AMD versus Intel. Cheap versus expensive.
Integrated graphics or none? Game on
AMD A8-3870KAMD A-series Llano, looks like a regular
socketed processor, but it’s slightly unusual, because it combines a CPU core
with respectable graphics hardware. This approach is significantly different
from the one taken by Intel where a relatively weedy graphics core is part of
every mainstream processor that comes out of its factories.
With Llano the balance between the performance
of the graphics core and processor core is balanced to such an extent that AMD
calls this hardware APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) rather than CPU.
This reflects the impressive range of
Radeon hardware that AMD has on the shelf, compared to Intel, which has a
single graphics option that can be doubled up as required.
AMD has created a dozen different models of
Llano by combining Phenom II processor cores that range from 2.1GHz to 3GHz
with two, three or four cores along with a selection of four different graphics
To give an example, the A6-3670K is
quad-core, runs at 2.7GHz and has a Radeon HD 6530D graphics core. You might
not be familiar with HD 6530D, but we can tell you that it employs 320 shaders
running at 444MHz. To put that in perspective, a Radeon HD 6570 graphics card
has 480 shaders running at 60MHz with a cost of $75. The intriguing thing is
that you aren’t limited to a simple choice of using either the integrated
graphics or an add-in board as you do with Intel.
The AMD Dual Graphics feature teams up the
integrated 6530D graphics with a Radeon HD 6670, 6450 or 5570 add-in card in a
version of CrossFire. Running 3DMask 11 on a Radeon HD 6450 graphics card gives
a graphics test score of 521 marks. Switch on Dual Graphics and the figure
rises to 1,017, so it’s our opinion that the integrated graphics are worth the
same as a $45 HD 6450 card.
The CPU part of A6-3670K delivers very
similar performance to Intel Core i3-2100, which is a bit of a shock when you
consider that AMD is using four hardware cores, whereas Core i3 is dual core
That’s the reason why we opted for the
Llano A8-3870K, which costs $30 more at $165, as it raises the processor speed
to 3GHz and increases the graphics to HD 6550D, which means it has 400 shaders
running at 600MHz. That’s a decent chunk of performance for a mere extra $30,
but we fancied the idea of overclocking the APU to get more. Unfortunately, the
MSI OC Genie function in the BIOS of the A75MA-G55 teased us without delivering
the goods. The overclocking function raised the base clock to 110MHz to give a
CPU speed of 2.97GHz and an adjusted (lower) RAM speed of 1440MHz, but this
upset the SATA controller and the system refused to find the boot drive.
Resetting OC Genie allowed the system to function normally, so overclocking was
only available manually rather than automatically. Dodgy SATA controllers are
the stuff of nightmares, so we decided to give overclocking a pass.
In summary, the A8-3870A is more impressive
than Core i3 for use inside a cheap and highly integrated PC. If Llano had
better processor performance we feel it might give Core i5 a decent fight, but
as things stand, that is a pipedream. Later this year we will see the
Piledriver version of Fusion, which should freshen things up, but for the time
being Fusions is more budget than mid-range.
spec: Socket FM1, dual-channel DDR3, video card, 512MB RAM, Windows XP or
later, 16-bit DX9 sound card, broadband connection