AMD A8-3850 Llano APU Review

ajmatson - 2011-06-20 16:33:36 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: June 29, 2011
Price: $135 (Approx)

Introduction:

We have seen some really great products coming out of the mainstream market. With a constant flow of new memory, solid state drives, motherboards and CPUs, there is everything we can dream of to pick from. Recently, we took a look at a new approach to processor designs from AMD with the Fusion APU which integrates the CPU and GPU on a processor soldered directly to the motherboard. This design was a direct competitor to the Intel Atom offerings and really did a great job, exceeding expectations and bringing together the new market for powerful but small platforms. AMD has upped the ante with a new processor which is aimed at bridging the gap between the lower Fusion APU platform and the higher-end Phenom II series. Dubbed Llano, this new APU design places together a 32nm central processing unit and a discrete graphics processing unit into a single chip allowing you to get the most power out of your system.

Today we are going to be taking a look at the flagship A-series APU the A8-3850. This processor integrates the CPU, GPU and Northbridge functions into a single chip designed to be faster and more efficient than having them as separate components. The A8-3850 is clocked at 2.9 GHz and manufactured using a 32nm process. The A8-3850 features a new Socket FM1 for the new design and supports DDR3 memory up to 1866MHz, has a 512KB L1 cache and a 1MB per core L2 cache for a total 4MB L2 cache. This processor is designed for mainstream systems looking for the best processing power for the money. Set to be priced at around $135 for the processor, this is going to be a platform destined to make a name for itself. The graphics core integrated into the APU is the Radeon HD 6550D series which has 400 Radeon cores, 20 Texture units, 5 SMIDs, and is clocked at a fast 600MHz. The peak GPU compute power for the IGP is 480GFLOPS and offers full DirectX 11 support. All that in a little chip? Amazing isn't it? Well if you are as excited as I am, how about we dive in and start off with a look at the APU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closer Look:

The AMD A8-3850 processor, at first glance, looks like the AM3 CPU line but don't let it fool you. If you flip over the processor, you can really get a look at the differences by checking out the pin setup. The Socket FM1 has a set of missing pins in the middle of the processor unlike the AM2+ and AM3 line which is fully covered from edge to edge with pins. Socket FM1 has 905 pins compared to the 941 pins of a Socket AM3 processor. The A8-3850 is clocked at a generous 2.9GHz and has a per core L2 cache of 1MB. There is no L3 cache on these APU chips so I am curious as to how much of a difference that will make. The A8 APU is manufactured using a 32nm process and has a die size of 228mm2. What is all this talk about APUs? If you have been living in a hole for the last six months, this is what the new processor is called. APU stands for Advanced Processing Unit and has a CPU and a GPU (graphics processing unit) all on the same die. This combination gives you a better all-in-one solution for your system build. The A8 series APU integrates the Radeon HD 6550D graphics for smooth video playback and better graphics. With full DirectX 11 support, 400 Radeon cores, and a 600MHz GPU clock speed, you will be ready to do some damage. This particular model has a max TDP of 100 watts and supports DDR3 memory up to 1866MHz overclocked.

 

 

Of course with a new socket comes a new platform. Next up, we will take a look at one of the new Socket FM1 motherboards designed for the A8-3850 APU.

Closer Look:

The board that was provided to us for testing this new platform was the Gigabyte A75M-UD2H. This board supports the Socket FM1 processor, including the A6 and A8 APUs. Gigabyte has designed the A75M-UD2H with performance and stability in mind by building it around the Ultra Durable 3 concept. Starting at the core of the PC board they have included the patented two ounces of copper designed to: keep the critical components cooler; lower motherboard temperatures; and dissipate the heat over a larger area. It doesn't stop there either, Gigabyte also used all solid Japanese capacitors, Lower RDS(on) Mosfets, and Ferrite Core Chokes. In addition to the Ultra Durable 3 features, Gigabyte included the newer Super4 features which include Super Safe, Super Speed, Super Savings and Super Sound. Super Safe is a new feature that uses a dual BIOS design to help you recover from bad flashes and individual fuses for the ports so multiple ports do not fail for a single blown fuse. Super Speed includes the faster USB 3.0 standards as well as the faster charge time due to 3x the power per port and the On/Off ability to charge your external devices. Super Savings encompasses better power handling with less waste and high efficiency by using Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs having a Lower CPU Zone Temperature and a Higher Power-Efficiency. Super Sound is brought to you by having a better integrated sound system with a 108dB Signal-to-Noise ratio playback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the back panel of the A75M-UD2H there are a number of possibilities for your connections. Starting from the top there is a single PS/2 port which will support either a mouse or keyboard, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a single gigabit Ethernet port, both the analog and digital audio ports and the video ports. For the video ports, there is every connection available including the older VGA port, a DVI port, an HDMI port and even a display port which is something I have not seen integrated into a motherboard before. You can run dual-link DVI from the integrated graphics or even run the discrete and integrated graphics at the same time, depending on your preferences.

