The AMD A8-3500M APU Review: Llano Is Unleashed

Test Setup And Benchmarks

Llano presents us with a number of testing challenges we generally don’t encounter when it comes time to review a new processor or graphics solution. AMD doesn’t have (or at the very least, doesn’t want to share) a tool to report actual clock speeds during operation. So, we have no easy way of telling whether or not Turbo Core is working, how often it’s working or how far it’s accelerating our sample. You’ll remember that when Intel debuted the Nehalem architecture, it distributed a Turbo Boost monitor for tracking the feature’s activity in real-time. AMD needs something similar.

To help us examine this limitation, we’re including benchmarks of a Phenom II X4 at 1.5 GHz and 2.4 GHz, the nominal and Turbo Core limits of the A8-3500M CPU we’re testing today. Not only does this show us if Turbo Core is working, but it gives us an idea how closely the new version of the Stars CPU core compares to Phenom II.

In addition, we’re pairing that Phenom II X4-based system with a Radeon HD 5570. As you now know, this graphics card has the same number of shader cores as the A8-3500M APU, and for our tests, it’s under-clocked it to 444 MHz GPU and 666 MHz DDR3 memory. This allows us to compare APU performance with a discrete graphics card using the same specifications and clocks.

Last but not least, we’re testing a system based on Intel’s mobile Core i5-2520M CPU. This should give us a good idea what similarly-priced laptops based on similarly-priced Intel products can accomplish. Or at least, similarly-priced according to AMD’s not-necessarily accurate estimations.

There are three popular notebook resolutions we’ll focus on for testing games: 1280x800, 1600x900, and 1920x1080. When a particular game struggles with 1280x800, we add 1024x600 as a lower-resolution alternative to see if it fares any better.

Since AMD Dual Graphics only works on DirectX 10 and 11 game engines, we are benchmarking some games more than once, using different code paths in order to see what difference Dual Graphics makes. These games are Metro 2033, F1 2010, and HAWX 2.


AMD Llano A8-3500M
Test System
AMD Phenom II X4
Test System
Intel Core i5-2520M
Test System
CPU

AMD A8-3500M (Llano)
Quad-Core, 4 MB L2
1.5 GHz (2.4 GHz Max Turbo)

AMD Phenom II X4 (Deneb)
Quad-Core, 6 MB L3
@ 1.5
GHz and 2.4 GHz


Intel Core i5-2520M (Sandy Bridge)
Dual-Core, Hyperthreaded, 3 MB L3
2.5 GHz (3.2 GHz Max Turbo)


Motherboard

Unknown
Chipset: AMD A70
Fusion Controller Hub
With USB 3.0 Support

Gigabyte 880GMA-UD2H
Chipset: AMD 880G

ASRock HM65-HT
Chipset: Intel HM65
Networking
Onboard Gigabit LAN controller
Memory

4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz
  2 x 2 GB, timings unknown

4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz
  2 x 2 GB, CL 9-9-9-24-1T
Kingston 99U5471-001

4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz
  2 x 2 GB, CL 9-9-9-24-1T
ASint technology C1RETSR4HGF

Graphics

Radeon HD 6620G (Integrated)
444 MHz GPU, Shared DDR3 at 667 MHz
Radeon HD 6630M
444 MHz GPU, Shared DDR3 at 667 MHz
(Considered Radeon HD 6690G2
when in Dual Graphics mode)

Radeon HD 5570
underclocked to A8-3500M specifications:
444 MHz GPU, 1 GB DDR3 at 667 MHz

Intel HD Graphics 3000
650 MHz GPU,
Shared DDR3 at 667 MHz

Hard Drive

Hitachi Travelstar
250 GB

7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s

Western Digital Caviar Blue
1 TB

7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s

Western Digital Scorpio Black
500 GB

7200 RPM, 16MB MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s

Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 x64
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics Drivers

Intel Core i5-2520M Test System:: Intel Graphics Driver 8.15.10.2361
AMD Llano A8-3500M Test System: AMD Catalyst 11.6 BETA
AMD Phenom II X4 Test System: AMD Catalyst 11.5

