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Today, I will talk about AMD alternatives. This will give you quick overview.
AMD’s AM3+, FM2, FM2+, AM1: The Alternative Choices
On the desktop, AMD has been cornered by Intel into fighting for bits of the low-end and lower-mid CPU market. Indeed, the company’s overall fastest chips, its late-2014 FX-8370 and the 5.0GHz FX-9590 compete with Intel’s newest Core i5s, not the higher-end Core i7 chips.
In terms of platforms, the “live” AMD ones at this writing were the AM3+ socket, the FM2+ sockets, and the low-end AM1 socket. AM3+ has a long, long lineage, but the only chips that still matter on it for from-scratch builders and upgraders are the FX line. FX-8370 at $200, a workmanlike eight-core chip that delivers decent performance with multithreaded apps and good overclocking potential. The AMD FX-9590 chip is also available for under $250, but it has a high 220-watt thermal design power (TDP), which means it effectively demands liquid cooling, and is only designed for a select set of FX motherboards. The older FX-8350 is also a good choice, as it’s not a huge step down from the FX-8370, and can be found for as low as $160.
Then there’s the FM2+ socket. Motherboards with the socket started rolling out in late October 2013, though there were no FM2+-specific APUs until we saw the good-but-pricey A10-7850K at $128.84 and its more-appealing, lower-priced couterpart, the A8-7600, both in early 2014. Since then, we’ve also seen an update on the high-end FM2+ line, with the A10-7870K at $139.99 , code-named “Godavari,” in the fall of 2015.
All of AMD’s APUs are under $150 (almost all, actually, are under $150), with a few of the upper SKUs unlocked for overclocking and marked with a “K,” such as the $140 A10-7870K. Don’t let the overclocking potential go to your head, though: These are still budget processors for cheap or compact PCs that require rather good on-chip graphics that can suffice for basic gaming. The integrated graphics can also work in concert—that is, additively—with a select list of low-end-to midrange dedicated video cards, but this is worth the trouble only in some very specific budget situations.
Finally, an intriguing option for those with very basic computing needs who are also working on a tight budget is the AMD AM1 platform. This option is best for those looking to build very inexpensive, compact PCs. Released in 2014 and designed primarily for markets in developing nations and scenarios where low pricing is the key concern, it comprises four APUs that are power-efficient and work with new AM1-based motherboards. (Note that the socket proper on these boards is actually called “FS1b.”) Marketed under the venerable Athlon and Sempron chip brands, these chips are socketed versions of the company’s “Kabini” chips that were previously seen only in a few isolated low-end laptops.
Most of the AM1 motherboards sell for under $50, and the chips range from $30 to $50, so it’s possible to score a pair for well under $100. When we wrote this, the highest-end AM1 chip was the Athlon 5530, and it was selling for around $45. On the low end of this low-end platform sits the Sempron 2650, but at about $32, it’s not a massive savings over the Athlon chip, which is clocked nearly 50 percent higher (at 2.05GHz) and has twice as many cores (four) than the Sempron. We’d recommend opting for the Athlon 5530 on this platform, unless perhaps all you really ever do with your PC is surf the Web with a couple open tabs and write e-mails and basic documents.
Bottom Line: If you’re upgrading a PC, moving to the top FX chip is worthwhile if you’re already on the AM3+ platform and your mainboard is compatible. Otherwise, on the APU side, if you’re building from scratch, an FM2+ board is definitely the way to go. The best of the APU chips are all close enough in price that the upper-end ones (about $130 to $150), or midrange Kaveris, are worth stretching for if you can afford one. If on an extreme budget and basic tasks are all that you need to perform, an AM1 chip and mobo may well be worth considering.
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