 

 

Down on the expansion slots you will definitely smile. You can see there are two PCI Express x16 slots, a single PCI Express x1 slot and a lone legacy PCI slot. The PCI Express x16 slot at the top runs at x16 speeds electrically and the bottom PCI Express x16 slot runs at x4 electrically. All PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 specifications and can support both CrossFireX between dual discrete cards as well as a Hybrid CrossFireX between the integrated GPU and specific discrete video cards.

 

Just as with the back panel, the internal headers and ports give you a vast amount of expandability. On the bottom of the board starting from the left is the front panel audio header, a SPDIF header, a firewire header, two USB 2.0 headers (F_USB1 supports the On/Off charge feature with a USB 2.0 supported bracket), an internal USB 3.0 header (which we have wanted for some time), a COM header and the front panel control headers. Turning around to the right side of the board there are five SATA 6.0Gbps ports for those fast SSD and hard drives, an LPT header, and a TPM module header for a Trusted Platform Module if needed.

 

 

Looking at the socket you can see the gap where there are less pins needed for the Socket FM1 APU. Gigabyte has also chosen the new retention bracket design we have seen popping up on the latest AMD based motherboards which makes the CPU area seem a lot less crowded. There is plenty of room around the socket allowing for water cooling and large CPU heat sinks for maximum cooling. To power your APU, Gigabyte uses a 4+1 phase VRM to provide clean constant power to your processor and memory. The A75M-UD2H supports up to 32GB of Dual Channel memory up to 1866MHz when overclocked. I am really impressed how newer boards stagger the memory slots so they have room to breathe and are not stacked right up against one another.

 

 

To cool the board, there are two heat sinks over the critical areas. For the voltage section there is a fin style heat sink designed to quickly dissipate the heat. There is also a flat style heat sink over the Fusion Hub Controller chip near the PCI Express expansion slots. Both of the heat sinks feel as if they are made of a thick aluminum material which would make for a better heat transfer.

 

 

Now that we have seen the new APU and supporting Socket FM1 board we can move to the testing part of the review.

Specifications:

Model Number & Core Frequency:
A8-3850 / 2.9GHz
OPN:
AD3850WNZ43GX
L1 Cache Sizes:
64K of L1 instruction and 64K of L1 data cache per core (512KB total L1 per processor)
L2 Cache Sizes:
1MB of L2 data cache per core (4MB total L2 per processor)
Integrated GPU:
Radeon HD 6550D
Graphics Core:
Up to 400 Radeon™ Cores, DirectX® 11 capable, UVD3
Types of Memory Supported:
DDR3 up to 1866MHz
Packaging:
Socket FM1 937-pin lidded μPGA
Process Technology:
32-nanometer
Approximate Die Size:
228mm2
Max TDP: 
105 Watts
AMD Codename:
"Llano"
*Note:
configurable for dual 64-bit channels for simultaneous read/writes

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of AMD

Testing:

Testing the AMD A8-2950 APU will include running it and comparison product(s) through the OCC test suite of benchmarks that include both synthetic benchmarks and real world applications to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also include both synthetic benchmarks and actual game play to see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. Instead of leaving the gaming tests to a discrete video card, the gaming prowess of the IGP will get a small workout as well. The APU will receive a fully updated fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition and I've used the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD 6970. To ensure as little variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages and latencies - unless otherwise stated.

 

Testing Setup: AMD Socket FM1

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1155


 

Comparison Boards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked Settings:

The AMD A8-3850 APU has a locked multiplier so there is not much you can do in the way of easily raising the multiplier while keeping the rest of the system at stock speeds. I went into overclocking by raising the reference clock little by little and upping the voltage a bit at a time to keep stability. I found that anything over 1.48 volts caused the processor to heat up very quickly which caused the system to throttle down to keep the hardware from burning up. But, it never blue-screened. To compensate, I had to keep the voltage under 1.48 volts and milk it as much as I could. I was able to get the reference clock up to 125MHz before losing stability. With the multiplier at the stock 29x, that put me at a total of 3.625GHz speed. Not bad for a little chip like this. As a by-product, the memory was able to reach 2000MHz with no issues on the platform.

