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Fusion GPU Takes on Gaming

For our gaming tests, we’ll start with our Low and Medium detail gaming benchmarks. We’ll save Asymmetrical CrossFire and High detail gaming for the next page. Note that we run all of the Low and Medium tests using DX9/DX10 modes, even on games that support DX11. There reason is simple: in nearly every game with DX11 support, enabling it often proves too taxing for anything but the fastest discrete GPUs—or in other cases, the graphics quality difference is negligible (Civilization V, Metro 2033, and Total War: Shogun 2 fall into this category). When we refresh our list of games later this year, we might start testing DX11 more often, but for now we’ll stick with DX9/10 on mainstream laptop testing.

Low Detail Gaming

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Civilization V

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mafia II

Mass Effect 2

Metro 2033

STALKER: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Total War: Shogun 2

Medium Detail Gaming

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Civilization V

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mafia II

Mass Effect 2

Metro 2033

STALKER: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Total War: Shogun 2

The age-old adage is that if you want a good gaming experience, you need to put more money into the graphics subsystem. With Llano, we need to modify that and add a corollary that you can trade a faster CPU for a better IGP/fGPU and end up with acceptable gaming performance. The 6620G is the first integrated GPU that can actually keep pace with the midrange discrete GPUs (at least on laptops—desktop GPUs are a different story). The Llano A8-3500M comes out ahead of AMD’s previous P920 + HD 5650 in many of the results, while A8-3500M + HD 6630M adds anywhere from 3-40% and averages 24% faster than the 6620G.

If we look at the competition, A8-3500M is anywhere from -3.5% to 167% faster than Intel’s HD 3000 with dual-core SNB, running everything at our Low presets. The sole victory for Intel comes in the lightly-threaded StarCraft II where Intel can really flex its Turbo Boost muscles. On the other end of the spectrum, HD 3000 turns in extremely poor results in Civilization V, Mafia II, and Metro 2033—games where Llano is at least playable. On average, the A8-3500M is 50% faster than HD 3000 at Low settings; move up to our Medium settings and Llano is 76% faster on average, with leads in every title ranging from 36% (StarCraft II is again the worst showing for AMD) to as much as 204% (Civilization V).

Bring the older Arrandale into the picture and things get even more lopsided. Never mind the fact that Arrandale’s HD Graphics are unable to break 30FPS in most of our test games at minimum detail (StarCraft II being the one exception); at our Low presets, A8-3500M puts Arrandale to shame, with performance anywhere from 57 to 472 percent faster and 223% faster on average. Obviously, you don’t want to try gaming on Arrandale’s IGP, which is where laptops like the ASUS U41JF come into play. You can pick up the U41JF for just over $800, but while the CPU is certainly faster, gaming performance with the GT 425M is only 15% faster than the stock A8-3500M on average, with Llano pulling wins in Civ5, Metro 2033, and TWS2 at Medium detail.

As a final note on gaming performance, while the A8-3500M isn’t clocked particularly high, there’s still more performance on tap in many games. Switching over to the 6630M dGPU improves performance by an average of 20% over the fGPU. A few titles only show an incremental performance increase (Metro 2033 and Mafia II); the biggest performance gains come in DiRT 2 and Total War: Shogun 2, with performance increases of 40%/35% respectively at low detail and 20%/25% at medium detail.

The target price of $700 for A8 laptops could make for a reasonably powerful and inexpensive gaming laptop, and if it’s like current AMD notebooks I suspect we’ll see A8 laptop prices dip into the low $600s. $800 for A8 Llano with the 6630M becomes a more difficult proposition, considering it would butt up squarely against laptops like the U41JF. Gaming performance would be similar, but the larger battery would give ASUS (and Intel) the lead in that area and gaming performance would be largely a wash. Depending on how much of a threat Intel deems Llano to be, we could see SNB laptops similar to the U41JF push pricing down, but for now Llano certainly fills a popular market niche.

Fusion GPUs: A Long-Awaited Upgrade to IGPs Everywhere High Detail Gaming and Asymmetrical CrossFire
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  • ET - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    It may be impossible to know the exact speed the cores run, but it would be interesting to run a test to get some relative numbers.

    You can run a single threaded CPU bound program such as SuperPI, then run it again with the other three cores at 100% (for example by having another three instances of SuperPI running). Do this on AC and battery, and it might generate some interesting numbers. At the very least we'll be able to tell whether the 1.5GHz -> 2.4GHz ratio looks right.
    Reply
  • ET - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    By the way, I just read Tom's Hardware review, which was unique in that it compared to a Phenom II X4 running at 1.5GHz and 2.4GHz. It looked from these benchmarks like the A8-3500M is always performing around the 1.5GHz level of the Phenom II X4 (sometimes it's a little faster, sometimes a little slower), which suggests that Turbo Core doesn't really kick in. Reply
  • i_am_the_avenger - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    Maybe this will cheer the AMD Fans a bit

    This article did not mention some nifty features the APUs have (or maybe it did I did not read it line by line)...................................

    Watch the video below from engadget:

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/13/amds-fusion-a-s...

    It shows how these APUs can smooth out shaking videos real time, even while streaming from Youtube! and it does a very good job.

    Another feature is how it en-chances videos (colour etc.)

