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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  • Brian23 - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Jarred/Anand,

    Based on the benchmarks you've posted, It's not very clear to me how this CPU performs in "real world" CPU usage. Perhaps you have it covered with one of your synthetic benchmarks, but by looking at the names, it's not clear which ones stress the integer vs floating point portions of the processor.

    IMO, a test I'd REALLY like to see is how this APU compares in a compile benchmark against a C2D 8400 and a i3 380M. Those are both common CPUs that can be used to compare against other benchmarks.

    Could you compile something like Chrome or Firefox on this system and a couple others and update the review?

    Thanks! I appreciate the work you guys do!
    Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    PCMark tests common applications. You can read more details here: http://www.pcmark.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/P...

    While I would find a compilation benchmark interesting, are you suggesting that this will be more "real world"? How many people would do that compared to browsing, video, gaming? Probably not a lot.
    Reply
  • Brian23 - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the link. I was looking for something that described what the synthetic benchmarks mean.

    As for "real world," it really depends from one user to the next. What I was really trying to say is that no-one buys a PC just to run benchmarks. Obviously the benchmark companies try to make their benchmarks simulate real world scenarios, but there's no way they can truly simulate a given person's exact workload because it's going to be different from someone else's workload.

    If we're going down the synthetic benchmark path, what I'd like to see is a set of benchmarks that specifically stresses one aspect of a system. (i.e. integer unit or FPU.) That way you can compare processor differences directly without worrying about how other aspects of the system affect what you're looking at. In the case of this review, I was looking at the Computation benchmark listed. After reading the whitepaper, I found out that benchmark is stressing both the CPU and the GPU, so it's not really telling me just about the CPU which is the part I'm interested in.

    Switching gears to actual real world tests, seeing a compile will tell me what I'm interested in: CPU performance. Like you said, most people aren't going to be doing this, but it's interesting because it will truly test just the CPU.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Hi Brian,

    I haven't looked into compiling code in a while, but can you give me a quick link to a recommended (free) Windows compiler for Chrome? I can then run that on all the laptops and add it to my benchmark list. I would venture to say that an SSD will prove more important than the CPU on compiling, though.
    Reply
  • Brian23 - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Jarred,

    This link is a user's quick how-to for compiling chrome:
    http://cotsog.wordpress.com/2009/11/08/how-to-comp...

    This is the official chrome build instructions:
    http://dev.chromium.org/developers/how-tos/build-i...

    Both use Visual Studio Express which is free.

    I really appreciate this extra work. :-)
    Reply
  • krumme - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    The first links at the top is sponsored
    3 times exactly the same i7 + 460 ! ROFL
    Then 1 i7 with a 540
    Damn - looks funny, but at least it not 1024 *768 like the preview, but the most relevant resolution for the market - thank you for that
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Man what is it with this dumb yuppie nonsense. No I dont want to save $200 because I dont actually work for my money. Hell, if you're even reading this site then it is highly likely that the two places you want more performance from your notebook is games and internet battery life. All this preening about intel's crippled cpu being 50% faster dont mean jack because ... well its a crippled cpu. It cant play games yet it has a stupid igp. Why get all yuppity about such an obvious design failure, so much so that you'd be willing to sneeze at a $200 savings like it means nothing. It actually means something to people who work for a living. Most people just dont need the extra 50% cpu speed from a notebook. But having a game that runs actually does mean something tangible. Reply
  • madseven7 - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure why people think this is such a crappy cpu. Am I missing something? Wasn't the Llano APU that was tested the lowest of the A8 series with DDR 1333? Doesn't it give up 500MHz-800MHz to the SB notebooks that were tested? Wouldn't the A8 3530mx perform much better? I for one would love to see a review of the A8 3530mx personally. Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Good comment. This is the highest end 35W CPU, but not the highest end Llano. So it gets commended for battery life but not performance. It will be interesting to see the A8-3530MX results for performance and battery life. It would still lose to Sandy Bridge quite soundly on many tests, I'm sure, but it's still a significant difference in clock speed over the A8-3500M.. Reply
  • Jasker - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    One thing that is really interesting that isn't brought up here is the amount of power used during gaming. Not only do you get much better gaming than Intel, but you also get much less power. Double whammy. Reply

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