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Trinity On The Desktop: Already Announced, But Enthusiasts Must Wait

AMD Trinity On The Desktop: A10, A8, And A6 Get Benchmarked!
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At this year’s Computex, AMD announced that Trinity-based APUs for the desktop are already shipping in machines from Acer, Asus, HP, and Lenovo. The chips just aren’t available in the channel yet. And as a result, we don’t yet know what any of these processors are going to cost. Not that it matters—this is a preview and we’re not here to pass judgment. Motherboard BIOS bugs are still being worked out and drivers are still not quite complete.

What we’re left with, then, are initial impressions.

Let’s start with the Piledriver architecture, which everyone is hoping will show up in a desktop-class CPU sooner than later. Our per-clock cycle testing suggests that the revised design, as it’s implemented on Trinity, is as much as 15% faster than Bulldozer. A quad-core Trinity-based chip will still trail a quad-core Llano APU if you hit it with a floating-point-heavy workload—but that’s to be expected, given that each of two Piledriver modules shares a floating-point unit. Fortunately for AMD, most of what we use to test taxes the architecture’s four integer cores.

A majority of our benchmarks favor Trinity over Llano thanks to IPC improvements and significantly higher clock rates. Piledriver still gives up significant instruction per cycle throughput compared to the older Stars design, but is better able to compensate than Bulldozer. The result, then, is modest x86 performance. It’s better than Bulldozer, but only a slight step up from what you get Llano. And that’s if we ignore the competition entirely. I didn’t have a appropriately-priced Intel chip to test, but just received a Core i3-2100 from Newegg that comes close to matching an A8-3870K’s price tag. Tests commence on that tonight.

How about Trinity’s built-in graphics component? Clearly, this is one of AMD’s greatest strengths. We know from our Core i7-3770K review that HD Graphics 4000 can’t even keep up with Llano. Pile on frame rates that are 20 to 25% higher than the first-gen APU and you have the prelude to a blowout favoring AMD's Trinity. Of course, there aren’t any Intel processors with HD Graphics 4000 selling where we’d expect to find these upcoming APUs, making HD Graphics 2000 or 3000 a more realistic comparison. We’ll see how that Core i3-2100 sizes up, but the results of our benchmarks are foregone.

Finally, how do CPU and GPU come together to enhance this second-generation effort in the way AMD suggests they should, if they do at all? That’s a question driven less by hardware implementation and more by execution in the ecosystem. Are there more applications available today able to leverage graphics processing power? Decidedly, yes. Is the number large enough that we’re able to pepper our suite with optimized titles? Unfortunately not. There are other titles out there, but benchmarking them isn’t always easy, though that’s something we’re working to address.

One of the most notable names in our list of metrics, WinZip, does benefit from acceleration by virtue of OpenCL, and we are able to gauge its performance. The speed-up seen in that benchmark is profound, particularly (and somewhat ironically) on the Llano-based APU.

Are We Heading Into A New Era?

I was around reviewing CPUs back when single-core processors started giving way to dual-core chips. Back then, nothing was optimized for threading aside from server-oriented apps. Software developers had to reorient themselves before multi-core desktop CPUs made sense. But it happened. Just look at how much of our suite favors the quad-core APUs over A6-5400K. Scaling clock rate indefinitely proved impossible, so AMD and Intel went wide instead.

The same re-orientation has to happen before the idea that you buy a graphics card for more than gaming is really true (I don’t think it is yet, despite AMD’s claims). That process is happening right now, though, and you can see the momentum building. We expect to see companies like CyberLink on the bleeding edge of technology because it gives them a competitive advantage amongst early adopters. Corel and Adobe aren’t there until it’s ready for prime time. And yet, here they are.

By the time AMD’s third-generation APU, Kaveri, is ready (2013, the company says), we’ll be looking at x86 cores based on Steamroller, the Graphics Core Next architecture, and HSA enhancements that allow the GPU to access CPU memory. Look at the difference between the software infrastructure between Llano’s introduction on the desktop one year ago and today’s preview. If that was just the tip of the iceberg, I can only imagine what top-tier developers will be doing with our graphics processors in another year’s time.

That’s a particularly long ways off for a channel looking at old stock of Llano and still unable to buy Trinity, though. We’ll just have to defer final judgment until AMD sees fit to start offering Trinity-based APUs to do-it-yourselfers. A few more months, we're hearing.

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Top Comments
  • 30 Hide
    Youngmind , June 14, 2012 4:38 AM
    This is so exciting! AMD is probably going to dominate the lower-end and give the poor gamers like me more bang-for-buck as their IGP get better and better :) !
  • 26 Hide
    Anonymous , June 14, 2012 4:54 AM
    Well, where are the Ivy/Sandy i5's and i3's???

    Once they are pitted against each other, that will be A TRUE measure of the APU Trinity's marketability
  • 22 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 14, 2012 4:26 AM
    Nice scoop, Chris!
Other Comments
  • 22 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 14, 2012 4:26 AM
    Nice scoop, Chris!
  • 30 Hide
    Youngmind , June 14, 2012 4:38 AM
    This is so exciting! AMD is probably going to dominate the lower-end and give the poor gamers like me more bang-for-buck as their IGP get better and better :) !
  • 21 Hide
    dudewitbow , June 14, 2012 4:42 AM
    depending on how its priced, its a really nice alternative for bare budget gaming that opens up a quad core as well
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , June 14, 2012 4:45 AM
    I can't WAIT for this, HAIL AMD!!!!
  • 12 Hide
    dudewitbow , June 14, 2012 4:53 AM
    JiggerByteSo this means that a 'Crossfired' Trinity APU would beat ANY similarly-priced Intel (CPU+discrete GPU) ???Well at least in gaming


    really the question is what gpus are able to hybrid crossfire with it. the information was never public. not all amd gpus will hybrid crossfire with it.
  • 26 Hide
    Anonymous , June 14, 2012 4:54 AM
    Well, where are the Ivy/Sandy i5's and i3's???

    Once they are pitted against each other, that will be A TRUE measure of the APU Trinity's marketability
  • 13 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 14, 2012 4:56 AM
    in the OpenCL Winzip benchmark, when openCL is enabled the workload is done only by the iGPU or the CPU as well ?

    i mean what is the processor usage during the benchmark ? are all CPU cores used? or only one?
  • 12 Hide
    cangelini , June 14, 2012 4:57 AM
    mayankleoboy1in the OpenCL Winzip benchmark, when openCL is enabled the workload is done only by the iGPU or the CPU as well ?i mean what is the processor usage during the benchmark ? are all CPU cores used? or only one?

    Good question--I'll take a look for you.
  • 13 Hide
    monkeymonk , June 14, 2012 5:00 AM
    This is awesome. Glad to hear pile driver is making improvements.
  • 6 Hide
    bawchicawawa , June 14, 2012 5:00 AM
    dudewitbowreally the question is what gpus are able to hybrid crossfire with it. the information was never public. not all amd gpus will hybrid crossfire with it.


    It was public... It will crossfire with up to the 7670, which is a rebranded 6670 from what i know, but with some slight improvements.

  • 10 Hide
    bawchicawawa , June 14, 2012 5:05 AM
    Next stop is to overclock and bench the a10-5800k with some nice 1866-2100 memory. Also some dual gpu action with these apu's.
  • 17 Hide
    Anonymous , June 14, 2012 5:06 AM
    Intel fanboy here but I'd really hope AMD catches up this time, coz once they fail, it'll be all over for us consumers, we can't afford Intel to dictate their ultra-ridiculous pricing scheme yet again, in these tough economic times, fewer and fewer people can afford a 200-dollar CPU, so, PLEASE AMD, don't fail us again
  • 8 Hide
    shin0bi272 , June 14, 2012 5:16 AM
    Randy WestWell, where are the Ivy/Sandy i5's and i3's???Once they are pitted against each other, that will be A TRUE measure of the APU Trinity's marketability


    Thats what I was wondering... every time you get an intel cpu review they always throw in an amd or two for comparison. Why didnt they do that here? Cant make an informed purchase if you compare 3 versions of the same car make and model when there are other makes and models out there to look at.

    Oh and Jill... amd only has 10% of the market even with the APU's out there. So if they fail intel only goes from 89-99% of the market... dont see them changing their pricing plans over that.
  • 12 Hide
    cangelini , June 14, 2012 5:18 AM
    bawchicawawaNext stop is to overclock and bench the a10-5800k with some nice 1866-2100 memory. Also some dual gpu action with these apu's.

    Dual Graphics is actually in there ;-)
  • 4 Hide
    bawchicawawa , June 14, 2012 5:19 AM
    shin0bi272Thats what I was wondering... every time you get an intel cpu review they always throw in an amd or two for comparison. Why didnt they do that here? Cant make an informed purchase if you compare 3 versions of the same car make and model when there are other makes and models out there to look at.


    Because this is an article of amd's apus. They've already done a comparison between trinity's igp's and intels 4000 series.
  • 15 Hide
    tonync_01 , June 14, 2012 5:37 AM
    Piledriver is looking good. I'm looking forward to the FX-8350.
  • 4 Hide
    esrever , June 14, 2012 5:48 AM
    Hope to see these in retail soon, I want to put together a budget box for general web surfing and HD video and I'd love a 65w trinity for it.
  • 19 Hide
    army_ant7 , June 14, 2012 5:56 AM
    I want to point out an observation. If in floating-point intensive applications, Trinity is negligibly worse than Llano, meaning they're pretty much the same. Doesn't that mean the 2 floating-points units (2 modules) of Piledriver are acting on par with the 4 (4 cores) of Llano?
    Anyone tell me if I'm wrong and why.

    EDIT: Oh wait, they're clocked higher, but not by that much, though it is substantial. I would think it's still a big architectural improvement.

    Also, I've noticed that in multiple articles, the writers are strapped for time. This isn't good though it could be understandable. Maybe TH should hire more "hands" or something?
    I'm not sure how we'll find out when that video mentioned of the comparison with the A8-3870K and the i3-2100/2105 would show up. Well, unless we constantly check back.

    Don't worry TH, you haven't lost me as a fan. It's just constructive feedback. I love you guys!
  • 15 Hide
    cangelini , June 14, 2012 6:09 AM
    army_ant7I want to point out an observation. If in floating-point intensive applications, Trinity is negligibly worse than Llano, meaning they're pretty much the same. Doesn't that mean the 2 floating-points units (2 modules) of Piledriver are acting on par with the 4 (4 cores) of Llano?Anyone tell me if I'm wrong and why.EDIT: Oh wait, they're clocked higher, but not by that much, though it is substantial. I would think it's still a big architectural improvement.Also, I've noticed that in multiple articles, the writers are strapped for time. This isn't good though it could be understandable. Maybe TH should hire more "hands" or something?I'm not sure how we'll find out when that video mentioned of the comparison with the A8-3870K and the i3-2100/2105 would show up. Well, unless we constantly check back.Don't worry TH, you haven't lost me as a fan. It's just constructive feedback. I love you guys!

    Don't worry--I'm working on the data right now. As it stood, this story took more than a week of all day/all night testing, troubleshooting, new BIOS installing, and re-testing to nail down. It can go on indefinitely if you let it ;-)
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