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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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Totally agree with the pricing. The highest performance A8 laptops are going to need to be $700 with fGPU only, and maybe $800 with dGPU, because that's where dual-core i5 + Optimus laptops are currently sitting.

    Of course, I'd still pay more for good build quality and a nice LCD and keyboard.

    Oh, and the people saying CPU is the be-all, end-all... well, even though I have a couple Core i7 Bloomfield systems in my house (and many Core i5/i7 laptops), my primary work machine is running... Core 2 QX6700 (@3.2GHz) with an HD 5670 GPU and 4GB RAM. The area I want to upgrade the most is storage (currently using RAID0 Raptor 150GB), but I have no desire to reformat and start transferring apps to another PC, so I continue to plug along on the Raptors. This CPU is now over four years old, and yet the only thing I really don't like is the HDD thrashing and slow POST times.
    Reply
  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    None of those GPU's match the power of the 6620, which you can find in even the A6 series, so your point is invalid. Reply
  • Dribble - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    Actually you can normally tell quite easily which laptop has the slower cpu. It's the one with the fan whining away. With laptops having a more powerful processor that isn't having to work so hard is important just to keep the thing quiet.

    As for cpu power - well windows and it's software just isn't that efficient. Even a fairly complex word 2010 doc (few pictures/charts/etc) can start to feel slow on a 2.5Ghz C2D (I should know my laptop has a 2.4Ghz C2D). The flash games my kids seem to be forever finding are also cpu only and will run it flat out and the game won't seem as smooth as it would on a faster machine.

    Sure you can get by with a slower machine, but it doesn't make for such a pleasant experience.

    It has been the case since PC's arrived that over time software needs more and more power. e.g. I could run word 6 on a 486, I now really need a dual core 2Ghz machine to even run word 2010. I don't see that changing hence the faster your cpu the longer your pc will remain usable.
    Reply
  • lukarak - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    I've been using a 2007 tech MacBook white up until a few months ago with a 2.0 GHz C2D. Over time i upgraded it to include 6 GB of memory, a 64 GB SSD + 500 GB HDD, and then i transitioned to a 2011 MPB 13 with a SNB CPU and 4 GB of memory. Aside from a better screen, once i put in the SSD, i couldn't see the diference in speed. I usually use a lot of VM, use Eclipse and XCode, and most of the time watch 720p and the more than 3 years newer CPU isn't all that revolutionary. Sure, it may not use 30ish % of the CPU to play movies, but only 20ish, but until that's 50ish% when the fan gets louder it doesn't really matter for me. Reply
  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    The CPU looks relatively slow to the i5/i7, but its really not that slow. Seriously. Compare it to an atom and see that its not that bad. Reply
  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    The CPU isn't even bad. I don't know what you guys are all on but A8 cores are improved phenom II x4 cores... I would say its about the same performance as the i5 series. All the benchmarks online are measured on the WORST A8 chip, which has the worst CPU performance. All of the reviews are on A8-3500M. Just wait until the A8-3850 gets benchmarked.

    All I'm saying is that its not fair to compare the worst A8 to the best i5 or best i7, plain and simple.
    Reply
  • sundancerx - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    for most of the charts, yellow bar is assigned to INTEL asus k53e(i5-2520m+hd3000), but on asymetrical crossfire, this is assigned to AMD llano (18-3500m+crossfire). kind of confusing if you dont pay attention or am i the one confused? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Dark yellow = K53E, bright yellow = CrossFire. If you have a different color you think would work, I'll be happy to change it. Purple? Brown? Orange? Reply
  • adrien - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I agree Brazos looks less interesting now but it still has one huge advantage: price. If Llano notebooks are going to sell for $600 (or $500), Brazos are 40% less expensive. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Brazos E-350 (which is already 60% faster than C-50) start at around $425. They come with 2GB RAM and a 250GB HDD. AMD is saying $500 as the target price for A4, $600 for A6, and $700 for A8, but I suspect we'll see lower than that by at least $50. So if your choice is Brazos E-350 for $425 or Llano A4 for $450, and the Llano packs 4GB RAM and a 500GB HDD, there's no competition--though size will of course be another factor. I figure Llano will bottom out at 13.3-inch screens where Brazos is in 11.6" and 12.1". Personally, I'd never buy a 10" netbook; I just can use them comfortably. I'm happiest with 13.3" or 14" laptops. Reply

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