A Week ago AMD launched their latest APU range to replace Trinity. Codenamed Richland, these APUs are based on the Piledriver architecture and VLIW4 Graphics. AMD sent us an A10-6800K to test. Read on to find out how it fares.
The packaging has changed to reflect the new look and we still have the Black Edition brand that denotes the "K" unlocked range. Trinity CPUs will continue to be available until stocks are depleted.
The architecture will be familiar to those acquainted with Sandy Bridge as it is very similar.
Like the Trinity-based APUs before them, these Richland designs plug into a Socket FM2 interface. A BIOS update should be all that you need for compatibility with existing A55, A75, and A85 platforms. Having said that, we had a few problems with out MSI motherboard which needed a BIOS upgrade to recognise the Richland CPUs but would only POST with a Trinity CPU. A word of caution then, to those readers looking to upgrade from Trinity - flash your BIOS to a Richland compatible version before you take out your old CPU.
Architecturally, the only difference between the 8000 series on the Richland and 7000 series on Trinity is the name and this could potentially be confusing to consumers.
So on to the processor itself.
After a while all CPUs start to look the same but its always good to see a sturdy heatspreader, particularly after the talk of poor contact between Haswell dies and the covering heat spreader on Intel's new range causing poor thermal dissipation.
So how do these new offerings compare to what is already available?
At the top end we see a stock speed in excess of 4GHz for the first time as well as support for 2133MHz DDR3 memory (but only for the top model). Of more interest to us is the A10-6700 which is less than 10% slower but with the same graphical capabilities and a TDP of only 65W. This would be ideal not only for an HTPC but for any SFF PC where we are seeing an increasing trend. Given that APUs are heavily reliant on RAM speed to feed their GPU components it will be interesting to see what effect 2133MHZ memory has on benchmarks. On paper we expect the Richland processors to be about 10-15% faster than Trinity so only making sense as an upgrade from Trinity if going from a low end Trinity to a higher end Richland.
The MSI FM2-A85XA-G65 Motherboard
We used the same FM2 motherboard MSI had sent us for our Trinity review.
This is a good board boasting of "Military Class" components and an uncluttered layout. Eight SATA-3 connectors provide ample storage capacity. Inline plastic blocks make connecting front panel wires easy.
On the back we have 4 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0 and all the different types of Monitor connectors. A push button also allows for BIOS recovery without opening up the PC enclosure.
Overclocking is always a contentious issue but here we managed to hit 5GHz with complete stability using our Corsair H40 closed loop water cooling.
On paper the potential for overclocking by huge margins is certainly present and compatibility for memory up to 2667MHz is there (if you can find such memory). While we do not normally advocate the benefits of high speed memory, it is rather instrumental in the performance of onboard graphics which use system memory instead of any dedicated video RAM.
All games are tested at the maximum available settings and initially at 1024x768 so we can be sure of hitting CPU limitations before bandwidth or fill rate ones related to the GPU. We selected Far Cry 2 (first person shooter), HAWX (air combat) and Resident Evil 5 (horror) for our tests as they are reliable titles that are suited to benchmarking and run well on modest systems. DX11 titles include Stalker: Call of Pripyat, Lost Planet 2, Mafia 2, and Street Fighter 4.
We start with synthetic benchmarks. While they don't represent real-world performance, they are vital to understand what the potential capabilities of processors are and identify any bottlenecks.
Intel has a clear lead here and the 3770K beats all AMD processors by a reasonable margin.
Here the FX-8150 wins in Integer performance and only loses marginally to the i7-3770K in the FP score. Given the sharing of floating point resources between pairs of cores on Bulldozer, one cannot help but wonder if this is part of the reason for the red bar not being longer. The A10-6800K puts in a good show and is about 20% faster than the previous generation of APU.
The 2133MHz memory makes a big difference putting the A10-6800K ahead of all AMD processors except the 8-core flagship.
