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For a start, in order to enjoy the technical benefits of the new Trinity desktop APUs, one would have to incur some costs to upgrade to a new motherboard, which would be good for at least another generation of Socket FM2 processors. However, these new APUs hold special appeal to upgraders who don't intend to invest in a discrete graphics card and at the same time demand more integrated GPU performance than the current Intel HD Graphics 2500/4000 on the third generation Intel Core CPUs. It will also appeal to casual gamers who can opt to upgrade to the AMD Dual Graphics Technology or CrossFire to make use of discrete Radeon HD graphics processors for their gaming enjoyment.
From a performance standpoint, the report card of the A10-5800K is a mixed bag of gains over the previous generation Llano APU, especially in tasks that require more CPU processing power. However, in certain multi-threaded tasks, it still loses out to the Llano though we had expected it to pull ahead. It appears that the Piledriver cores have allowed the Trinity APU to pull ahead in terms of operating at much higher clock speeds, but they don't necessarily translate to improved performance all around. Even against the low-end Intel Core i3-3220, the A10-5800K was for the most part slower than it.
The one area it did pull up ahead of Intel by a notable degree was in Battlefield BC2 where it distanced itself by nearly a 25% lead - and this was when all the platforms used an identical discrete GPU. Raw performance aside, the power consumption of the Trinity APU and its platform was quite commendable and was one of the better ones in out comparison.
However the one aspect where the AMD Fusion proposition really shines is with the Trinity APU's integrated Radeon HD 7660D graphics performance. As detailed in our dedicated article showing how its integrated graphics fares against other processors, we've found that it's competent enough to match a discrete GeForce GT 440 GPU and beats Intel's integrated graphics by as much as twice its performance. That's not to be take lightly seeing that a discrete graphics card of that caliber costs nearly S$100 to other variants costing as much as S$150! Don't forget that with a proper full fledged integrated GPU core, game compatibility isn't much of an issue and you can pretty much rely on it if you only game occasionally or you don't demand full quality graphics. In fact in a recent demo by AMD, we've also experienced Eyefinity gaming tackled by the A10-5800K APU alone and with Dual Graphics in action.
Against the previous generation Llano, the Trinity desktop APU series marks the continuation of Llano's strengths, providing an affordable SoC that offers enough computing speed for mainstream users while supplying sufficient graphics processing for some casual gaming.
Who Should Buy the Trinity APU?
So overall, A10-5800K is a decent mainstream 'quad-core' APU that can balances the needs of work and play in very simple platform. It doesn't excel in very compute intensive tasks, but when you consider the integrated GPU quotient, it more than makes up for its losses.
So the next question is, who should buy it? Despite the plus points of the A10-5800K APU, you have to note that it's now the top SKU available on the AMD FM2 motherboard platform. While AMD has launched a number Trinity APUs, the other variants will be less powerful than the A10-5800K and would probably dip into the performance range of the older Llano APU in some cases. This means you don't have a clear upgrade path until AMD reveals a new generation of processors in the future (of unknown performance capabilities). On the other hand, if you opt for the Intel Core i3 solution, it's quite a powerful processor for a low-end part and the upgrade path is very strong at the moment. What you would lack is a good GPU that needs to be purchased separately.
So in our view - the AMD Trinity APU is ideal for those who are clearly aware of their requirements and are content with the integrated GPU's capability out of the box. While it has AMD Dual Graphics to really propel it further - the concept is a bit flawed only because it can't work with a modern day Radeon HD 7000 class GPU (these are just too fast) and still relies on an old Radeon HD 6670 GPU class or lower. These cards are on their way out of the retail market, but if you're a savvy user, then obtaining one from the second-hand market shouldn't be a problem. Also, not many will buy with this feature in mind - it's a nice extra and a cheap way to boost performance, but if you intend to have a certain level of quality gaming, you would be investing in something more powerful right from the start. The Intel path is ideal for power users who are aware of the potential of the platform and intend to upgrade to speedier processors and GPUs when prices are affordable in the future. As such, the Intel platform has better scalability. It's all about knowing one's needs upfront.
What about in terms of sheer value for a typical mainstream user?
Factoring in the Value of the Platform
The AMD A10-5800K has a local suggested retail price of S$169, whereas an Intel Core i3-3220 has a going price of about S$150. From a platform perspective, we've heard from AMD that an A85X chipset based board and the APU combined has a bundle price that wavers between S$290 to S$360. For the Intel camp, if you choose to with an Intel Z77 class board, the combo price would easily be S$300 without discrete graphics. The total will then be closer to S$400 with an equivalent graphics card. However, there are several board options like a H77, B75 or even a H61 class board and they should shave another S$50, thus somewhat rivaling the package price from AMD.
Once you really scrutinize the motherboard's class and features, you'll realize that AMD still has an upper hand from overall features vs. price perspective. Furthermore, you can easily consider even A75 based motherboard if you don't need CrossFire capabilities for discrete graphics cards, which is perfectly fine by us for its intended user group. We've seen prices for such a combo start as low as S$265 with an AMD A10-5800K - quite a steal if you ask us.
So yes, for the budget conscious users who understands his/her personal requirements for modest usage or HTPC needs, the AMD Trinity APU is a more integrated choice and offers much better overall value. Those who need to scale your usage needs within a year or so and willing to spend for the incremental upgrading costs associated to acquire necessary components along the way, then the more expensive Intel platform is a better bet. Lastly, for those who clearly need a high performance machine, the AMD Trinity APU isn't for you as we've seen its patchy compute performance.
All in all, the AMD A10-5800K is a very good effort from AMD, and we would easily recommend it to anyone who needs an excellent all-purpose compact desktop, but isn't concerned about raw performance matters like rendering, video encoding and other compute intensive tasks. It certainly can tackle those tasks, but we found it performing below our expectations. Instead, the Trinity APU is a nice all-rounder that can handle the more obvious upfront experiential tasks like using the internet, watching movies and indulge in light gaming. Although we expected better from this new APU, we can't have it all, but it's good enough for mainstream users.
Last but not least,do take note that there are several new applications that are being optimized for AMD's architecture by tapping into GP-GPU capabilities and OpenCL acceleration - both of which primarily ensure the GPU is used to accelerate certain tasks. The list is growing and we intend to check out the performance of Trinity on some of these latest applications soon.
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