AMD A8-3870K review

4 Sep 2012

Cheap and, thanks to a fine balance of application and gaming power, a great option for budget PCs

Price when reviewed: 
79(£79 inc VAT)
4

AMD hasn’t had the best couple of years when it comes to processors but, despite its disappointing FX chips, the firm’s APUs – those with integrated graphics – have proved both innovative and successful.

Originally dubbed “Fusion” but released under the A-series branding, APUs combine traditional processors with Radeon graphics cores. With both crammed into the same package, it’s a combination AMD hopes will woo those buying at the budget end of the market. The firm theorises many will happily trade some application performance for better gaming grunt.

AMD A8-3870K

The A8-3870K wasn’t released in the first wave of A-series APUs, but now it’s at the top of the stack – a quad-core chip running at 3GHz, with 4MB of L2 cache and an unlocked multiplier. Unlike Intel chips, there’s no sign of Hyper-Threading and, surprisingly, unlike weaker A-series parts, there’s no Turbo Core – so you’re stuck at 3GHz unless you overclock.

Graphics power comes from a Radeon HD 6550D. It's the most powerful graphics core in any of AMD's APUs, and it’s based on the Redwood architecture that underpinned the Radeon HD 5550, 5570 and 5670 discrete cards. That means a specification better than we’re used to seeing in integrated graphics: 400 stream processors, and a clock running at 600MHz.

The A8-3870K rattled through our Low quality 1,366 x 768 Crysis test at 68fps, 15fps faster than Intel’s top integrated chip, the HD Graphics 4000 GPU, in a Core i7-3770K. The A8-3870K’s 45fps average in the Just Cause 2 Low quality test was eight frames quicker than the Intel chip, and only in DiRT 3 did Intel catch up, each scoring 61fps.
The A8-3870K trounces Intel’s best-integrated offerings but, more importantly, it also puts paid to low-end discrete graphics cards. Both AMD’s Radeon HD 6450 and Nvidia’s GeForce GT 520 scored a much lower 41fps in the Low quality Crysis benchmark.

AMD A8-3870K

When it comes to application benchmarks, the A8-3870K is less impressive. A score of 0.7 is fast enough to handle everyday applications, but it doesn’t compare favourably with rivals: it’s slower than every Intel Core i3 chip bar the low-power versions, and it's slower than all the AMD FX CPUs.

At £79, however, we're willing to overlook that, since it's cheaper than every current-generation Core i3 processor and, makes up for its slightly disappointing application benchmarks with best-in-class gaming performance. The A8-3870K strikes a fine balance, and it's the chip we recommend for building a budget PC – at least until the next wave of APUs arrive.

Details

Price ex VAT £66
Price inc VAT £79
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 3

Specifications

Cores (number of) 4
Frequency 3.00GHz
L2 cache size (total) 4.0MB
Thermal design power 100W
Fab process 32nm
Clock-unlocked? yes