Final Words

As with all previous AMD APU launches, we're going to have to break this one down into three parts: CPU, the promise of HSA and GPU.

In a vacuum where all that's available are other AMD parts, Kaveri and its Steamroller cores actually look pretty good. At identical frequencies there's a healthy increase in IPC, and AMD has worked very hard to move its Bulldozer family down to a substantially lower TDP. While Trinity/Richland were happy shipping at 100W, Kaveri is clearly optimized for a much more modern TDP. Performance gains at lower TDPs (45/65W) are significant. In nearly all of our GPU tests, a 45W Kaveri ends up delivering very similar gaming performance to a 100W Richland. The mainstream desktop market has clearly moved to smaller form factors and it's very important that AMD move there as well. Kaveri does just that.

In the broader sense however, Kaveri doesn't really change the CPU story for AMD. Steamroller comes with a good increase in IPC, but without a corresponding increase in frequency AMD fails to move the single threaded CPU performance needle. To make matters worse, Intel's dual-core Haswell parts are priced very aggressively and actually match Kaveri's CPU clocks. With a substantial advantage in IPC and shipping at similar frequencies, a dual-core Core i3 Haswell will deliver much better CPU performance than even the fastest Kaveri at a lower price.

The reality is quite clear by now: AMD isn't going to solve its CPU performance issues with anything from the Bulldozer family. What we need is a replacement architecture, one that I suspect we'll get after Excavator concludes the line in 2015.

In the past AMD has argued that for the majority of users, the CPU performance it delivers today is good enough. While true, it's a dangerous argument to make (one that eventually ends up with you recommending an iPad or Nexus 7). I have to applaud AMD's PR this time around as no one tried to make the argument that CPU performance was somehow irrelevant. Although we tend to keep PR critique off of AnandTech, the fact of the matter is that for every previous APU launch AMD tried its best to convince the press that the problem wasn't with its CPU performance but rather with how we benchmark. With Kaveri, the arguments more or less stopped. AMD has accepted its CPU performance is what it is and seems content to ride this one out. It's a tough position to be in, but it's really the only course of action until Bulldozer goes away.

It's a shame that the CPU story is what it is, because Kaveri finally delivers on the promise of the ATI acquisition from 2006. AMD has finally put forth a truly integrated APU/SoC, treating both CPU and GPU as first class citizens and allowing developers to harness both processors, cooperatively, to work on solving difficult problems and enabling new experiences. In tests where both the CPU and GPU are used, Kaveri looks great as this is exactly the promise of HSA. The clock starts now. It'll still be a matter of years before we see widespread adoption of heterogeneous programming and software, but we finally have the necessary hardware and priced at below $200.

Until then, outside of specific applications and GPU compute workloads, the killer app for Kaveri remains gaming. Here the story really isn't very different than it was with Trinity and Richland. With Haswell Intel went soft on (socketed) desktop graphics, and Kaveri continues to prey on that weakness. If you are building an entry level desktop PC where gaming is a focus, there really isn't a better option. I do wonder how AMD will address memory bandwidth requirements going forward. A dual-channel DDR3 memory interface works surprisingly well for Kaveri. We still see 10 - 30% GPU performance increases over Richland despite not having any increase in memory bandwidth. It's clear that AMD will have to look at something more exotic going forward though.

For casual gaming, AMD is hitting the nail square on the head in its quest for 1080p gaming at 30 frames per second, albeit generally at lower quality settings. There are still a few titles that are starting to stretch the legs of a decent APU (Company of Heroes is practically brutal), but it all comes down to perspective. Let me introduce you to my Granddad. He’s an ex-aerospace engineer, and likes fiddling with stuff. He got onboard the ‘build-your-own’ PC train in about 2002 and stopped there – show him a processor more than a Pentium 4 and he’ll shrug it off as something new-fangled. My grandfather has one amazing geeky quality that shines through though – he has played and completed every Tomb Raider game on the PC he can get his hands on.

