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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  • whoaaaaaaaa - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    A lot. I think you are very out of touch. No one buys desktops anymore, everyone uses a laptop - and quite a few people want to WOW or COD on them. Reply
  • luniq - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Agreed. A lot of people I know uses laptop although they rarely need to take it with them and they game too. Reply
  • swaaye - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I don't think he is. Most computer users don't play games. All they need is a GPU that can run the OS's UI. Reply
  • cotak - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    The sort of people who use laptops and are pushing the CPUs hard are in the reality of the real world a limited bunch. Those who really need the power aren't going to be on a laptop anyhow like you say. Most office staff never use to the full potential of their issued computers even when they were using pentium 4s. And I actually think you'll find a lot of office workers are still humping around a P4 in their laptop bag.

    This is especially true as a lot of work now a days are done server side. About the only "office workers" who pound their CPU are those with big spread sheets. Even there I do not think you'll find many office workers who'd have an issue with most modern CPUs. They'll just go for a smoke or coffee break while it crunches.

    And what review did you read that say there's no advantage in battery life? If you are pushing a game Llano lasts twice as long on the same battery.
    Reply
  • voidi - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Lots of potential, they managed to find a valid niche in Intel's Netbook Hardware Portfolio. I think it's futile to argue about the success of this solution already, as the price will be the determining factor.

    As I see it, Llano has the potential to bring AMD back in the mobile market on a reasonable scale, but it also has the potential to utterly fail. Since it can't compete in the high-end area in either CPU or GPU performance, it will all depend on the value for your money. If the price is low enough, Llano will fill its niche quite comfortably.

    Personally, I will wait for Trinity and Ivy Bridge, as both promise significant improvements and will likely be priced close to their predecessors.
    Reply
  • jaydee - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    On the one hand, I'm pleasantly surprised that AMD was able to bring the power draw of a K10/10.5 down to those levels, while adding decent GPU. It's a big step up for the to be in the discussion again for laptops. I don't think anyone could have reasonably expected them to go from Danube up to Intel's SB performance level overnight, so from that perspective, it's a big jump for them.

    On the other hand, it couldn't be more obvious that this product should have been competing against Arrendale about 18 months ago at the price point introduced today. I want to like this product badly, but it's so hard given it's CPU performance. Sure it's great for mid-range mobile gamers, but why would anyone else look at llano? Hopefully AMD can make just as big of a stride with BD-based mobile Fusion within the next 24 months, and then we can perhaps take AMD seriously in the bigger mobile market segments.
    Reply
  • Gunbuster - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Will this mean the lowest common denominator HP $450 laptop of the week the everyone on a budget inevitably buys at retail when they are in a time crunch will suck less?
    I sure hope so.
    Reply
  • Boissez - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I actually like the performance as it seems better balanced than in the dual-core Sandy bridges, ie., about 50% performancethe in single threads apps, 80% in multi-threaded apps and 200% in gaming. IOW better suited towards consumer needs. And battery life is good too.

    What AMD needs to work on though is lowering the TDP. A8-3500 performance in a 25W enveloppe would allow this to be a good alternative in the upcoming ultrabooks (especially because you can't fit a discrete GPU in those)
    Reply
  • Boissez - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Oh yeah and make all of those APU's compatible with 1600 and 1866 Mhz RAM. RAM speed seems to be a major bottleneck in this platform. Reply
  • ET - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    I think that even lower performance in 25W would be attractive, but it might eat into the E-350 market, unless it's priced significantly higher. I don't think it'd be a big problem for AMD to lower power to that point (certainly for A4), but they're probably waiting to see where the market goes with the current Llano APU's. I believe we'll see a 25W version later this year. Reply

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