Graphics, Hardware

Gigabyte reveals Motherboards for Delayed AMD Kaveri Processors

According to numerous statements made by senior executives, successor to the Trinity and Richland APU’s was supposed to launch in 2013. As recently reported by VR-Zone and confirmed by AMD, Kaveri will not see the light of day before 2014 and it is unsurprising to see companies like GigaByte coming out with completed parts. After all, the development cycle of the motherboards is tied to original roadmaps, not the actual execution of the company.

Gigabyte’s new motherboards are one of the very first products featuring the yet unannounced A88X chipset from AMD. Socket FM2+ is a requirement for upcoming Kaveri APU’s and as expected – it is backwards compatible with current Trinity and Richland processors. Kaveri is the next generation of APUs from AMD incorporating HSA features like shared memory address space for the first time and will also feature GCN-based graphics cores and PCIe 3.0 connectivity.

New boards from GigaByte

The complete lineup Gigabyte released includes the following models which are apparently sorted by their target segments:

  • G1.Sniper A88X
  • F2A88X-UP4
  • F2A88X-D3H
  • F2A88X-HD3
  • F2A88XM-D3H
  • F2A85XM-DS2 (that’s how Gigabyte included it in their release)
  • F2A88XM-HD3

Most of the functionality confirms preliminary information uncovered about Kaveri. The release also cites an exciting feature, namely native 4K support via HDMI and DisplayPort, meaning it is fully HDMI 1.4a compliant. The G1.Sniper A88X brings some features we have first seen on the G1.Sniper 5 featuring Intel’s Z87 chipset, namely swappable OP-AMP chips, very high quality audio circuitry including gold-plated components that deliver high signal quality and low noise levels. More details can be had in Gigabyte’s release specific to this board.

A88X lacks novelty – Another Rebranded Chipset from AMD?

Now that Gigabyte went public with the boards before even AMD could formally launch the chipset, we tried to dig a bit deeper what lies behind the small number bump. We got our hands on a "Bolton-D3/D4 Databook," which is a document provided by AMD under NDA to certain hardware and software developers. Bolton refers to the family of chipsets, just as Hudson referred to the previous generation of FCHs, while D3 and D4 are model designations that differ in features. Hudson-D3 was branded as A75, while Hudson-D4 was the later launched A85X. Also, AMD apparently put logos on their website:

According to this document the chipset doesn’t provide any additional functionality compared to its predecessor. Even though Kaveri brings support for PCIe 3.0, we only see support for now outdated PCIe 1.1 or 2.0, six (D3) or eight (D4) SATA 6Gb/s ports and four USB 3.0 ports. Another possibility would be a manufacturing change but this is unlikely given the mechanical dimensions of the chipset. The package still measures 24.5 x 24.5 mm, while the die comes in at 7.2 x 7.2 mm, featuring the same 656 contact BGA. The TDP remains at 7.8W for the D4 model. Given the information above, any significant change over the previous generation is out of the question.

As for the chipset connectivity to the APU, they shouldn’t come as a surprise as we exclusively unveiled earlier that Kaveri will feature 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0 for optional discrete graphics and 8 lanes of PCIe 2.0, four of which are dedicated to UMI (Unified Media Interface), the connection to the FCH.

Still the lack of new features on the Bolton family of FCHs begs for the question why AMD actually introduces these. We couldn’t spot any novelty here so we have to assume AMD pulled one of their standard tricks and rebranded A85X as A88X for Socket FM2+. Back in the day, AMD rebranded the RD890 chipset to Socket AM3+ when Bulldozer-based AMD FX was introduced. Given the need for new mainboards for Kaveri due to the socket FM2+ requirement, the value of a new chipset is diminishing. Even though we question the need for such rebrands, we expect AMD to launch Bolton-D3 as A78 sometime in the future.

Now as a small disclaimer at the end, it still is possible that the Bolton family incorporates some changes that are not described in the documents we have seen. Though given the known information about both Kaveri and the first set of boards it is highly unlikely that a big surprise is still hiding somewhere.