AMD recently resigned from BAPco, the makers of SYSmark, citing differences over the direction of the latest SYSmark benchmark, SYSmark12. AMD felt that the weighting of the benchmark was not indicative of current computing trends, where the GPU is increasingly important and since the company was unable to change SYSmark12 from inside the organization, it decided to resign from it.
In the past, companies have tried to manipulate benchmarks scores via compiler tricks and other unofficial optimizations, but AMD's resignation, which was followed by NVIDIA and VIA (though these two companies have resigned without making an official statement), does put the spotlight back on SYSmark. We haven't yet transitioned to the newer version but from our experience, SYSmark does tend to be fairly conservative in terms of the applications tested. Its long gestation and relatively slow updates also mean these applications may become outdated even before the benchmark is launched.
Of course, we are not privy to the internal weighting that determines the final score but even without looking at SYSmark scores, there's no doubt that Intel has held the upper hand when it comes to pure CPU performance since the Core 2 generation. Llano, with its focus on heterogeneous computing, is not the APU to change this perception. We continue to use SYSmark 2007 for the time being as the benchmark tries to capture performance based on some of the common tasks and usage - including wait times to depict actual user pauses and disruptions that are common in everyday use. This is one aspect we've not seen other benchmarks mimic. There are other tests in our suite which will show good use of the APU's graphics engine, but not for this test.
In our SYSmark 2007 test and many other benchmarks following, we've used a discrete graphics card in the form of a GeForce GTX 260 from Zotac to keep all parameters in level that we can ascertain the actual influence of the various CPUs. The AMD A8-3850 performed better overall than the Athlon II X4, which are quad-core processors at a higher clock frequency. The scores help to illustrate AMD's point about IPC improvements in its new APU, but they weren't sufficient for AMD to compete against Intel here. Looking at the breakdown, the A8-3850 put up a fight in Video Creation and Productivity against the Core i3-500, but fell short in 3D manipulation and E-Learning categories.