AMD's Kaveri APU has been out for a while now. As the FM2+ platform has stabilized post-APU launches, we're seeing increased adoption of APU-based budget rigs among our PC build guide readers. Kaveri and Richland are both interesting chips from an architectural standpoint; Kaveri has increased the die allocation of the GPU component to nearly 50%, resulting in one of the most powerful consumer-ready integrated GPUs ever available, yet still retains performance right around (or under) Richland in CPU power.
As with any growing platform, AMD's chipset selection has expanded on FM2+ as technology has iterated; the company currently pushes A88X, A78, and A55 chipsets on most FM2+ motherboards found online; A85X and A75 are still around, but limited to FM1/FM2 boards. A88X was just getting big around CES, where we demoed some of the first A88X boards at MSI's suite. Still, AMD doesn't have its block diagrams easily accessible and doesn't make it easy to learn the differences between each chipset, so that's why this article is here.
In this AMD FM2+ / Kaveri APU chipset comparison, we'll look at the differences between A88X, A85X (FM2, Richland), A78, A75 (FM2, Richland), and A55, then discuss what's best for your gaming needs. AMD A75 and A55 have been around since FM1, A88X came out with Kaveri, and the rest are in between. If you're interested in a similar post about Intel's 8-series Haswell chipsets, check this out.
AMD announced Monday their upcoming plans for "SkyBridge," due to come out in 2015, and customized AMD/ARM cores ("K12") due in 2016. The 2014 road map AMD laid-out is promising across mobility and x86 applications (more on the latter in a future post). AMD is the first company that is minimizing costs by having a single motherboard for both ARM and x86 architecture, giving more potential reach for consumers and sticking with AMD's effort to let buyers keep their board upon upgrading CPUs. AMD has always owned a bit of a niche market (except the days when they dominated with the Athlon 64), but they are expanding their strategy to one of differentiation from the norms of semiconductors.
It seems like this is the year of mini-ITX form factors -- between the obsession over small cases at CES and the impending Steam Machine launches (and Kaveri), small form factor systems are being driven hard by the industry. This hardware sales round-up includes deals on mini-ITX boards, a Kaveri bundle, an Intel SSD, and a cheap full-tower case.
We recently posted about an alleged slide leak from AMD that, if real, seemed to suggest the end of the line for FX-series CPUs and the AM3+ socket. The slide stirred a great deal of concern throughout major social networks and enthusiast websites, and so I attempted to bring things back down to earth in our original analysis. I reached out to AMD for comment prior to publication, but we weren't able to speak with the company until yesterday.
AMD Manager of APU/CPU Product Reviews James Prior was quick to negate the slide's legitimacy: "I've never seen that slide before, I don't know where that came from," he told me in our call, and quickly followed-up by stating that "it's not real. FX is not end-of-life." Prior pointed-out that it's rare to ever see more than a year into the future with roadmaps, and that the real AMD roadmap looks like this:
Update: AMD has commented on the slide.
Rumors abounded earlier this year that AMD would be ditching high-end / enthusiast-class CPUs in favor of a heavier focus on APUs and mainstream CPUs. With large thanks to its console adaptation, AMD posted its first profit since 2012 in Q3 this year, making for a promising future for the company. The same earnings report indicated that AMD's desktop computing solutions have dwindled in profitability over the course of the last year, meanwhile their GPU and APU solutions have nearly doubled in revenue.
Given this information, the rumors earlier this year made sense: If AMD can pump its R&D into graphics and hybrid solutions (Mantle, HSA, and Hybrid Graphics are all promising), then perhaps the best move would be to cut the FX line. Intel hasn't produced a mainstream mid-range or better processor without an IGP in several years (the i-series CPUs are effectively APUs, though Intel doesn't define the fusion as such); buying one of the go-to Intel CPUs (4670K or 4770K) also means you're getting an IGP with it that, frankly, very few readers in our audience even want or care about.
A new leaked slide allegedly from AMD could indicate that the company is terminating their FX line of CPUs and the AM3+ socket type, and with speculation whirling, let's bring some reality to the scene.
We moderate comments on a ~24~48 hour cycle. There will be some delay after submitting a comment.