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Introducing the New AMD A-Series Desktop APU
Introducing the New AMD A-Series Desktop APU
On 02 October, AMD officially launched its new desktop A-Series APU and we managed to review its flagship A10-5800K 'Black Edition' APU for its graphical performance. As we have mentioned in our earlier article, the arrival of this new series of Trinity desktop APUs heralds the valiant attempts by AMD to take its Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) to new levels for desktop computing. Its earlier attempts in the form of the previous generation desktop Llano series APUs struck a good balance between CPU and GPU elements with DirectX 11 support as a pleasant surprise; however, this APU series failed to make inroads for the desktop computing segment.
Admittedly, AMD APU offerings provide an attractive alternative for consumers who have no need for Ivy Bridge's horsepower or a discrete graphics card, but still require more graphics power than Intel's HD Graphics engine core can offer. Despite its earlier setback, AMD updated its AMD Fusion efforts and rebranded it as HSA (which is basically still Fusion) while introducing its Trinity mobile APUs earlier this year. We concluded that the performance of those mobile APUs were rather interesting and struck a positive note, especially in terms of its performance-per-watt ratio was much improved and could easily compete with some of Intel's Sandy Bridge and even Ivy Bridge-based CPUs with low-end discrete graphics. Availability of notebooks with the Trinity platforms still remains an issue as there are just too few options, but that's a receding concern with more interesting gaming-grade notebooks based on the Trinity platforms and more coming on to the market.
Now, AMD has fleshed out its desktop offerings with their 32nm A-Series APUs that are meant to replace the Llano-based A8 and A6 APU series. From the table below, we can see that there are a total of six Piledriver core-based APUs. After our initial integrated GPU based testing, we've been busy testing the A10-5800K which will be the focus for this article. We've also been testing it across a handful of AMD FM2 boards to ascertain compatibility and ready usability and benchmarking the A10-5700 SKU to get a better idea of the A10 series in general.
The A10-5800K is a quad-core part that operates at 3.8GHz with a maximum turbo frequency of 4.2GHz and boasts a 4MB L2 cache. Its GPU is known as the Radeon HD 7660D, which features 384 cores and operates at 800MHz. The flaghship A10-5800K comes unlocked for easier overclocking, and is denoted by the "K" demarcation at the end of the model number (similar to Intel's "K" series of CPUs). Take note that while it's a successor to the previous generation Llano processors, these new Trinity processors are not pin-compatible and will require a new motherboard with an FM2 socket. We touch more on the platform aspects on the following page.
(Base / Turbo)
|L2 Cache||AMD Turbo
|Radeon Cores||GPU Clock
|DDR3 Memory Support|
|A10-5800K||HD 7660D||100W||4||3.8GHz / 4.2GHz||4MB||Yes||384||800MHz||
up to 1866MHz
|A10-5700||HD 7660D||65W||4||3.4GHz / 4.0GHz||4MB||Yes||384||760MHz||up to 1866MHz|
|A8-5600K||HD 7560D||100W||4||3.6GHz / 3.9GHz||4MB||Yes||256||760MHz||up to 1866MHz|
|A8-5500||HD 7560D||65W||4||3.2GHz / 3.7GHz||4MB||Yes||256||760MHz||up to 1866MHz|
|A6-5400K||HD 7540D||65W||2||3.6GHz / 3.8GHz||1MB||Yes||192||760MHz||up to 1866MHz|
|A4-5300||HD 7480D||65W||2||3.4GHz / 3.6GHz||1MB||Yes||128||723MHz||up to 1600MHz|
Processing Boost by Piledriver Cores
The processing core of the Trinity APU has been boosted with the Piledriver, which is an updated version of the Bulldozer architecture that is used in AMD's fully-fledged FX processors like the FX-8150. The top-end Trinity APUs use up to four of these cores and they are built using a 32nm manufacturing process, making them seem less advanced when compared to Intel's current 22nm process technology used for its current generation of Ivy Bridge processors.
Despite being based on the Bulldozer CPU architecture, the Trinity APU's basic blueprint is similar to that of the previous generation Llano APUs as they have both eschewed the L3 cache. The presence of an L3 cache does increase performance, which we can attest in our following empirical performance benchmarks. However, its presence does affect the power efficiency of the processor and AMD clarified that the negligible improvements by the presence of the L3 cache were seen in at their design stage and its inclusion would occupy unnecessary die space on the final cut of the Trinity APU. Furthermore, since these APUs were meant to be mainstream processors, there's less of a reason for it to be featured. The Trinity APU has also introduced new technologies like the AMD Turbo Core 3.0 that we had covered earlier when we reviewed its mobile counterparts.
Graphics Core Next Not!
Although AMD has marketed the graphics hardware of the Trinity APU as Radeon HD 7000 series cores integrated into the processors, these integrated GPUs don't share the same attributes as the Radeon HD 7000 series discrete GPU. The Trinity integrated GPUs are actually based on the old Cayman architecture of the Northern Islands GPUs, but support new features such as DisplayPort 1.2 support for daisy-chaining of displays as well as AMD Eyefinity Technology for up to four displays. Audiophiles would also be pleased that high bitrate 7.1-channel surround sound is supported on its HDMI interface, up to a total of four such streams. As a whole, since its graphics feature set isn't really that of a Radeon HD 6000-series part, AMD took the opportunity to re-brand the integrated GPU to better align with its new offerings across the board. Re-branding products and offerings is nothing new and it holds true even with the low-end Radeon HD 7000M class GPUs that still use a previous generation graphics engine (which we first reported in this article).
Further to the above features, the Trinity APU still supports CrossFire in terms of its AMD Dual Graphics technology. This allows users to pair a suitable Radeon HD graphics card with the APU that will give a boost to graphics performance. AMD has already listed the recommended graphics processor to pair with each Trinity APU. For more information, do read our graphics performance review of the A10-5800K APU here. Besides these improvements, we have also highlighted its power optimization features and the new compute prowess of the Trinity APU here.
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