Before we get into what it does, system specs and so forth, let's clarify what "Llano" really is.
A few years ago (almost 3 now), AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) announced this revolutionary (sort of, but we'll discuss that later) idea:
What if your CPU (Central Processing Unit), your Northbridge and your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) were on the same chip? For more than just a cell phone? (Yes, cell phones had been doing SoC [System on a Chip] for several years).
AMD decided to call this idea an "APU" (Advanced Processing Unit) or "Fusion" platform. Unlike existing SoC's, AMD's "APU" would be geared very differently. Current SoC's have all of the earmarks of AMD's "APU" but with one, fatal flaw: the CPU and GPU operate completely independent of one another. AMD visualized a processing world in which these three elements would not only be capable of operating independently of each other, but also in congress - depending on the demands of the applications using the hardware. In the current computing environment, this seemed to be an astounding idea. Minds reeled with the possibilities. AMD even thought of a brilliant marketing campaign - one that, sadly, never saw mainstream media attention, as AMD never launched commercials:
"The Future is Fusion".
Mull that one over for a bit; it's technological and social implications are nothing short of ground-breaking.
So, after much ado, AMD released their "Llano" processor line. From the very beginning, these "Llano" processors weren't geared for high-end x86 computing, nor were they geared for high-end gaming; instead, "Llano" 's aim was more geared for what the general public - then and now - is looking for when it comes to computing as a whole:
1) Multi-tasking. More and more these days, users want to be able to run several process, programs and applications without system hang (lag). This, of course, requires more cores for more threading.
2) Multi-media playback/interaction quality. With the ever-growing market of HD (High-Definition) and the proliferation of Blu-Ray, more and more users are looking for high-quality HD playback with their media; music and video, mostly.
3) Affordability. With economies in steep decline the world over, people want - now, more than ever - to not have to give up the things they enjoy. In most households, the #1 comfort item to get the ol' heave-ho is the high-end tech that we can no longer afford.
AMD's "Llano" processor was aimed to give the people what they want - or need - without them having to shrink their wallets to an all-time low. But does it really deliver? I wanted - no, needed - to find out. So, when the money cleared up, and a buddy needed a new build, we decided to experiment.
For each review I do on here, components and systems will start with 50 points out of 100. 100 points = perfect score; less than 50 points = don't waste your money. For now, at least, everything else is up for interpretation.
In my very first post here, I showed you what some of the components we used were; now, let's show you pictures of all of them:
AMD 3870K 100W Quad-core APU (CPU+GPU) $119
Thermaltake V1 110mm Blue LED HSF (optional fan speed controller) (already owned this) $39.99
Gigabyte A75-D3H Socket FM1 Motherboard $89.99
Diamond AMD RadeonHD 6670 2GB GDDR3 $79.99
**[ 480 Stream processing units @ 800MHz ; 400MHz RAMDAC ; 1200MHz Effective Memory Clock]**
4 x 2GB G-Skill Ripjaws Black Edition DDR3 2000MHz (clocked @ 1600MHz) (already owned this) $59.98
2x Western Digital Caviar Blue 80GB SATA II HDD's in RAID 0 (already owned these) $20.99 ea
Antec Lanboy Air (Blue) (already owned this) $179.99
Xion PowerReal 850W PSU (738W continous) (already owned this) $89.99
Samsung Super-Multi DVD R/W SATA II (already owned this) $19.99
Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit OEM (already owned this) $99
Total system cost (if purchased new): $819.90 ( 1/2 of this cost is the ODD, HDD's, HSF, PSU and Case, which are future proof and re-usable)
My cost: $288.98 (CPU, Mobo, GPU)
Testing and "Benchmarking":
Building it up to break it back down
Depending on what you're trying to do with it. As you'll soon read in this review (complete with some short vids) it's great for multi-media playback - the likes of which Intel can only imagine, but not perform - and okay at games. The real winner here is the low system cost for the performance that you get. Compared to comparable Intel systems, this thing is a Monstrosity! The truth is: if one takes into account the warranties on the parts used, the life expectancy of the equipment and the re-usable components (for future builds), this thing blows the competition out of the water. You ready for some proof? Here it comes:
Video Testing, Basic Game Benchmarks
****(Update 06/30/2012 - The Video Render finished, but the quality turned out really terrible. That's what I get for using FRAPS I suppose. So I'll be using Camtasia Studio to re-record and post as soon as I can. Sorry for the inconvenience)****
As you can see from the video above, Llano did phenomenal on its own; when coupled with the 6670 it's supposed to crossfire with? Marginally better... but only marginally. Time to Review and do some pointing.