    This improves general user PC experience.......... something very desirable
    The video also shows how AMD wants to target general users and not work enthusiasts

    Another video shows comparison between the i7-2630QM and A8-3500M while multitasking video related applications.

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/03/01/amd-compares-up...
    ---Interesting to note that the APU Gradually increased its power consumption while i7 was like bursting to and fro, something the way turbo core acts maybe-----

    I think it is work vs general performance,
    Intel's great for work, when you need to finish tasks and it needs to be done quickly,
    while AMD APUs give you a good over all pc and multimedia performance - you watch videos, play games, so what if the zip file extracts a minute late and the fGPU performance is great....
    You may buy a i7 SNB with discreate GPU but that has a battery life hit (for same battery capacity) and also extra heat generation which requires more fans, also the extra weight..

    Please don't start judging me or something....
    I am getting confused myself, while intel looks great in every way except stock gaming and battery life(not that bad)... I think I don't need that much power, even if I work - my work isn't so CPU oriented that an i7 would matter, a 30 second task finishes in 20 ok but it does not matter to me..... but improved video and battery seems more useful to me

    I don't think that all of us have to tax our CPUs to full potential -- a few have to, not considering them -- so even if Intel have faster processors for many it does not affect them as much.
    Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    For all your moaning about not getting Asymmetric CrossFire to work, you didn't read the reviewers guide that says it only works in DX10 and DX11 mode, not DX9. So your Dirt2 benches for example clearly state DX9 for this test. I don't know about the other titles on that page - you say 5 of the others are DX9 titles. Do these titles have DX10 modes of operation - if so, USE THEM.

    Otherwise it just looks like you are trying to get the best results for the Intel Integrated Graphics.

    Just put "0 - Unsupported" for DX11 tests by HD3000 like other sites have done.
    Reply
  • ET - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    The article said:

    "AMD told us in an email on Monday (after all of our testing was already complete) that the current ACF implementation on our test notebook and with the test drivers only works on DX10/11 games. It's not clear if this will be the intention for future ACF enabled laptops or if this is specific to our review sample. Even at our "High" settings, five of our ten titles are DX9 games (DiRT 2, L4D2, Mafia II, Mass Effect 2, and StarCraft II--lots of twos in there, I know!), so they shouldn't show any improvement...and they don't. Actually, the five DX9 games even show reduced performance relative to the dGPU, so not only does ACF not help but it hinders. That's the bad news. The only good news is that the other half of the games show moderate performance increases over the dGPU."

    I agree that at least in the case of DiRT 2 that's blatantly false, since that game was one of the first to use DX11, and was given with many Radeon 58x0 cards for this reason.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 17, 2011 - link

    DiRT 2 supports DX11, but it's only DX9 or DX11. We chose to standardize on DX9 for our Low/Med/High settings -- and actually, DX11 runs slower at the High settings than DX9 does (though perhaps it looks slightly better). Anyway, we do test DiRT 2 with DX11 for our "Ultra" settings, but Llano isn't fast enough to handle 1080p with 4xAA and DX11. So to be clear, I'm not saying DiRT 2 isn't DX11; I'm saying that the settings we standardized on over a year ago are not DX11. Reply
  • jitttaaa - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    How is the notebook llano performing as good, if not better than the desktop llano? Reply
  • ET - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    At least as far as CPU power is concerned, the desktop part is obviously faster. The benchmarks are mostly not compatible so it's hard to judge, but in Cinebench R10 the mobile Llano gets 2037 while the desktop gets 3390. I agree that for graphics it looks like the desktop part is performing worse in games, which is strange considering the GPU is working at a faster speed.

    Only explanation I can think of is that the faster CPU is taking too much memory bandwidth, but it doesn't make much sense since it's been said that the GPU gets priority. It's definitely something that's worth checking out with AMD.
    Reply
  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4448/amd-llano-deskt...

    On average the A8-3850 is 58% faster than the Core i5 2500K.

    Boom. Delivered. You think its slow? It really isn't. The A8-3850 has about the performance of a DESKTOP i3. If you think that is bad performance, then you don't know what you are talking about. The battery life is amazing for having that kind of performance in a laptop. I'm sorry, but it totally destroys i7 and i5 platforms because of the sheer performance in that amazing battery life.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 17, 2011 - link

    Let me correct that for you:

    On average, the A8-3850 fGPU (6550D) is 58% faster than the Core i5-2500K's HD 3000 IGP, in games running at low quality settings. It is also 29% faster than the i5-2500K with a discrete HD 5450, which is a $25 graphics card. On the other hand, the i5-2500K with an HD 5570 (a $50 GPU) is on average 66% faster than the A8-3850.

    Boom. Delivered. You think that's fast? It really isn't. The 6550D has about the performance of a $35 desktop GPU. If you think that is good performance, then you don't know what you are talking about.

    At least Llano is decent for laptops, but for $650 you can already get i3-2310M with a GT 520M and Optimus. Let me spell it out for you: better performance on the CPU, similar or better performance on the GPU, and a price online that's already $50 below the suggested target of the A8-3500M. Realistically, A8-3500M will need to sell for $600 to be viable, A6 for $500, and A4 for $450 or less.
    Reply

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