Present day consumers use their PCs for multimedia intensive tasks such as HD video playback. These HTPC tasks are not very power efficient when done using the x86 processor alone. Gamers have remained the main focus of the GPU developers. However, the GPU architecture (coupled with a dedicated video decoder on the same silicon) is quite useful for video playback and post processing also. This lightens the load on the x86 processor, and so, even consumers who rarely game opt to go for a discrete HTPC graphics card.

Intel used to integrate the GPU into the chipset till the GMA X4500. In Clarkdale, the integrated GPU became a part of the processor package itself, and eventually became a part of the main die in Sandy Bridge. The GMA X4500 and later models have a very efficient decoder, and renders a discrete HTPC graphics card redundant for most entry level users. AMD, unfortunately, had support for integrated graphics in only some of their chipset models. That is set to change today, as Lynx (the desktop version of the Llano) makes its way into the market. Ever since AMD acquired ATI, a processor with AMD's x86 CPU and ATI's GPU on the same die was hotly expected. The Lynx integrates a number of AMD Stars cores and also an updated Redwood class GPU (called Sumo) into the same die.

GPU Area in the Llano vs. GPU Area in Sandy Bridge (Die shots approximately to scale)

GPU support for basic HD video decoding and the 3D fad (Blu-rays) is provided by all the current platforms from Intel, AMD and NVIDIA. From an HTPC perspective, mainstream consumers have started feeling the need for good, flexible video post processing capabilities also. Discrete AMD GPUs are well respected in the HTPC community, and the Redwood class GPUs have been used to override the Clarkdale's IGP in many a setup. Can the Sumo wrestle the spot away from Intel HD3000 Graphics in HTPCs?

Lynx HTPC Testbed Setup
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  • Regenweald - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    Have to disagree with you here, technology isn't about 'points for effort' but raw performance. the Stars IPC is abysmal in comparison to SB, call it as such. In the same way In HTPC as well as 3D performance, Intel IGPs are still scraping the bottom of the barrel in comparison to the A-Series, call it as such. Which consumer buys second best because 'they're really trying' ?
    Lower power consumption, better performance A-Series comes out on top this time. It's ok to say it :)
  • garagisti - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Also, if you didn't find any links saying Intel supports 7.1 channel 24-bit hd audio bit-streaming over hdmi, you could have mentioned it in the review. I don't see Intel claiming it. AMD DOES feature that in their graphic parts with HD68xx series and above. I don't know if Llano features it or not, but i'd like to find out given this is a HTPC benchmark.
  • Targon - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    And just think about prices when HP starts releasing low-end systems with Llano. Most of us look at system prices that START at $500 and go up from there, while most end users look at the $500 mark as being near the top of what they want to spend and then go down from there.

    If this becomes the $400 machine, doesn't that make for a MUCH better purchase than a $500 i3 system that has similar performance numbers?
  • ganeshts - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    Just a small observation that many users will be happy to invest the extra ~$100 to make sure that they can play back their $1000 1080p60 camcorder's clips.

    I wrote this in another comment, but I will repeat: The choice depends on what the end user wants to do with the system.
  • Regenweald - Sunday, July 3, 2011 - link

    I'd argue that the person buying the $1000 camcorder is not looking for a sub $500 PC. For the person buying the Flip or Sanyo Xacti sub $300, Llano is their territory.
  • ganeshts - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    HQV testing : When the picture quality doesn't materialise for local files / local file playback has more issues with respect to higher GPU load, do you want us to recommend the system ?

    I respect the intelligence of the readers to the extent that they identify what is right and wrong with the hardware from what is presented.

    Again, we reiterate : If you do even a bit of gaming on your PC, the Llano is a much much better bet than Intel. When it comes to HTPCs, though, take a hard look at what it does and what it doesn't. If you don't care about 1080p60 camcorder clips, then the Llano is a better choice for its 'proper' support of 23.976 Hz, and better deinterlacing capability. On the other hand, if all you play is downloaded MKVs which are progressive in nature, you will be happy with the higher CPU power provided by Intel since its iGPU is good enough in THAT scenario. All these facts are presented in the review, and it is up to the reader to see whether the pros outweigh the cons in HIS particular scenario.

    As for HD audio bitstreaming, LAV Splitter + LAV Audio Decoder bitstreamed all the HD audio codecs to the AVR correctly. Proper bitstreaming support is a given in systems nowadays. In today's systems, It only deserves mention if something doesn't work. Also, I looked into AVSForum threads talking about 24-bit TrueHD streams, and many of the posters had SNB systems. Not one of them complained about any issues with HD audio bitstreaming of that content.
  • swaaye - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the thorough review. It gives a good overview of Lllano's virtues for video playback. Hopefully they clean up the software quickly. It's particularly annoying to see the Enforce Smooth Playback option causing problems when it has been in their drivers for year(s) now.
  • Targon - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    That 32nm process node has been a long time coming from AMD, hasn't it?
  • redisnidma - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I'm sorry if I'm about to hurt some feelings here, but I also agree with the rest of the guys in regards to the bias in Anandtech reviews. This one about Llano is no exception.

    Ganesh is quick to point out that Llano doesn't offer transcoding features like Intel's Quicksync, even though he doesn't mentions that the quality output of quicksync is CRAP; but when it comes to promote a handy feature like SteadyVideo (which llano supports), he's quick to shout out to the public about the negative aspects of it.

    These guys, (Anand and the bunch) are quick to criticize Llano's CPU and make a whole fuzz about it, but on the other hand they dare to call Sandybridge's iGPU as "average" and "OK" which in reality is total crap.

    This site is unbelievable, but anyhow, it's good to know that people are noticing it.
  • ganeshts - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link

    I am not a big fan of QuickSync myself (take a look at my observations in the article).

    IIRC, Anand's review indicated that QuickSync's output quality was much better than the GPU based encoding techniques promoted by NVIDIA. And the ATI Stream technology seemed to generate something close to the QuickSync quality, albeit with a much lower performance.

    Basically, I consider QuickSync useless unless we can get the sort of quality that proper options to x264 can provide.

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