Subject: Motherboards | January 12, 2017 - 02:31 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x370, x300, ryzen, gigabyte, CES 2017, CES, b350, AM4, a320
Last week AMD provided additional details on the chipsets and AM4 platform (JoshTekk article link) that will support the company's upcoming Ryzen processors. On tap are the X370, B350, A320 for enthusiast, mid range, and budget markets respectively and the odd-man-out and somewhat mysterious pinky sized X300 chipset specifically geared for Mini ITX and other small form factor motherboards. Gigabyte answered some of Josh and I's questions on what actual motherboards will look like and what features manufacturers would take advantage of when it unveiled (nearly) its full lineup of AM4 motherboards at CES 2017.
Except for an X300-based motherboard which was absent from their booth, Gigabyte teased four new motherboards using each of AMD's new chipsets. Specifically, there will be two Aorus-branded high end X370-based motherboards known as GA-AX370-Gaming 5, GA-AX370-Gaming K5, a midrange B350-based Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 motherboard, and a budget micro ATX A320M-HD3 using the lower end A320 chipset.
All four of the motherboards surround the 1331-pin AM4 processor socket with four dual channel DDR4 DIMM slots, six SATA 6Gbps ports, at least one M.2 slot, at least two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, and modern USB 3.1 external IO connections.
Tech Report takes a look at Gigabyte's planned AM4 motherboard lineup.
The Gigabyte GA-AX370-Gaming 5 is the company's highest end motherboard and is clad in silver and black with white heatspreaders and "armor" plating. Being part of the Aorus brand, the motherboard has RGB LEDs and is reportedly at feature parity with Gigabyte's RGB-lit Z270 offerings. Powered by a 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS, the Gaming 5 uses a 10-phase VRM along with large heat spreaders to facilitate overclocking. The board features three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots that are electrically wired as x16/x8/x4 with support for CrossFireX and SLI (though only AMD will let you go to three cards on the third x4 slot) and three PCI-E x1 slots. The storage subsystem includes a single U.2 port and two SATA Express connectors (part of the total six SATA 6Gbps, not in addition to).
External I/O includes:
- 1x PS/2
- 6x USB 3.1 Gen 1
- 4x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (1 x Type-C)
- 2x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1x Intel
- 1x Killer Ethernet 2500
- 6x Audio
- 5x Analog out
- 1x SPDIF
Other little features like a BIOS code readout display and hybrid fan headers are part of the higher end boards but absent on the lower end ones.
Moving from the Gaming-5 to the GA-AX370-Gaming K5, the heat spreaders are scaled back and the color scheme is black and silver instead of white, silver, and black. Further, the power phases are less robust at seven phases, there is no LED display for error codes, no U.2 port, and no Killer Networks Ethernet. The slightly lower end board does keep the M.2 slot, SATA Express connectors, and PCI-E slots of the Gaming 5, however.
The Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 is where things start to noticeably change in the feature set. The VRM area is scaled back further with seven phases and a smaller heatsink. There is no U.2 or SATA Express, and one fewer PCI-E x1 slot than the X370 offerings. The motherboard does have three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (I am guessing still wired as x16/x8/x4 but AMD's slide from Josh's story is a bit unclear in this regard) but officially CrossFire and SLI are not supported according to AMD's slide. Around back, the board differs from the higher end models by including display outputs and lacking S/PDIF audio outputs. Specifically, the Gaming 3 board features:
- 2x USB 2.0
- 1x PS/2
- 4x Video outputs
- 1x VGA
- 1x DVI
- 1x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1x HDMI 2.0 [updated 10:32]
- 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1
- 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2
- 1x Intel Gigabit Ethernet
- 3x Analog audio outputs (AmpUp! audio)
Finally, the lowest end A320M-HD3 is a micro ATX motherboard with four DDR4 slots, six SATA port, two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (likely wired as x8/x4), a single M.2 slot, and a PCI slot of all things. The all black board uses a 7 phase VRM and thanks to most of the connectivity being housed in the processor and A320 chipset, the PCB looks rather barren. This does have the positive effect of allowing AMD to still put four DIMM slots on the board and two PCI-E slots with room to spare. External I/O on this board is identical to the AB350-Gaming 3 above.
In all, it is refreshing to see an updated AMD motherboard platform with the latest storage and graphics connectivity options, and while SATA Express and even U.2 aren't as useful as they could be (not many products actually use those connectors, M.2 has really stolen the show here) the inclusion of native USB 3.1 Gen 2 is great as is the ability to use all six SATA 6Gbps ports along with dual graphics cards (things get dicer when adding PCI-E storage and/or using the 4th x16 slot which may reduce the number of available SATA ports but that is a bit beyond this article.) It is nice to see these features coming from AMD directly and not having to rely on third party chips for modern features as AMD's AM3 platform had to. Seeing the initial launch boards take advantage of the new features fully is promising as well though I expect to see different configurations in the audio, M.2, and external I/O departments from future Gigabyte boards and their competitors.
