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AMD A6-3650, A8-3850 APUs

The processor part in tests.

August 22, 2011



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AMD's Bulldozer architecture is still a few more months away, but now we at least have new APUs to tinker with in the mean time. And while Brazos APUs were aimed at 'surrogates' like nettops/netbooks, the new Sabine and Lynx platforms are more full-fledged and intended for real PCs: mobile and desktop, respectively.

Llano as it is

Both Llano and Sandy Bridge QC have similar amounts of transistors, which means comparable square size (and cost price) if the same process technology is used. Memory and PCIe controllers also contribute equally. But the remaining 2/3 of the square size are allocated differently. Intel solutions feature powerful x86 cores, capacious cache and a minor GPU. In AMD solutions GPU occupies more space than the processor part itself. As a result, there are as many as 400 (A8 series) and 320 (A6 series) graphics pipelines in company APUs. The former is somewhere on the level of Radeon HD 5570, just with 50 MHz lower clock rate. The latter is sort of on a par with Radeon HD 5550, but, yet again, with lower clock rates. (Note that such ratio remains in dual-core A4 series APUs with 160 pipelines, like in Radeon HD 6450, for example). However, AMD won't reduce the number of pipelines down to 80, which, as you might remember, could compete with Intel's integrated graphics. Since AMD's older integrated chipsets were limited by 40 pipelines, Llano seems like a good leap forward.

Sadly, this cannot be said about x86 cores which are based on the good old Propus — four cores and no L3 cache. Innovations only include larger L2 cache (now 1MB per core), improved memory controller (supports up to DDR3-1866 or DDR3-1600 with two modules per channel) and minor architectural changes. Based on this, AMD claims there should be 6% better performance on average at the same clock rate. However, it's not clear what AMD compares novelties with exactly. And, secondly, there are not many solutions with same clock rates: the currently highest-end Llano is clocked at 2.9 GHz, while Propus, following Deneb, have long ago overcome 3 GHz. In other words, AMD's new quad-core APU can't even compete with company's older solutions in terms of x86 performance, not to mention Intel Core i5 and the rest. But we still believe that solutions like these new APUs — with a strong skew towards graphics — have a right to exist.

Why? Let's take a look at recommended prices. E.g. A8-3850 costs $135. This is comparable with prices for higher-end Core i3 CPUs, so it's quite a lot, huh? But don't forget that you also get a graphics solution performing like a previous-generation $99 card. Sure, prices lower with time, but even a new Radeon HD 6450 costs $55. Add to this $75 for, say, Pentium G840 and you get $130. However, A8-3850 has four x86 cores and more powerful graphics. As for A6-3650, it should compete with Celeron, in these terms.

As you can see, new APUs are quite interesting. And since integrated graphics is used in about 3/4 of all PCs, there's a huge market where Llano is more that competitive. This, by the way, may also negatively affect sales of low-end solutions from NVIDIA. Sure, people can buy those to use with Intel CPUs, but why should one bother with low-end cards, if the same performance can be achieved with an integrated solution. Or, if graphics power isn't critical, one can go with GMA HD. In other words, AMD has a chance to increase its presence on the graphics market as well. This may force software developers to provide better support for Radeon HD — not just in games but in other applications as well. This, in turn, will let the Fusion concept shine, CPU and GPU working together.

But for now reality is much simpler: only games seriously load GPUs, while CPUs are required by all applications. So let's see how well the processor part of the new APUs performs.

Testbeds

CPU A6-3650 A8-3850
Core Llano Llano
Process technology 32 nm 32 nm
Core clock rate 2.6 GHz 2.9 GHz
Cores/threads 4/4 4/4
L1 cache, I/D 64/64 KB 64/64 KB
L2 cache 4x1024 KB 4x1024 KB
RAM 2xDDR3-1866 2xDDR3-1866
Graphics core Radeon HD 6530D Radeon HD 6550D
Socket FM1 FM1
TDP 100W 100W
CPU Athlon II X4 620 Phenom II X4 840 Phenom II X4 910
Core Propus Propus Deneb
Process technology 45 nm 45 nm 45 nm
Core clock rate 2.6 GHz 3.2 GHz 2.6 GHz
Cores/threads 4/4 4/4 4/4
L1 cache, I/D 64/64 KB 64/64 KB 64/64 KB
L2 cache 4x512 KB 4x512 KB 4x512 KB
L3 cache - - 6 MB
Uncore clock rate - - 2 GHz
RAM 2xDDR3-1333 2xDDR3-1333 2xDDR3-1333
Graphics core - - -
Socket AM3 AM3 AM3
TDP 95W 95W 95W
CPU Pentium G850 Core i3-530 Core i3-2100
Core Sandy Bridge DC Clarkdale Sandy Bridge DC
Process technology 32 nm 32/45 nm 45 nm
Core clock rate 2.9 GHz 2.93 GHz 3.1 GHz
Cores/threads 2/2 2/4 2/4
L1 cache, I/D 32/32 KB 32/32 KB 32/32 KB
L2 cache 2x256 KB 2x256 KB 2x256 KB
L3 cache 3 MB 4 MB 3 MB
Uncore clock rate 2.6 GHz 2.13 GHz 3.1 GHz
RAM 2xDDR3-1333 2xDDR3-1333 2xDDR3-1333
Graphics core GMA HD GMA HD GMA HD 2000
Socket LGA1155 LGA1155 LGA1155
TDP 65W 73W 65W
  Motherboard RAM
A6-3650, A8-3850 ASUS F1A75-V Pro (A75) G.Skill [RipjawsX] F3-14900CL9D-8GBXL (2x1866; 9-10-9-28-2T)
A8-3850SM ASUS F1A75-V Pro (A75) Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B (2x1333; 9-9-9-24-2T)
AM3 ASUS M4A78T-E (790GX) Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B (2x1333; 9-9-9-24-2T)
Pentium G850 Intel DP67BG (P67) Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B (2x1066; 8-8-8-20)
Core i3-530 ASRock P55M Pro (P55) Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B (2x1333; 9-9-9-24)
Core i3-2100 Intel DP67BG (P67) Corsair Vengeance CMZ8GX3M2A1600C9B (2x1333; 9-9-9-24)

As we have mentioned, new APUs support DDR3-1866, albeit only with one module per channel. However, We'll use this mode, because faster memory should give a good performance boost to processors without L3 cache. To see this boost, we'll also test A8-3850 with DDR3-1333 ("SM" stands for "Slow Memory").


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