Earlier this month, AMD's Llano APU surfaced on the mobile platform and it certainly looked promising from a mainstream gaming perspective. In case you're still confused about the whole AMD Fusion and APU business, you can read all about the mobile Llano platform in our preview article. It's a handy guide to what's coming up from AMD and it will be especially useful, as the desktop variants of Llano will be popping up in retail very soon.
The short version is that Llano combines a modified 'Phenom II' CPU architecture with Radeon graphics cores in a single die manufactured on AMD's 32nm SOI process. Like Intel's Sandy Bridge, the PCIe and memory controllers are on the APU, but AMD is focusing more on the graphics aspect and these APUs will have superior, DirectX 11 class graphics compared to Intel. AMD will also support a Hybrid CrossFireX technology dubbed Dual Graphics where users can pair the integrated graphics with a suitable discrete Radeon graphics card for better performance.
The desktop platform, which was codenamed Lynx, will consist of the Llano APU along with the supporting chipset/motherboard. This chipset is actually a 'Southbridge' (don't forget that the 'Northbridge' has been subsumed into the processor) or what AMD calls the A75 'Fusion Controller Hub' (FCH). Hence, we'll be calling these A75 motherboards.
Notably, the A75 FCH will provide native USB 3.0 support, along with the SATA 6Gbps support that AMD motherboards have enjoyed since the 800-series. Meanwhile, memory support on these boards is up to DDR3-1866MHz, though this is provided by the integrated memory controller within the APU. The APU also provides for the single PCIe 2.0 x16 slot on these motherboards, with the FCH accounting for the remainder, which generally boils down to a single PCIe 2.0 x4 together with PCI slots.
At this moment, we can't reveal any performance numbers for a desktop Llano APU, but we can show you some of these A75 motherboards:
ASRock brings us an ATX implementation of the A75 chipset with the Pro4, which comes in mostly blue and white on a dark PCB. It's a fairly typical mainstream design, with ASRock adding some extras in the form of FireWire support and useful buttons for clearing the BIOS, power and reset. The memory frequency support too is now up to 2500MHz for those who don't mind a bit of overclocking, up from the standard 1866MHz.
There are no extra SATA ports besides what's given on the chipset so taking in the fact that there's an eSATA port at the back, there are only five SATA 6Gbps ports left onboard. ASRock has implemented the four USB 3.0 ports from the FCH and they can all be found at the rear panel. HD audio is provided by the very decent and popular Realtek ALC892 CODEC and there's also a Realtek Gigabit LAN controller.
With this chipset seemingly requiring little cooling, there is plenty of space for the APU cooler. We also found the expansion slots to be spaced properly for dual-slot graphics cards if necessary. Layout isn't an issue on this ASRock board.