I am curious to see how well the chipsets perform versus Intel's in the USB 3.1 and PCI-E storage departments as well as how overclocking will work with Ryzen and how far the AM4 platform boards will be able to push the new chips. It appears that AM4 has Zen off to a good start, and here's hoping that the AM4 platform will carry Zen into the future and help Ryzen, ahem, rise up to the task of delivering on all those performance promises from AMD!
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AM4 Edging Closer to Retail
Many of us were thinking that one of the bigger stories around CES would be the unveiling of a goodly chunk of AM4 motherboards. AM4 has been around for about half a year now, but only in system integrator builds (such as HP). These have all been based around Bristol Ridge APU (essentially an updated Carrizo APU). These SOCs are not exactly barn burners, but they provide a solid foundation for a low-cost build. The APUs features 2 modules/4 cores, a GCN based GPU, and limited southbridge I/O functionality.
During all this time the motherboards available from these OEMs are very basic units not fit for retail. Users simply could not go out and buy a Bristol Ridge APU and motherboard for themselves off of Newegg, Amazon, and elsewhere. Now after much speculation we finally got to see the first AM4 retail style boards unveiled at this year’s CES. AMD showed off around 16 boards based on previously unseen B350 and X370 chipsets.
AMD has had a pretty limited number of chipsets that they have introduced over the years. Their FM2+ offerings spanned the A series of chipsets, but they added very little in terms of functionality as compared to the 900 series that populate the AM3+ world. The latest offering from AMD was the A88x which was released in September 2013. At one time there was supposed to be a 1000 series of chipsets for AM3+, but those were cancelled and we have had the 900 series (which are identical to the previous 800 series) since 2011. This has been a pretty stagnant area for AMD and their partners. 3rd party chips have helped shore up the feature divide between AMD and Intel’s regular release of new chipsets and technologies attached to them.
There are three primary chipsets being released as well as two physical layer chips that allow the use of the onboard southbridge on Ryzen and Bristol Ridge. The X370 for the enthusiast market, the B350 for the mainstream, and then the budget A320. The two chipset options for utilizing the SOC’s southbridge functionality are the X300 and A/B300.
Before we jump into the chipsets we should take a look at what kind of functionality Ryzen and Bristol Ridge have that can be leveraged by motherboard manufacturers. Bristol Ridge is a true SOC in that it contains the GPU, CPU, and southbridge functionality to stand alone. Ryzen is different in that it does not have the GPU portion so it still requires a standalone graphics card to work. Bristol Ridge is based off of the older Carrizo design and does not feature the flexibility in its I/O connections that Ryzen does.
Bristol Ridge features up to 8 lanes of PCI-E 3.0. The I/O on it includes 2 native SATA6G ports as well as the ability to either utilize two more PCI-e lanes or have them as x2 NVME. That is about as flexible as it gets. It also natively supports four USB 3.1 gen 1 ports. For a chip that was designed to be a mobile focused SoC it makes sense that it will not max out PCI-E lanes or SATA ports. It still is enough to satisfy most mobile and SFF builds.
Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2012 - 02:41 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: FirePro APU, APU, amd, a320, a300
AMD announced today that it is extending the professional FirePro brand to its Accelerated Processing Units–APUs. Aimed at the professional market, AMD is hoping to get its APUs into workstations that perform computer aided design (CAD) work as well as multimedia content creation and editing. Thanks to the APU’s built-in VILW4 graphics, it can be used with GPU-accelerated software to speed up workloads.
Currently, there are two FirePro chips planned–the A300 and A320 APU. Both processors are based on the company’s consumer Trinity APUs. They feature four Piledriver CPU cores and a VLIW4 GPU architecture with 384 stream processors and dedicated UVD video decoding hardware. The A300 is clocked at a 3.4 GHz with a turbo speed of 4 GHz. On the other hand, the A320 has a base clockspeed of 3.8 GHz and a turbo clockspeed of 4.2 GHz. The A320 is even unlocked, which would allow open overclocking.
|APU Model||TDP||CPU Cores||CPU Clockspeed (base/max turbo)||Stream Processors||GPU Clock||Unlocked|
|AMD FirePro A300||65W||4||3.4 GHz/4 GHz||384||760 Mhz||No|
|AMD FirePro A320||100W||4||
3.8 GHz/4.2 GHz
The new FirePro APUs differ from the consumer lineup in that AMD has put them through more testing to ensure reliability and compatibility with industry software.
- AMD Eyefinity Technology support
- AMD Turbo Core
- Display resolutions up to 10,240 x 1600 for multi-monitor setups
- Discrete Compute Offload support that allows the pairing of the APU graphics and a discrete GPU to accelerate GPGPU software.
- 30-bit color support
- Dedicated UVD hardware for media encoding
It is an interesting move for AMD to get into the workstation and professional design market. The company has been putting out dedicated graphics cards aimed at professionals for a long time, and now with the company betting its future on HSA and APUs, it was only a matter of time before they started aiming APUs at the professional market as well. The A300-series APUs will be available in various workstation integrators (OEMs for workstations) starting this month. Unfortunately, there is no word yet on pricing or whether the processors will be sold individually or not. You can see the full press release on the AMD website.