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AMD Fusion for desktops review

AMD Fusion for desktops

Verdict

Application performance won’t match Sandy Bridge, but the undeniably impressive on-chip graphics give Fusion a better balance

Review Date: 26 Jul 2011

Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith

Price when reviewed: A6-3650, £75 (£90 inc VAT); A8-3850, £83 (£100 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

AMD’s new A-Series chips (codenamed “Llano”) are its first mainstream range of so-called APUs – “accelerated processing units” which combine CPU and GPU components in a single chip. We've already road-tested the mobile models; now we have the first desktop parts. The quad-core A6-3650 and A8-3850 head up the mainstream A6 range and the high-end A8 series, with lesser models to follow. There’ll also be a lightweight dual-core A4 series, as the table below shows.

AMD Fusion for desktops

Processing power
As with their mobile counterparts, the CPU logic in the new chips is based on the 32nm Phenom II design, originally unveiled in 2008. AMD has removed the L3 cache, however, and kept clock speeds low: while the still-available Phenom II 970 runs at 3.7GHz, the A6-3650 strolls along at 2.6GHz. Even the flagship A8-3850 only hits 2.9GHz. And there’s no Turbo Core feature on these models to push the frequencies higher: lesser A6 and A8 processors will offer dynamic overclocking, but won’t go any faster than these chips.

In terms of processing grunt, this leaves the A-Series some way behind Intel’s storming Sandy Bridge chips. In our Real World Benchmarks the top-end A8-3850, partnered with 4GB of RAM, achieved an overall score of 0.67 – well below even the lowly Core i3-2100, which scored 0.79. The mid-range A6-3650 managed 0.64, a score on par with a low-end dual-core Athlon II.

That doesn’t necessarily mean A-Series processors will feel sluggish. Both chips achieved their best scores in our Responsiveness test, managing 0.75 and 0.73 respectively. Multitasking scores of 0.59 and 0.56 were, however, disappointing for quad-core processors – the result, we suspect, of the lack of L3 cache. If you want an AMD chip to truly compete with the Core i7, you’ll have to wait for the forthcoming Bulldozer architecture, due later this year in CPU format and early next year as an APU.

Graphical capabilities
Desktop performance is only half of the Fusion formula. Inside every A-Series processor you’ll also find a Radeon-branded DirectX 11 GPU. A6 processors enjoy 320 shaders running at 443MHz, while A8 models bump this up to 400 shaders at 600MHz.

This is an impressive amount of graphical power. The A6-3650 romped through our Low-quality Crysis test at an average of 53fps at 1,366 x 768, and kept up a playable 31fps at 1080p. The A8-3850 nudged up to 55fps and 34fps. Even when we stepped up to Medium detail, the game remained playable at 1,366 x 768, with the A8 averaging 34fps and the A6 hitting 30fps.

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User comments

A change to the review

Great review, but i'm dissapointed you decided to use such high end 1866Mhz DDR3 sticks.

This APU is destined to be fitted to cheaper end desktops where they will most likley end up being fitted with cheaper 1066 or 1333Mhz RAM.

Would be nice to see what sort of performance hit it takes. Feel free to update it (-;

By JStairmand on 26 Jul 2011

Sand in your pants

It is a shame that AMD have concentrated on the graphical performance.

Using the GPGPU for video rendering is also not a good way to advertise the performance, as the Sandy Bridge's QuickSync runs rings around even desktop graphics card.

The power usage is also disappointing. c't magazine's current issue has a comparison on Z68 motherboards and they were complaining that, with a Core i5, the boards were using too much power (around 32W), with only the Zotac managing a reasonable 29W; which makes the Llano look bad.

When I bought my Athlon 64, I bought it because it was more economical than the Intel Pentium 4... How times have changed.

For me, the built in HD engine in the Intel chips is more than enough, so the Radeon unit is overkill and the lack of desktop performance, the lack of a QuickSync equivalent and its relatively high power usage make the Fusion technology seem very uncompetitive.

By big_D on 26 Jul 2011

Same Price Review

It would be interesting to see a review of AMD versus Intel on a price basis.
For instance thjis article states that the A6-3650 is £75, what can I get from Intel at this price and how does it compare for performance?

By RichardRRJ on 26 Jul 2011

Gamers no, but will it play DVD's

So its not a gaamers chip, but is it suitble for a multimedia Pc for the lounge.
Will it play DVDs in full HD?
With onboard GPU, it this the silent solution?
Review - a missed oportunity.

By roberttrebor on 28 Jul 2011

DVDs in HD?

Re: RobertTrebor - DVD's aren't HD anyway, do you mean more "Will it upscale DVD's to HD" or "Will it play Blu-rays in HD".

Original DVD format isn't full HD and anything that actually claims to play DVD's in HD is just upscaling the DVD to HD, something which a HDTV does anyway (and depending on the TV at times a TV's upscaling can be far more better than letting some computer software players upscale).

By TheKLF99 on 5 Nov 2011

Pointless surely???

The review states that the AMD processor would be a better bet if you are a 3D gaming "Enthusiast"....
But surely if you're a 3D gaming enthusiast, you're going to want more grunt than the GPU built in to these chips???
Just a thought.

By Barff1706 on 14 Nov 2011

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