Of much more interest to gamers is 3D Mark Vantage and this is the de facto standard for synthetic 3D graphics benchmarks for a wide variety of gaming types.
In terms of everyday use, the only significant advantage brought by the new generation of processors is in the Communications suite. The range of applications here is extensive and readers will probably be more interested in their favoured activities (gaming, Skype, Itunes etc.)
The 8670D graphics on the A10-6800K show a noticeabl improvement over Trinity and a big improvement over first attempt at a APU - the 6550D graphics.
3DMark is a computer benchmarking tool created and developed by Futuremark Corporation (formerly MadOnion.com) to determine the performance of a computer's 3D graphic rendering and CPU workload processing capabilities. Running 3DMark produces a 3DMark score with higher numbers indicating better performance. The 3DMark measurement unit is intended to give a normalized mean for comparing different PC hardware configurations (mostly graphics processing units and central processing units), which proponents such as gamers and overclocking enthusiasts assert is indicative of end-user performance capabilities.
We see an increase over generations but most importantly is that the performance of the HD 8670D is on a par with the HD6670 saving a substantial amount on a discrete graphics card.
This game is very playable on any CPU over the last few years but for the first time for onchip graphics we are getting over 30fps at 1080p resolutions - compare that to the woeful showing from Intel's HD3000 graphics.
This ia an unusual situation where the performance of the HD3000 is pushed up a lot by the quality of Intel's processors.
As DX9 horror games go, Resident Evil 5 is very playable on any processor although only the HD 8670D can provide over 30fps at 1080p among the onchip solutions.
Now we look at a host of newer titles that support DX11. As usual we try to have the settings maxed out and see who falls by the wayside.
This is a very demanding title and both Intel's and AMD's top contendors manage to barely pass the 30fps mark. The A8-3850 is there for comparison and shows the futility of expecting an entry level solution to compete in a recent DX11 game. The A10-6800K is almost playable
A good game that runs at above 60fps on both high end processors and is actually playable on the Llano at low resolutions and much more so on Richland
A good beat-em up with great visual effects and quite playable on any DX11 platform.
Stalker:COP takes place soon after the events of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. After Strelok disables the Brain Scorcher, many Stalkers rush to the center of the Zone, hoping to find artifacts and treasure. The military decides this is the perfect time to take control of the Zone, and launch "Operation Fairway," a large scale helicopter recon mission intended to scout the area by air. Unfortunately, the mission goes horribly wrong, and all five STINGRAY helicopters crash. The player, Alexander Degtyarev, is sent into the Zone to investigate the crash sites on behalf of the army.
The Sun Shafts test is very demanding but the game is otherwise playable with either the FX Platform or the Intel equivelant.
Once we engage Hardware Tessellation and Contact Hardening Shadows, there is a slight performance drop but this is more than offset by the greatly improved visuals. We seem to be hitting GPU limitations and this lends credence to the Intel aim of not going down the road of higher frequency but more efficiency. The benchmark runs quite smoothly on our A10-6800K.
Again the A10-6800K is on a par with the Radeon HD6670.
Well, Richland is a mixed bag. Improvements are there and we get an appreciable increase in both CPU and GPU performance but the naming convention may lend GPU novices to think that the graphics are more advanced than they actually are. Processor performance is not good enough to tackle Intel but the GPU element more than makes up for this.
Is it worth upgrading from Trinity? Probably not, but if you want a cheap PC that can handle the latest games then Richland hits the mark. Crucially, a new and growing market segment is where APUs from AMD have no competition from Intel and the picture below highlights this.
When a fully functional games machine can be fitted into an enclosure 8" square we open up a whole new market where users want high speed CPU and GPU performance without the footprint of even a mini tower case. Intel's onchip HD graphics cannot even compete and Iris, which comes close to the A10-6800K, is only available for OEMs and expensive too. AMD have no competition in this segment.
We look forward to the next generation of APU from AMD.
All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.