Introduction and Package
The other day when we saw the A-Series APU launch from AMD we had in depth look at the A8-3850 APU while also covering the new chipset associated with it. If you haven't already looked at it, I recommend you do head on over and check out our launch Llano coverage.
As we mentioned in the launch, though, the video performance of the new A-Series APU is so important that we wanted to do more than just give you a benchmark or two and leave it at that. Instead, we wanted to do a large dedicated article on it which will help us finally wrap up our final thoughts not just on the A8-3850, but the Llano platform on a whole.
We've done an absolute load of testing here today using our AMD A8-3850, Intel i7 2600k (for comparison) and covered the CrossFire capabilities of the Llano platform. We've tested at lower resolutions today and of course cut out our AA / AF testing. We won't get much into that now; instead we'll do that on the next page.
To be completely honest, there's little that needs to be said here that hasn't already been said in our launch coverage that we mentioned just above. So saying that, let's jump onto the next page where we look at the testbed setup and then talk a little more about exactly what we're doing here today.
Test System Setup and 3DMark 11
We've got a couple of different setups here today and will be looking at the GPU side of things on the A-Series APU in a few different ways. We've also got the Intel i7 2600k which uses HD 3000 integrated graphics. We'll be testing that at stock speeds on our ASUS Maximus IV Gene-Z.
Since the A8-3850 is of course our main focus, we'll be testing that in a number of different ways. We'll be testing that in stock form with our RAM running at 1333MHz DDR. From there we'll be overclocking the APU and the memory which partners have told us can yield some very strong performance gains. We'll find out for ourselves today.
The other mode we'll be testing is adding our Sapphire HD 6670 Ultimate into the mix and going CrossFire with the onboard GPU. AMD seems to have labeled this as a "HD 6690." I think the way it will work is if a company sells a system with a HD 6670 installed in the system, CrossFire it with the onboard APU GPU, that system will be advertised as having a "HD 6690."
Because we're doing that, we'll also test the system with our HD 6670 installed and CrossFire disabled. What this will allow us to do is see the extra performance that is on offer when we CrossFire the HD 6670 with the onboard GPU embedded in our A8-3850.
Before we get into it, we've got our CPU-Z screenshot above with our overclock shown. We push our APU to 3.48GHz and memory to 1920MHz DDR with aggressive CL7 timings.
Let's get started!
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
Straight away we can see the kind of performance that's on offer from the A8-3850. It's hard to put it into perspective when compared to other integrated graphics because they don't support DirectX 11 like the AMD platform. You can see some interesting results, though. We can see the kind of boost the overclock brings us, but we can also see the CrossFire performance which is actually quite exceptional.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Looking at 3DMark Vantage, a test that the i7 2600k is able to run, you can see just how much faster the AMD offering is. Overclocked, the A8-3850 is twice as fast as the stock 2600k which uses HD 3000 graphics.
We can also see that in CrossFire there are some very strong gains in performance. In the performance preset an extra 2000 points translates to an increase of over 20%. This shows us the kind of performance that's on offer when our HD 6770 is CrossFired with the onboard APU GPU.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//
New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.
We can again see under Heaven that the 2600k with its Intel HD 3000 graphics isn't able to run DX11 because it's of course not supported. The A8-3850 at stock really has a very strong lead over the HD 3000 graphics with a score of 412 versus 279.
Overclocked, you can see the kind of performance boost we're able to achieve. CrossFire performance is very strong, though; we move from 569 to 870 points in DX11 and 871 to 1334 points. That gives us a great idea on the kind of performance that's on offer when we combine our HD 6670 with the A8-3850.
Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5
Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/
Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.
With the synthetic tests out the way, we get into some actual games and get an idea of what's on offer. At stock you can see we're close to that 60 FPS number we like to achieve at 1280 x 800. On the other hand, you can see the HD 3000 graphics on the i7 2600k is 19 FPS away from it.
Overclocked you can see that the A8-3850 is able to break that 60 FPS mark at 1280 x 800 and give us a nice boost at 1680 x 1050. Unfortunately we're a bit far away from where we want to be.
You can see if we throw a HD 6670 in our system and don't CrossFire it, that card manages to get just over 60 FPS at 1680 x 1050. When you CrossFire it with the A8-3850 you can see a 50% boost in performance, bringing us a 99 FPS average which is fantastic.
Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.
The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.
Getting into H.A.W.X. 2, we can again see that our 2600k and HD 3000 graphics can't run in DX 11. At stock we're again quite far away from that playable figure we like to be at. While the A8-3850 does struggle under DX 11, we can see at 1280 x 800 the A8-3850 runs great under DX 10 mode.
At 1680 x 1050 the performance on the A8-3850 is strong and for the most part it's almost playable. A small detail drop would get us those extra FPS we need. Cranking up the clock speeds and the memory clocks, we can see a great performance boost with 1680 x 1050 performance getting that 60 FPS average. Unfortunately our DX 11 performance is still a little low.
You can see even with a standalone HD 6670 we struggle to get a 60 FPS average at 1680 x 1050 in DX 11 mode. You can see when we CrossFire the HD 6670 with our onboard A8-3850 GPU, though, we get a very strong boost and our average jumps up to 82 FPS which is very playable. Considering we're at very high image settings, this is some great performance.
Benchmarks - Mafia II
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.
While under Mafia II we see the A8-3850 platform performs better than the i7 2600k and its HD 3000 graphics, unfortunately across the board we're not able to break that 60 FPS mark we aim for with these detail settings. We can also see in CrossFire performance drops a little. It's not a huge surprise considering we do see Mafia II act a little silly sometimes when cards are in Crossfire or overclocked.
Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV
Street Fighter IV
Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/
While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.
All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.
Street Fighter IV is our least intensive game and you can see our i7 2600k with HD 3000 graphics performs close to that 60 FPS average we want at the lowest resolution, but isn't able to quite get it. The A8-3850 at stock on the other hand has no trouble at 1280 x 800 and is only a single FPS away from 60 at 1680 x 1050.
Overclocked we can see we're able to break that 60 FPS barrier at both resolution with no dramas. As soon as we throw a HD 6770 into the mix you can see performance is near identical with the card in CrossFire and running alone, which would imply we're hitting a bit of a CPU limitation. Considering we're at 100 FPS, we're not too worried.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
Under Far Cry 2 you can see that stock integrated graphics struggles with the A8-3850 having no luck getting our 30 FPS minimum, which means that the HD 3000 on the i7 2600k sits very far back.
Overclocked, we can see the A8-3850 manages to break that 30 FPS minimum we want at 1280 x 800. You can see it's not until we move to adding our HD 6670 into the mix that we're able to break that 30 FPS mark at 1680 x 1050. In CrossFire, though, we continue to see the A8-3850 perform extremely well.
Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum
Batman Arkham Asylum
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.
Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.
Under Batman AA we can see that the i7 2600k and its HD 3000 graphics is able to almost get that 30 FPS minimum we want; we're so close, but not quite there yet. The A8-3850 on the other hand doesn't run into any problems at 1280 x 800.
Overclocked you can see our 1680 x 1050 performance is good with a 28 FPS minimum. We're right on the edge of where we want to be and you're pretty much at a playable level. You can see when we move into testing the HD 6670 and running in CrossFire the setup has absolutely no problem with both resolutions.
Unfortunately our FPS aren't as high as they could be, as it didn't click that I had V-Sync enabled until I had well and truly finished testing. It's not a huge issue, though, as the main thing is we're able to see that the game is of course playable with the 30 FPS minimum being a mile away.
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.