Our Motherboard Memory Lane series today arrives at the AMD Socket FM1 era. The arrival of the FM1 Socket heralded a significant change in direction for AMD which launched its first Accelerated Processor Units or APUs in the market. Aimed at the mainstream to entry-level segment the new platform hoped to woo PC enthusiasts and overclockers with a relatively decent CPU coupled with a much beefier integrated GPU. Let’s take a closer at the new platform, the motherboards and processors that were popular during this era and of course, some of the most notable scores posted on HWBOT.
AMD Socket FM1: Overview
The arrival of the AMD FM1 Socket marked a pivotal change in the overall AMD product lineup. Socket FM1 would become the mid-range and entry-level platform leaving the mature AM3+ platform to spearhead its high-end offerings. Whereas previous mainstream platforms from AMD had relied upon a Northbridge Chipset such as the AMD 880G and AMD 880GX to deliver integrated graphics and digital display outputs, the new FM1 platform used Accelerated Processor Units had a much more substantial GPU baked into the processor itself. AMD would later release its Bulldozer-based AMD FX series processors on the AM3+ platform in an attempt to better compete with Intel’s recently arrived Sandy Bridge offerings.
Arriving in June of 2011, the first FM1 Socket compatible APUs belong to the Llano family of desktop processors (as distinguished from Lynx which was the overall platform codename that also included mobile parts). These arrived on the market with A6 and A8 models, packing quad-core CPUs plus a Radeon HD 6000 series GPU that was much more substantial than competing Intel IGPs at the time. The series would be expanded to also include more affordable A4, E2 and Athlon II X2 and X4 processors (the later arriving without integrated GPUs). The Llano platform packed a Stars-based CPU (based on the K10 architecture) that would be upgraded to Piledriver in the next generation.
In terms of market strategy AMD gambled that the GPU was becoming more important to many general computing tasks that CPUs were not as well suited for. Since the acquisition of graphics company ATi for $5.4 billion USD in 2006, the long term aim had been to integrate both CPU and GPU in a what the company described as a Heterogeneous System Architecture.
The new platform used a single chipset marketed as a Fusion Controller Hub, the high-end offering being the AMD A75. With substantial PCIe, the GPU, display outputs and memory controller all integrated within the APU itself, the FCH was in fact similar to a Southbridge component. At launch the AMD A-Series platform launched with motherboards that offered A75, and slightly cheaper A55 FCH options, The AMD A75 in fact included the first native implementation of USB 3.0.
Llano based APUs featured a memory controller that supported frequencies of up to DDR3-1866, a boost from the previous generation from AMD which topped out at DDR3-1600. The additional memory frequency was indeed required to give sufficient bandwidth to the integrated GPU which was allocated 512MB of system memory. Subsequent platform refreshes would see memory support increased further to offer DDR3-2133 frequencies.
As a mainstream platform, AMD tried to make the feature set for A75 based systems as attractive as possible. The A75 FCH boasted 10x USB 2.0 ports, 2x USB 1.1 port plus 4x USB 3.0 – the first to do so. In terms of storage it offered a reasonably generous 6x SATA 6 Gbps ports plus RAID 0,1 and 10 support. Direct from the APU, discrete graphics cards could take advantage of 16x lanes of PCIe 2.0, plus four additional PCIe 2.0 lanes as General Purpose Ports. Four more PCIe lanes were available direct from the FCH. The APU and the FCH communicated via a 2GB/s UMI bus.
As regards the FM1 Socket itself, it used 905 pin holes arranged in a 31 x 31 grid with a 7 x 5 section removed from the center. The Socket would be replaced by the FM2 Socket in 2012.
Most Popular AMD Socket FM1 Motherboard, the GIGABYTE A75-UD4H
If we take a look at the most popular FM1 boards used by overclockers on HWBOT we see a snapshot of the motherboard industry at that time, or at least kind of. The four vendors that dominate the motherboard segment today are all represented; ASUS, GIGABYTE, ASRock and MSI are all here, plus Sapphire which we can regard as an anomaly of sorts. Here’s the top ten in terms of submissions.
- -GIGABYTE A75-UD4H – 19.73%
- -ASUS F1A75-V Pro – 13.67%
- -GIGABYTE A75M-UD2H – 8.91%
- -ASRock A75 Extreme6 – 5.93%
- -Sapphire Pure Platinum A75 – 5.48%
- -ASUS F1A75-M Pro – 4.98%
- -ASRock A75 Pro4 – 4.07%
- -GIGABYTE A55M-DS2 – 4.07%
- -GIGABYTE A75M-D2H – 3.62%
- -MSI A55M-P33 – 2.53%
The list above seems to indicate a pretty successful period for GIGABYTE who have four boards in the top ten and represent 36% of all submissions. This includes the GIGABYTE A75-UD4H, the most popular FM2 board overall with 19.73% of all submissions. ASUS have two boards on the list, neither of which are ROG boards, an indication of how the company did not see the platform as an truly attractive option for gamers, despite the beefier iGPU. They have two Pro series boards and almost 19% of all submissions, the most popular board being the ASUS F1A75-V Pro. ASRock, MSI and Sapphire make up the remainder of the list.
