Cheap PCs sell like hotcakes, and AMD's rolling out a new "AM1" platform to bring some graphics-assisted oomph to the low end. AM1 is essentially the desktop home for AMD's mobile-focused Kabini APUs--full system-on-a-chip solutions that merge computer processor, graphics processor, and more on a single, energy-efficient chip.
AMD's new offering goes toe-to-toe with Intel's Bay Trail chips, but while Intel's chips typically come soldered to a motherboard (and aren't upgradeable as a result), the AM1 platform is built around the all-new FS1b Socket, allowing you to swap out APUs as you see fit--and that's never a bad thing.
The APUs in the AM1 platform feature two or four of AMD's 28nm Jaguar computing cores--the same ones found in the Xbox One and PlayStation 4--as well as 128 Radeon graphics cores based on the company's GCN architecture. The two cheapest AM1 APUs sport the legendary Sempron brand, while the two slightly beefier SoCs fall in the Athlon line. The slide above lists all the nitty-gritty details.
AMD's Radeon graphics cores are generally regarded as superior to Intel's integrated graphics; thanks to that, AMD claims the high-end Athlon 5350 provides superior computing performance to Intel's Pentium J2900,while also offering up to gaming performance up to 2.8 times faster than PCs packing similar Intel Pentium or Celeron CPUs with a discrete Nvidia G210 graphics card. AnandTech already has an exhaustive review of the high-end Athlon 5350 APU if you're interested.
Beyond the graphics and socketed upgradability angles, AMD is positioning its desktop Kabini platform against Intel's Bay Trail by offering wider operating system support: AM1 supports Windows XP, 7, and 8 of both the 32-bit and 64-bit varieties, while Bay Trail sticks to Windows 7 and 8, with 64-bit support only starting to roll out. AM1 also supports slightly faster memory than Bay Trail, at 1600MHz versus 1333MHz max, and one additional USB 3.0 port.
And did I mention the price? AM1 motherboards are expected to sell for $25 to $35, with ASRock, Asus, Biostar, MSI, ECS, and Gigabyte already signed up to pump out micro-ATX and mini-ATX boards. Kabini's system-on-a-chip nature helps contribute to the low motherboard cost, as the APUs already pack plenty of features normally reserved for motherboards in desktop PCs.
Those Kabini APUs themselves are nearly as cheap as the motherboards. The Sempron 2650 and 3850 will sell for $34 and $39, respectively, while the Athlon 5150 and 5350 will cost $49 and $59. They're available now in North America via the usual PC e-tailers.
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