSATA2, 1x DP||$116|
|Asus||F1A75-V EVO||4x DDR3 1866||3x PCI-E x16(x16/x0 or x8/x8, x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI||7x SATA 6Gbps, 1xeSATA2, 1x DP||$130|
|ECS||A75F-A||4xDDR3 2600+||2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI||5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2||$80|
|Gigabyte||GA-A75-D3H||4x DDR3 1866||2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x4), 2x PCI-E x1, 3x PCI||5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2||$90|
|Gigabyte||GA-A75-UD4H||4x DDR3 2400+||2x PCI-E x16 (x16,x8), 3x PCI-E x1, 2x PCI||5x SATA 6Gbps, 1x eSATA2||$105|
One thing to keep in mind is that Llano is basically a dead-end platform. AMD's Trinity will use socket FM2, so you won't be able to upgrade to anything faster than what we've currently listed. As noted above, we will also likely see prices drop further in the coming month or two. With the processor and motherboard chosen, let us move on to the other components of the build.
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BPB - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - linkI was hoping to see mention of the newer AMD APU's. As for me I am going to mount the Foxconn unit below to my TV and use it for my HTPC. It's $175 and for not much more I can plop memory, HDD, and OS in it.
geniekid - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - linkI built a Llano-based HTPC about 8 months ago using many of the parts listed in this guide. One thing I will point out is I ended up buying a third party CPU cooler since the retail fan was a bit loud for me. Other than that, the Seasonic SS-400FL is fanless so the only other source of noise for me was the case fans that came with the Grandia 05, which were good enough for me.
lurker22 - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - linkThe problem is AMD's Llano can't run Netflix HD well because Silverlight doesn't have GPU acceleration enabled for the chip. It's a shame, as otherwise it's a GREAT CPU for HTPCs and cheap! Until MS either gets GPU acceleration working, or Netflix moves from Silverlight one still needs a more powerful CPU to be able to do everything with their HTPC
BPB - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - linkThis is a good point. As a matter of fact, it has me reconsidering getting the little system I mentioned above. Of course I can do Netflix HD via my TV's app, but still, do I want to get an APU that can't even run Netflix? Hmmm....
lurker22 - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - linkI was about to purchase an e-350 based system, until I saw the lack of Netflix HD acceleration. No point buying something new which doesn't cover all the usage needs when my old HTPC can...
burntham77 - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - linkI have the exact same hardware, and Netflix in WMC stutters with HD video. If I set my Netflix account quality settings to the middle or low setting, it works fine, but obviously things don't look as nice.
Luckily I have a PS3 and 360 hooked up to the same TV, but it is a shame that Microsoft dropped the ball on Silverlight in this regard.
duploxxx - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - linkTHe problem isn't the LIano, any other pentium, celeron i3 ULV or wathever (even latest macs) will have an issue, it's just the Silverlight piece of crap. BTW it's only HD streaming that provides issues.
many have already reported that it run's better in different browsers (chrome-safari)
lurker22 - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - linkYes, and those CPUs have the power to run Netflix HD without the GPU acceleration :)
duploxxx - Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - linknope, on forums they report the same issues with that type of cpu i mentioned.
knutjb - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - linkI have an A8-3850 w/hardware acceleration set. I have not experienced any issues with Netflix. Does someone have a current list of gpu support in Silverlight 5? I couldn't find any list in a quick search.
I have had no problems. Sits next to my reveiver behind pictures with audio through toslink, 1080 video through HDMI. All fans connected to MB, cannot hear from couch when set to 100% with sound off. Plays music too set @ 24bit 96k. Surprisingly good sound from older Denon receiver. Can hear the difference between 16 & 24 bit with better recordings.
Caught sales for everything.
Lian Li PC-351 with side vent holes taped off to force air through power supply.
G.SKILL Sniper Series 8GB 1866 oc'd in bios.
SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC064D
Seagate 1TB HD