The GIGABYTE A75-UD4H motherboard.
The GIGABYTE A75-UD4H motherboard was suitably priced for this mid-range platform, arriving on shelves for a retail price of around $115 USD. The company clearly focused on coming up with a motherboard that offered plenty of connectivity with additional USB 3.0 ports plus a reasonably solid 8+2 phase CPU VRM that made it a pretty capable for overclocking.
Chief motherboard reviewer cadaveca, writing for TechPowerUp gave the A75-UD4H a ‘Highly Recommended’ award and a score of 9.5/10. This is a sample of what he had to say back in August 2011:
“The Gigabyte A75-UD4H proved to be an overclocking treat, racing past barriers set with Phenom II CPUs, into what is uncharted territory for AMD memory performance, allowing for a whopping 640 MHz overclock on our Mushkin sticks. The clocks you see above were fully stable through games, stability tests, and everything else we could throw at it, making it a quick and snappy system, especially when paired with an SSD. Overclocking helped show how highly optimized the platform is too, with almost every MHz showing some difference.”
“We don’t know where to start with the Gigabyte A75-UD4H. It’s almost perfect. With the Gigabyte A75-UD4H, you can do more overclocking than we’ve seen in a long time from AMD, another nice added bonus, that takes what seems to be an entry-level platform, to near enthusiast levels. Thanks to AMD’s Fusion technology this board is very well equipped to serve in a media PC system or affordable work/productivity PC.”
Most Popular AMD Socket FM1 Processor: AMD A8-3850
The most popular APU of the AMD FM1 era was the AMD A8-3850, the flagship of the AMD Llano family of APUs that was officially launched in June of 2011. The series at launch included four SKUs; the AMD A6-3600 (2.1GHz, boosting to 2.4Ghz), AMD A6-3650 (2.6GHz), AMD A8-3800 (2.4GHz, boosting to 2.7GHz) and the top tier AMD A8-3850 (2.9GHz).
The AMD A8-3580 was used in 25.75% of all FM1 submissions. The next most popular APU was the A8-3870K which arrived six months later in December 2011.Overall however, it’s worth mentioning that the platform as a whole, despite its attractive price points and more substantial iGPU failed to really inspire the overclocking community of HWBOT and enthusiasts in general. This is largely due to a CPU design that was quite far away from Intel’s Sandy Bridge offerings in sheer performance terms. In terms of budget gaming and multimedia builds however, it was a reasonably attractive proposition – in the high performance stakes, it was too far behind to really have any impact. Many enthusiasts were content to see how Bulldozer would shape up on the next generation, a factor that also made the FM1 platform less attractive.
Regardless, the AMD A8-3850 arrived with a price tag of $135 USD, competing head to head with the Sandy Bridge Intel Core i3 2105 which retailed for around the same price. It was a quad-core APU that also packed a Radeon HD 6550D GPU. With a CPU base clock of 2.9GHz and 4x 1MB L2 cache, the GPU part featured 400 stream processors and a frequency of 600MHz. It was manufactured by GlobalFoundries using their 32nm process, and had a TDP of 100 watts.
AMD Socket FM1: Record Scores
We can now take a look at some of the highest scores posted on HWBOT using AMD’s Socket FM1 platform.
Reference clock overclocking may not be the most important benchmark in today’s world, but back in the AMD Socket FM1 era, it remained an important way to determine a motherboard’s ability to perform well. The highest reference clock submitted on HWBOT using the AMD FM1 platform did indeed involve a GIGABYTE A75-UD4H board. The submission was made by our very own Christian Ney (Switzerland) who managed to eek out a reference clock of 200MHz using a n LN2 cooled AMD A8-3870K APU.
Here’s a shot of the Christian Ney rig in action:
You can find the submission from Christian here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/2248328_christian_ney_reference_frequency_ga_a75_ud4h_200_mhz
Although raw CPU frequencies are not really treated as true benchmarks today, they remain an important performance metric for most overclockers. The highest CPU frequency ever submitted to HWBOT on the FM1 platform came from I.nfraR.ed from Bulgaria who pushed an AMD A8-3870K to a monumental 6,204.74MHz (+106.82%) using LN2 and a GIGABYTE A75M-UD2H motherboard.
You can find the submission from I.nfraR.ed here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/2333412_i.nfrar.ed_cpu_frequency_a8_3870k_6204.74_mhz
Finally, we come to the classic SuperPi 32M benchmark, an important benchmark in terms of historical relevance. The fastest SuperPi 32M run submitted on HWBOT on the FM1 platform was submitted by Czech overclocker froxic who managed a run of 12min 42sec 140ms using an AMD A8-3870K clocked at 5,285.4MHz (+76.18%).
Here’s a shot of the rig in action:
Check out the submission from froxic here: http://hwbot.org/submission/2265321_froxic_superpi___32m_a8_3870k_12min_42sec_140ms
Thanks for joining us for today’s trip down Motherboard Memory Lane. Return next week when we hone in on the AMD Socket FM2 platform, plus the motherboards, chips and scores that defined that particular era.