It all came to a head this holiday season when he was playing the latest Tomb Raider game. He was running the game on a Pentium D with an NVIDIA 7200GT graphics card. His reactions are not the sharpest, and he did not seem to mind running at sub-5 FPS at a 640x480 resolution. I can imagine many of our readers recoiling at the thought of playing a modern game at 480p with 5 FPS. In the true spirit of the season, I sent him a HD 6750, an identical model to the one in the review today. Despite some issues he had finding drivers (his Google-fu needs a refresher), he loves his new card and can now play reasonably well at 1280x1024 on his old monitor.

The point I am making with this heart-warming/wrenching family story is that the Kaveri APU is probably the ideal fit for what he needs. Strap him up with an A8-7600 and away he goes. It will be faster than anything he has used before, it will play his games as well as that new HD 6750, and when my grandmother wants to surf the web or edit some older images, she will not have to wait around for them to happen. It should all come in with a budget they would like as well.

Drawing Performance Conclusions
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  • HanzNFranzen - Saturday, January 18, 2014 - link

    Yea, 90% of people use Battlefield 4 90% of their time on the PC... You missed the question.
  • keveazy - Saturday, January 18, 2014 - link

    Doesn't matter.
    If you buy a PC, it's better to make sure it's solid and ready to handle applications that require strong physical cpu performance unless your still living the 90s dude.

    My point is, AMD's highest end kaveri 7850k chip today is priced at the same range as Intel's low end i5 cpus. From here, you take your pic. If you wanna have a system that has worse graphics than ps4, go AMD.
  • kmi187 - Sunday, January 19, 2014 - link

    If you've actually lived in the 90's you would know that cpu power was a lot more important back then than it is now. You didn't have hardware (gpu) acceleration for video and all that jazz to put less stress on the cpu.

    Also you do realize the PS4 runs on AMD hardware right?
  • medi02 - Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - link

    What on earth are you talking about? What is a "solid PC"? One that fails at games?
  • cryptik - Monday, March 30, 2015 - link

    Today (30 Mar 2015) the AMD A8-7600 is the same price ($99) as the Intel Pentium G3460. The "lowest end" i5 CPU is $189. You're simply a liar who has no idea what he's talking about.
  • vAngz - Sunday, January 26, 2014 - link

    I believe you and others are missing the point. Can you play Battlefield 4 on medium settings @ 1080p using only the i5 4430, without using a discrete graphics card, and it still be playable above 30fps?

    Even though the chips are the same price (at most places), you can actually play BF4 using only the A10 7850K, which is not possible with the i5 4430. I bring this up mainly because you brought up BF4. When, rather if, Mantle is ever activated on BF4, things will change and we will see even better performance on the A10-7850K and later gen AMD APUs.

    So, yes, you can get better performance out of the i5 4430, but you will need to spend more money on a discrete graphics card to use it for gaming, such as for BF4. I believe this what sets the AMD APUs apart from Intel offerings at the moment. We need to compare apples to apples.

    I could be wrong, but I haven't seen anywhere in my research where anyone is getting that kind of performance out of i5 4430 without a discrete graphics card added into the mix. If you have a link on such info please share it with us. Thanks.
  • keveazy - Friday, February 7, 2014 - link

    Your not getting it either. My mistake in my previous post is I didn't mention Battlefield 4 Multiplayer.
    That's where the APU will fail. It will fail in both the Cpu performance and Gpu performance. The APU is still the better choice at light gaming.
  • theduckofdeath - Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - link

    I think he's referencing that processor simply because it's a pretty powerful, fairly low-priced processor for all of those who can live without all of those over-clocker tweaks...
  • just4U - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    You talk about 2500K performance and yet the majority of people I come across are not even working with that. The vast majority are still in the C2D/8800 like performance arena. What would be nice to see from some of these review sites in their performance analysis is if stuff like this makes sense to finally bite the bullet and get rid of the old dog..
  • just4U - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    Ian .. that's something I think you should look at btw.. we do get a fair number of lurkers /w some posting up questions like that about how it compares to the old warhorses their on. Hell even for those of us with old parts kicking around it's something to consider. Do we scrounge up some cheap ddr2 psu.. hand me down hard drives and pair it up for that box in front of the television or do we say no.. this makes far more sense and it's new.

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