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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  • SofS - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    Following your links and looking around I found:

    It links to previous similar articles concerning the Phenon II and the i7 of the time (975). Seems that indeed the C2Q does not benefit much from memory improvements compared to the other two, but there is a difference. This and all of those three cases are relevant since all three models were very popular. Also, I remember choosing the on time smaller modules for my first kit whit this particular system since they were the only reasonable DDR3 modules at 1600 within reach, albeit I never managed to stabilize it at CL6. On the other hand the latter I upgraded with got CL6 from XMP since the beginning while being larger. Given that memory is very cheap compared to the whole system plus the cost of repurchasing non portable software then this (maybe also a new GPU) might just be the final push needed to wait for the next generation native DDR4 systems for many.
  • fokka - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    i understand your sentiment, but then again, about every modern mainstream cpu should destroy a c2d and even quad in raw performance. and you even get relatively capable integrated graphics included in the package, so about everyone even moderately interested in computing performance and efficiency "should bite the bullet" if he's got a couple hundred bucks on the side.
  • just4U - Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - link

    and that's the problem.. their not. "It's good enough" Numbers are.. just that numbers. We hit a wall in 2008 (or there abouts..) and while performance kept increasing it's been in smaller increments. Over the span of several generations that really can add up but not the way it once did.

    It used to be you'd get on a old system and it would be like pulling teeth because the differences were very noticeable and in some cases they still are.. but for the most part? Not so much.. not for normal/casual usage. There is a ceiling .. Athlon X2s P4s? No.. you'll notice it.. Quad 8x Core2? hmmm.. How about a socket 1366 cpu or the 1156 stuff? Or the PIIs from AMD. Those people should upgrade? Certainly if their board dies and they can't replace.. but otherwise not so much.
  • just4U - Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - link

    That should have read Quad 8x series Core2s.. anyway these days It seems like we do a lot more change out video, add in ssd, increase ram, rather then build systems from the ground up as systems can stick around longer and still be quite viable. Yes/no?
  • tcube - Thursday, January 16, 2014 - link

    Totaly agree. We're led to believe that we need to upgrade every 2 years or so... yet a great many are still using old cpu's even dual cores with new software and os without a care in the world. Because there is no noticeable improvement in cpu usage. Cpu power became irrelevant after C2Q nothing beyond that power is justifiable in normal home or office usage. Certainly certain professional users will want a cheap workstation and will buy into the highend pc market likewise extreme gamers or just for bragging rights. But thinking that for anything from browsing to medium photoshop usage or any moderate videoediting software use will REQUIRE anything past a quadcore like lowend i5's or this kaveri is plain false. You will however notice the lack of a powerful gpu when gaming or doing other gpu intensive tasks... so amd has a clear winner here.

    I do agree it's not suited for heavy x86 work... but honestly... most software stacks that previously relied heavily on cpu are moving to opencl to get a massive boost from the gpu... photoshop being just one of many... so yeah the powerful gpu on kaveri is a good incentive to buy, the x86 performance is better then richland which is sufficient for me(as i currently do use a richland cpu) so...
  • Syllabub - Friday, January 17, 2014 - link

    I am not going to try and pick a winner but I follow your line of reasoning. I have a system with a e6750 C2D and Nvidia 9600 that still gets the job done just fine. It might be described as a single purpose type of system meaning I ask it to run one or possibly two programs at the same time. What I think is pretty wild is that when I put it together originally I probably sank something close to $250 into the CPU and GPU purchase while today I potentially get similar performance for under $130 or so. The hard part is buying today in a manner that preserves a level of performance equivalent to the old system; always feel the tug to bump up the performance ladder even if I don't really need it.
  • Flunk - Thursday, January 16, 2014 - link

    That doesn't really make sense unless you also include equivalently-priced current Intel processors. People may be moving on from Core 2s but they have the opportunity to buy anything on the market right now, not just AMD chips.
  • PPB - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    Adding a $350 CPU plus $50 GPU to a iGP gaming comparison = Anandtech keeping it classy.
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    You do realize they're not recommending this in any way, just showing the full potential of a low-end discrete GPU which wouldn't be bottlenecked by any modern 3+ core CPU?
  • Homeles - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    PPB being an ignorant critic, as usual.

    "For reference we also benchmarked the only mid-range GPU to hand - a HD 6750 while connected to the i7-4770K."

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