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. Bibble 5
  3. WinRAR
  4. Geekbench
  5. Office 2007
  6. POV Ray 3.7
  7. PCMark Vantage Professional
  8. Sandra XII
  9. ScienceMark 2.02
  10. Cinebench 10
  11. Cinebench 11.5
  12. HD Tune 4.60
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  3. Batman Arkham Asylum
  4. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

  

  

Lower is Better

 

Geekbench:

Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy to use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.

  

Higher is Better

 

Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting 100 8.2MP RAW images to jpeg format. The file size is 837MB. The measure used for comparison is time to convert the file in seconds.

  

Lower is Better

 

While not as fast as the 2500K, the AMD A8-3850 battled strongly in these benchmarks.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Lower Is Better

 

POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for quicker completion.

  

Higher Is Better

 

The APU held up strongly again in the Office and POV Ray tests. When overclocked, the APU almost matched the faster i7 2500K.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

  

  

Multi-Core Efficiency

  

  

 

Memory Bandwidth

  

  

 

Memory Latency

  

 

Cache and Memory

  

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

  

 

Again the APU was a contender showing its potential in the Sandra benchmarks.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

Higher is Better!

 

 

 

CineBench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5

 

  

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

  

 

  

Higher is Better

 

  

 

  

Lower is Better

 

In the final synthetic benchmarks, the APU held its ground, never giving up.

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species. The Alien, the Predator or the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

In the AvP benchmark, the APU pulled through and was right on the heels of the more powerful i7 2500K.

Testing:

Civilization V is a turn based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns,150 turns into the game.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

In the Civilization V benchmarkthe APU again was right on the heels of the competitor.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Higher = Better

 

Finally the APU stayed strong, never wanting to give up in the Batman test.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024 x 768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

  

  

Higher = Better

 

As the resolutions grew, the gap lessened and the APU even overtook the powerful i7 2500K when overclocked.

Testing:

The integrated GPU for the A8-3850 is the Radeon HD 6550D. The APU can be overclocked not only for the CPU side but for the integrated graphics as well, for a performance boost. To see if this was indeed true, I ran through a couple of games that can be played on the HD 6550D integrated graphics in low resolutions.The graphics clock was moved from the stock of 600MHz to the maximum stable I could reach of 1000MHz and each game was retested to verify that the increase in performance was relevant.

 

Testing Setup: AMD Socket FM1

 

 

 

AvP Settings:

 

   

 

Batman Arkham Asylum Settings:

 

   

 

While playing each of these games, the eye candy was turned down but the games were playable up to 1680 x 1050 with no issues or noticable performance lag.

Conclusion:

While not a door busting six or eight core processor, the AMD A8-3850 puts up a valiant fight and never backs down. I was surprised on how well this little guy held up to the testing abuse and kept asking for more. The new platform brings the mainstream segment up a bit and gives them up-to-date decent power for a low cost. The A-Series is aimed at those wanting to build a solid workstation, media computer or even a powerful HTPC without a lot of money or overhead. With the integrated Radeon HD 6550D graphics processor, you get full DirectX support for your games and smooth HD playback for your movies. Clocked at 2.9GHz, the A8-3850 has a nice powerful side to it but I was shocked that the lower-end versions support Turbo Core but the higher-end ones do not. I think for what the A-Series is designed for that would have allowed better power savings and efficiency while keeping the performance from suffering. Priced at about $135, the AMD A8-3850 will give you the power you want without having to pay a lot for it.

Overclocking the APU was a bit more difficult as it is not a Black Edition processor so the multiplier is locked. The only way to get more juice out of it is by raising the voltage and pushing the reference clock up until it is no longer stable. I was able to squeeze just past 700MHz more by raising the reference clock to 125MHz. The kicker was the voltage had to be regulated just right because too little left me unstable and anything more than 1.48 volts made the processor too hot and forced it to throttle down to keep from overheating. It seemed anything more than 60 degrees Celsius, the APU would down-clock the multiplier to 26x or less making the overclock run worse than the stock speeds. As long as I kept the voltage under control, the overclock was stable and even ran Prime95 with no throttling.

All in all, I was pretty pleased with the AMD A8-3850. While not a game changer for the overclocker, it was not designed to fit this purpose. It was developed to bring strong video playback and decent mainstream gaming for a minimal cash outlay and it does just that. If you are looking for a second processor (without breaking the bank) for an HTPC, workstation or maybe that build for a special loved one, then the A-Series may just be what you are looking for.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: