The Kaveri Refresh 'Godavari' Review: Testing AMD's A10-7870Kby Ian Cutress on June 1, 2015 11:59 AM EST
AMD A10-7870K Conclusion
AMD knows, and most of the press knows, that the release of a Kaveri Refresh line of APUs is not going to set the world alight in a miasma of queues outside brick and mortar stores or bundles of pre-orders. In the PC industry at least, that rarely happens outside of graphics cards anyway, but for AMD the Kaveri Refresh APU launched today (and those following) plays an important role in their iterative stance.
At the top of the review we described that this APU is formed from a combination of better silicon management, some mild optimization, better binning and a very slight increase in stock voltage (50 millivolts) and gives a frequency bump in both the CPU and a massive 20% on the integrated graphics. If that level of gain was leveraged mid-cycle by a discrete graphics manufacturer, it would be making some waves in technology forums at least. But like a discrete GPU, 20% better frequency doesn’t mean 20% better performance, and the gain is very title dependent.
AMD’s target for the Kaveri Refresh is decidedly mass market. With the popularity of eSports growing, particularly with graphically simple games such as Counter Strike, League of Legends, DOTA2 and others being on the tips of the tongue of many young gamers, the A10-7870K launch was focused away from the more classic technology media. It was directed towards the Twitch streaming and the competitive gaming demographic that care more about cost, responsiveness and optimizing performance rather than a gamut of office and professional based testing. As these users are typically teenagers/20s with low-to-mid range budgets to build or buy pre-built gaming machines, AMD’s own testing focused on performance comparisons at that price range, showcasing that a comparative Intel machine was either more expensive, gave worse gameplay, or both.
Our testing verified those claims, and puts the A10-7870K at the top of the integrated gaming stack that can fit into custom PC builds. While we didn’t get a 20% boost in performance, almost all of our graphics tests saw a gain over the previous head of the Kaveri list, the A10-7850K, and a good sizeable boost when it comes to minimum frame rates:
Despite AMD’s focus for the unit, for the sake of system builders or cheaper office system developers, we did run our usual gamut of office and professional level tests. Typically in this case we compare direct to an Intel CPU of similar price. AMD’s Heterogeneous System Architecture push, and OpenCL 1.0 near-full compatibility (save GPU context switching) allows a boost in the software that has specifically been engineered down this route – AMD likes to promote LibreOffice, PCMark 8 and BasemarkCL for this. In the pure CPU route, AMD’s mid-range 3.7 GHz processors typically do better here due to the weaker GPU making the processor less expensive and more price/performance competitive, and as a result the A10-7870K doesn’t compare favorably if you have a pure CPU workload and rely on throughput. That being said, relying on throughput and worrying about price is a double-edged sword to begin with. The best foot forward for AMD in this context is the OpenCL capabilities and compatible software, and then it happens to do the regular stuff as well.
At $137 though, the A10-7870K becomes a more interesting prospect than when the A10-7850K was launched around $170, especially in that eSports gaming space. Over the past year or so, PC component manufacturers have all asked me to explain how I view the ecosystem as of late, especially when it comes to gaming. My answer is relatively simple – there are two markets: one for the under 25s and one for the over 25s. In the first market, you have gamers still in school and on low budgets, but they tend to make the most noise online and love looking at flashy halo type things. The latter are the ones that have had jobs for a few years, perhaps a promotion or two and a bonus, and as a result they might splash out a bit on a good gaming system once every few years. This group is more peak performance concerned than price/performance concerned. As a result of these two groups of potential, you have to market accordingly.
AMD’s line has been encouraging the regular tech websites to test these titles, but the multiplayer nature of them makes it difficult to regulate testing without a timedemo mode or something akin to BF2’s recording mode. One of the best ways to approach this is to predict the next eSports titles and ensure there is a way to test both fairly and accurately by working with the developer – ultimately that is something difficult for the media to do. To anyone creating an indie, casual or multiplayer with AI title, I would heartily suggest a benchmark mode, as this is where the strengths of AMD’s APU line (both in terms of performance and marketing from AMD’s point of view) sit.
A lot of readers will consider that the Kaveri Refresh outlay, one SKU now and some more down the road, is a holdover towards Zen and the next architecture update from AMD coming in 2016. Part of this is true, I would agree – seeing clock speed increases (even if they are 20%) can only go so far. Two things currently grip the processor audience: performance and efficiency. The hope, as always, is that the major x86 players can deliver over the old with the new. We will wait and see.