Today we're really able to see what exactly is going on with the new Llano platform and let's be honest, the kind of power it's able to put out on the GPU side of things is pretty amazing. I had so much confidence in what the A8-3850 was able to do that instead of using the Intel i3 2120 which uses the HD 2000 graphics, I opted for the more powerful HD 3000 graphics that is seen on the i7 2600k.
In the end, though, the i7 2600k onboard graphics isn't able to give us playable FPS at 1280 x 800 or 1680 x 1050 at any point. Saying that, it does get close a few times, but none the less we're not able to reach that 30 FPS minimum we like to reach nor are we able to get that 60 FPS average we like to get.
On the other side of the coin, we can see that the A8-3850 and its integrated HD 6550D graphics does an amazing job. Sure, you're not seeing the kind of FPS that we see with cards like the HD 6970 and other high end cards, but this is just a completely different segment.
Watching the Llano platform run overclocked is quite surreal to be honest with you. You turn around and you find yourself looking at the screen in H.A.W.X. 2 and see the platform pull in a 60 FPS average at 1680 x 1050. You go 'sure, that's great, but 60 FPS at 1680 x 1050 in H.A.W.X. 2 while running DX 10 isn't anything out of the ordinary'. You know what? You're completely right. But then, you look over at the computer and you see no graphics card is installed and you find yourself going 'Wow'.
When we say that the Llano platform is a powerful one, we mean it in the sense of what you've got on offer. You're talking about a system that will sit at a very strong price level and is able to actually play games that aren't pre-installed into Windows.
The other massive bonus, though, is the inclusion that you can CrossFire a card like the HD 6670 with the onboard APU. That really helps boost overall performance a good chunk and does a good job of making a mid-range card like the HD 6670 perform exceptionally well in a lot of situations.
So, the A8-3850 makes the i7 2600k from Intel look crap? Absolutely not! We saw in our launch article that the i7 2600k with something like a HD 6970 is a faster platform because the CPU gives our graphics card a lot more breathing room. Until now, though, you couldn't really build a budget PC with integrated graphics that could do much more than play solitaire.
The A8-3850 is able to play games, though. You can see games like Resident Evil 5, Batman AA and Far Cry 2 are all playable. Sure, it's not always at 1680 x 1050, but sometimes it is. You could play games like Counter Strike or other Source based games at 1680 x 1050 with no problem.
All this is done with no actual physical video card installed in your system and that's what makes this such a powerful platform. It's really quite amazing what AMD have been able to do and I think in this segment it's really going to put Intel on the back foot when it comes to these main stream systems.
The same goes for laptops; the A-Series APU is going to be such a powerful platform that you're again going to be able to game on these machines without having a dedicated GPU that's going to draw more power and kill your battery life even faster.
The thing is if this wasn't all enough, you can then throw a HD 6670 into the mix and CrossFire that with the onboard APU GPU and gain even more performance. Installing something like a HD 6670 Ultimate we used today from Sapphire is also the perfect solution. Due to the fact it's silent, you can built yourself a near silent system that's able to game in a lot of games with no trouble.
In CrossFire you can see we're able to get averages like 90 FPS and minimums of 50 FPS at times in 1680 x 1050. That gives us so much headroom that in certain games you'd be able to even move to 1920 x 1200, which really is again quite amazing.
I think we're now beginning to see the real power behind AMD and the acquisition of ATI all those years ago. I don't doubt that Intel could create something that could compete with AMD, but I feel that AMD have just got such a lead in this area now that they would always be playing catch up.
Looking to the future, is AMD ever going to have the fastest CPU on the market? Probably not unfortunately. For starters, I don't think they'll ever have a mainstream CPU that's going to carry a $999 US price tag and offer the kind of performance the Extreme Editions from Intel can. AMD could become such a power house in that main stream market; and let's be honest, while it's not the most exciting market to performance users, it's the most important market to companies because companies are selling more $500 PCs than they are $3000 PCs.
So AMD have a fantastic product on their hands, so they're going to clean up the market? Unfortunately not; AMD just doesn't have the Intel name and you'll be arguing with people 'till you turn purple in the face, telling them that AMD is the better option while they still believe that Intel are because they've been using them forever.
The biggest hurdle for AMD is going to be the marketing side of things. They've got the product, they just have to make sure the market knows that it's the better option in certain scenarios.
With every aspect of the Llano platform covered now, we feel comfortable scoring it, because like we said earlier. I think it's difficult to score the APU against CPUs when you just look at the CPU side of things only. It's not until you look at the APU in all its glory, or the Llano platform on a whole that you're really able to get a good idea of just what the A-Series APU is able to do for not only AMD, but people who want to build well priced systems that draw little power and can actually play games when no physical video card is installed. When you step back and you look at the whole picture, the A8-3850, which is just one part of the Llano platform, is just an amazing piece. Throw in those other features like native USB 3.0, native SATA III and a clear focus on pricing, and you've just got something that's going to be really special.