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

    Civ5 and TWS2 are both tested with the latest drivers. The K53E was also tested with drivers that are at most a couple months old. Intel current lists the latest laptop drivers as 15.22.1.64.2361 from 4/13/2011, which is what I'm running on the Intel units right now. If there are some newer drivers that I'm missing out on, let me know and I'll go try them. Reply
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Nice review, it seems like there is a lot of work on CF.

    Actually I reviewed the Liano already months ago, I mentioned in the last mobile reviews that it will be better performing then the Toshiba with the P920 with really good battery performance. So it is a win -win for the budget line anyhow. Top line remains intel for the CPU power.

    Regarding the quote:
    Now if you want to have your cake and eat it too, the APU to wait for would be Trinity. Due out somewhere in the 2012 - 2013 timeframe, combine a Bulldozer derived architecture with AMD's next-generation GPU architecture and you've got Trinity.

    Trinity will not only be an improved GPU it also has the BD core inthere which will offer much more punch. THe reason LIano is late is because of the 32NM process. It could have been released much sooner. Sure they took an outdated K10 and that is the main issue together with the not enough aggressive Turbo for single thread, they should have adapted this more aka BD.

    But assumin Trinity is a rather late 2012 project (by stating 2012-2013) you are way way off...
    Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Quote probably reflects an increase in pessimism due to recent events. Bulldozer is still not out, and AMD is said to have had a hard time getting clocks up. So sure, we're all hoping to see Trinity early in 2012, but anyone setting their expectations a little farther are less likely to be disappointed. Reply
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    didn't i mentioned it would be launch faster then expected?

    http://www.cpuforever.com/showthread.php?tid=1574&...

    the delay of Zambezi BD has nothing to do with real architecture issues.....
    Reply
  • ET - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    That's not the sites which posted on it, including Anandtech, said based on what AMD said (that is, that Bulldozer was not up to speed). Reply
  • Jamahl - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Was that really needed? I mean...really? Who the hell would do that and for what reason? Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I already got my E-350 laptop, but as Jarred says, Brazos just became less interesting. I'll be waiting to see what price point and performance the dual core Llano will have. What impressed me most was battery life, which is competitive with the E-350 laptop, and it'd be interesting to see how small and light Llano laptops will get.

    The other takeaway I have from this is that as usual I'm impressed at how far Intel has gone with its integrated graphics. Sure Llano gives it a good beating, but that's at the expense of a lot more die space. I imagine that Intel will continue to tweak its 3D cores and I can't wait to see how this race will develop.
    Reply
  • Anosh - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    What happened to power consumption?!
    Some of us get laptops due to the optimization in the power department over similar desktop parts!
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Power = [Battery Capacity] / .98 [efficiency] / ([Battery life in minutes] / 60)

    So if you take the battery life charts, you can determine roughly what the total system power draw is using the above. Or you can look at the "Relative Battery Life" charts and get the same information as Minutes/Wh instead of converting into Watts.
    Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    In my work I get a lot of laptops to fix. If there is one game or genre that appears on 80% or more of them its......

    The Sims.

    I also get asked a lot "if I buy this laptop will it play The Sims?"

    Never ever been asked if a laptop will play Crysis or any of the games you use.

    Just saying.
    Reply

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