The Video Card (GPU)
First of all, for being what it is, this video card is wildly underwhelming. With 480 Stream processing units and 2GB of VRAM, this GPU should be - for $80 - impressive. Sadly, it's not. In fact, it's performance in this "Hybrid Crossfire X" is nothing short of depressing.
The question remains: Why?
Let's take a look at that, shall we?
First of all, in a standard Crossfire arrangement, input to the card(s) is handled by the Northbridge. Llano's Northbridge is integrated, along with a "Fusion Controller Hub", so that much is covered. Secondly, in a standard Crossfire configuration, the cards hand off workloads via Crossfire Bridge. (Pictured on 2x 5870's below).
Let's examine why:
Thirdly, regarding "Hybrid Crossfire X" - on this particular card there is no power input. All of the power is drawn from the PCI-e slot. For a card that's clearly intended to be Mid-Range, this isn't just bad, it's idiocy. 480 Stream processing units and 2GB of VRAM should - and normally would - warrant the need for extra power draw. The lack of a 6-pin connector for power means that Overclocking this card is pretty much impossible.
Fourthly - and lastly - all other crossfire arrangements have software support in both the driver and the Catalyst Control Center; Llano's "Hybrid Crossfire X" doesn't have this either. Apparently, it's supposed to just happen on it's own. How does that work, exactly? Care to answer that AMD? No? Thought so...
The Central Processing Unit (CPU)
+15 points for outstanding foresight
The CPU also has a DDR3 1866MHz controller on-die. This would seem like a plus... except - key word here, "except" - this only works if you have only 2 DRAM sticks and only intend on running in single channel mode. Forcing a user to clock back to - at the most - 1600MHz for Dual-Channel; the same place AMD has been for almost 5 years now. In the age where Dual Channel RAM is quickly being out-dated by Triple and Quad-Channel configurations. Can you see me shaking my head disappointingly? Disapprovingly? The day is coming soon where Dual-Channel will be a thing of the past. Something Intel has forseen and prepared for, but AMD still doesn't have a consumer answer for it. Seriously? Yes, seriously. With AMD systems, you'd have to get into the High-End server systems in order to get anything above Dual-Channel (think in the $6K range). At least with Intel systems, there are options - albeit ridiculously expensive ones - available.
-10 points for not future proofing.
+ 3 points for still having a faster RAM Controller on-die than Intel. For shame Intel, for shame.
With PCI-e X16 2.1 slot and PCI-e X8, it means this "low-end" board can be set up for a real Crossfire set up.
+25 points for making Intel look money hungry, incompetent and evil
If you're looking at a cheap processor for PC gaming, Llano and a Radeon HD 6850 (960 Stream Processing Units and 1GB of VRAM) is only $134.99. For those of you bad at math, that's $55 more than the 6670 and will get you to to at least "High" settings on most video games, gives you true crossfire options, has a 6-pin power connector so OC'ing the GPU would be a possibility. But with "Hybrid Crossfire"? Not happening.
-5 points for making me spend more money. Shame on you AMD.
100 points = Perfect Score
>50 points = Don't waste your money
<50 points but >100 points = Interpret for yourself (at least until I decide the rating system needs some changes)
75 points total.
It's certainly not the best system type you can buy, but, depending on what you're looking for, it's definitely a great buy for the money. For the money, you couldn't beat it with a stick while it slept.
But that's my humble opinion. The rest listed above? Well, that kids, is what we refer to as "Facts" which are things that can be proven and reproduced by any with the funds to do it.
Stay tuned, I'm gonna do it again.