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Hard Choices: Motherboard And CPU

Silent, But Deadly: Build Your Own Gaming-Ready 0 dB PC
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Choosing a Motherboard and CPU

We narrowed our choices down to two AMD Trinity-based APUs and a Socket FM2 motherboard. The APUs proved to give us the best balance between an all-around build intended to handle a variety of tasks, including light gaming. We did try an Ivy Bridge-based Pentium on one of Zotac's motherboards, expecting efficiency to seal the deal. However, graphics performance simply wasn't ample for what we wanted to do.

Thus, APUs were our only remaining option, so we picked the A6-5400K and A10-5700. According to AMD's specifications, both chips have 66 W thermal ceilings. In reality, though, the A6-5400K never reaches 66 W. The A10-5700 does, making a noticeable difference in trying to keep our system cooled passively. In the end, we're able to get both APUs cooled without a fan, but the A10-5700 cuts it close.

You may decide the A10 isn't the best choice, particularly in a warmer climate. If you do want one, we recommend adding a fan that kicks in when it's needed (we'll talk more about that shortly). First, though, let’s see how our two picks slot into AMD’s current line-up of desktop APUs:

APU
Cores
Base Clock Frequency
Max. Turbo Core  Frequency
GPU
Shaders
GPU Clock Frequency
L2 Cache
TDP
A10-5800K
4
3.8 GHz
4.2 GHz
HD 7660D
384
800 MHz
4 MB
100 W
A10-5700
4
3.4 GHz
4.0 GHz
HD 7660D
384
760 MHz
4 MB
65 W
A8-5600K
4
3.6 GHz
3.9 GHz
HD 7560D
256
760 MHz
4 MB
100 W
A8-5500
4
3.2 GHz
3.7 GHz
HD 7560D
256
760 MHz
4 MB
65 W
A6-5400K
2
3.6 GHz
3.8 GHz
HD 7540D
192
760 MHz
1 MB
65 W
A4-5300
2
3.4 GHz
3.6 GHz
HD 7480D
128
723 MHz
1 MB
65 W


Motherboard: MSI FM2-A75IA-E53

We picked a mini-ITX motherboard instead of an mATX board on purpose. Mainly, a smaller form factor keeps the case's insides as open as possible.

The enormous CPU cooler we're using makes connecting all of the cables somewhat of a challenge, though. In a couple of pages, we'll give you a brief guide for installing the motherboard; doing this in the right order is important.

MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 Technical Specifications
Socket
FM2
CPU (Maximum Supported)
AMD A10/A8/A6/A4 Series
Chipset
AMD A75
DDR3 Memory
DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1866/2133
Memory Channels
2
DIMM Slots
2
Memory (Maximum Supported)
32 GB
PCIe x16
1
PCIe Generation
Second-Gen (1x16)
SATA 6Gb/s
4
RAID
0/1/10
LAN
10/100/1000
Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
1
USB 3.0 Ports (Rear Panel)
2
USB 2.0 Ports (Read Panel)
4
Audio Ports (Rear Panel)
3+Optical SPDIF
eSATA
1
VGA
1
HDMI
1
VGA Maximum Shared Memory (MB)
2 GB
DirectX
11
Form Factor
Mini-ITX
Dual Graphics Support
Yes (HD 6570, 6670)
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