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Metro 2033
Version 1.0.0.1, DirectX 9 and 11, benchmark tool, Low Detail,
No AA, 4x AF, advanced physX disabled, tessellation disabled, DOF disabled
Crysis 2
Version 1.5, FRAPS run
High Settings, No AA, No AF
H.A.W.X. 2
Version 1.0.1, DirectX 9 and 10/11,
Highest Settings, tessellation Off, In-game benchmark
F1 2010
Version 1.1.1.129, DirectX 11, in-game benchmark
Medium Detail Preset
Just Cause 2
Version 1.0.0.2, DirectX 10, Concrete Jungle Benchmark
  Medium Details, textures High, Object Low, 16x AF
High res shadows, point light specular, SSAO, bokeh Filter & GPU Water Simulation off
StarCraft 2
Version: 2.1.2.2105, High Details
Tom's Hardware Guide Benchmark V2
Audio Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
iTunesVersion: 10.0.1.1, 64-bit
Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min., Convert to AAC audio format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 kb/s)
Video Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.94
Video: Big Buck Bunny (720x480, 23.972 frames) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept Reference v2
Version: 2.0.0.1555
MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio:
MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Application Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
WinRARVersion 4.0 Beta 4
RAR, Syntax "winrar a -r -m3", Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
WinZip 14Version 14.0 Pro (8652)
WinZIP Commandline Version 3, ZIPX, Syntax "-a -ez -p -r", Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
7-Zip
Version 9.2
LZMA2, Syntax "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5", Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010
Version: 10 x64, Rendering Space Flyby Mentalray (SPECapc_3dsmax9)
Frame: 248, Resolution: 1440 x 1080
Adobe Premiere Pro CS5
Video length 2min 21s, Export to H.264 Blu-ray
Source 960x720, Output 1280x720
Adobe After Effects CS5
Create Video which includes 3 Streams
Frames: 210, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously: on
Cinebench
Version 11.5 Build CB25720DEMO
CPU and OpenGL tests
BlenderVersion: 2.54 beta
Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, Resolution: 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing: 8x, Render: THG.blend frame 1
Adobe Photoshop CS 5 (64-Bit)Version: 11
Filtering a 16 MB TIF (15000x7266), Filters:, Radial Blur (Amount: 10, Method: zoom, Quality: good) Shape Blur (Radius: 46 px; custom shape: Trademark sysmbol) Median (Radius: 1px) Polar Coordinates (Rectangular to Polar)
ABBYY FinereaderVersion: 10 Professional Build (10.0.102.82)
Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.0.2.0 Patch 1901
3DMark 11
Version 1.0.1
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version: 2010.1.16.10
Processor Arithmetic, Multimedia, Cryptography, Memory Bandwith, GPGPU/GPCPU Processing
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134 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • Good job, AMD. You finally made a better cpu/gpu combo than intel in terms of graphics power.
    ....big win there...
    24
  • This APU being somewhat low power and good graphics almost deserves to be in a tablet PC since CPU processing is not critical in tablet PC's and graphics is something that can help with media and games.

    Ditto on the "Good Job AMD" definitely on the right track.
    23
  • This looks like a fantastic solution for notebooks. Can't wait to finally see more of these systems in the wild. :) Good job AMD. I would think this will help boost the company along until Bulldozer arrives. Way to survive! :)
    23
  • Other Comments
  • HO ! GOD FINALLY I am the first to read this !! Im feeling a Nerdgasm !! :D :D !!
    -25
  • I now really want a laptop with Llano. Also first.
    -24
  • AMD is kind of in a fix here, the more enthusiast gamers won't even bother looking at the Llano computers while this is kind of overkill for casual gamers. MAYBE money-pressed college students or something, but most people will just skip this and either buy a regular gaming computer or build their own using one of the guides from this very site! Going for good graphics in cheap desktops is kind of a futile exercise, the people who will care will just get the more expensive stuff anyways. Notebooks are more understandable, but the prices on the decent gaming desktops are just too good for Llano to be very competitive (and also, the CPU portion will be a letdown for the average person. Noticeably slower than the comparable Intel Core i5.)
    -23
  • Do you know when the desktop review for llano will be out?
    3
  • Good job, AMD. You finally made a better cpu/gpu combo than intel in terms of graphics power.
    ....big win there...
    24
  • After reading the desktop benchmarks on anandtech I can't say I'm impressed. The top of the line a8 3850 manages to scratch the best intel integrated graphics, which doesn't say much. Its CPU power seems to be a toss up with the i3. I think this hardly justifies the +70 premium (over an i3) that you'd have to spend to get it.
    -17
  • This APU being somewhat low power and good graphics almost deserves to be in a tablet PC since CPU processing is not critical in tablet PC's and graphics is something that can help with media and games.

    Ditto on the "Good Job AMD" definitely on the right track.
    23
  • vz7Do you know when the desktop review for llano will be out?


    The NDA is up on the 30th.
    18
  • two things:

    1) What happened to the Game Charts results for the Radeon HD 5570, when the games were benchmarked? I thought you made a point to say you were going to compare the APU's 6620G with a discrete card (that has the same number of SPs and same clock). So much for that, unless you thought only comparing the two with a synthetic test was enough. Oh well. Tom's can be such a tease!

    2) I'm just a little disappointed that the APU's graphics power was not able to double Intel's.... Under the best of circumstances, AMD's latest integrated graphics came close to being twice as fast, but i guess that is ok since we are not playing horseshoes. I just thought it would be nice if it had made a nice even doubling, or more. Now, i'm worried IVY BRIDGE will beat it....
    -4
  • sorry, i guess that should be:

    we ARE playing horseshoes...

    and i have to give credit where credit is due: props to AMD for almost doubling Intel's HD Graphics in the integrated space....
    8
  • What I find most exciting is the battery life saved. THIS is what will make this chip a winner. When if Sandy bridge is faster your average consumer won't be able to notice... PERIOD. However battery life... is a HUGE win.

    I don't play favorites, AMD needs market share.... FOR OUR SAKE. If Intel and AMD where on the same terms we would see faster progression and SAVE MONEY.
    22
  • This looks like a fantastic solution for notebooks. Can't wait to finally see more of these systems in the wild. :) Good job AMD. I would think this will help boost the company along until Bulldozer arrives. Way to survive! :)
    23
  • fstrthnuAMD is kind of in a fix here, the more enthusiast gamers won't even bother looking at the Llano computers while this is kind of overkill for casual gamers. MAYBE money-pressed college students or something, but most people will just skip this and either buy a regular gaming computer or build their own using one of the guides from this very site! Going for good graphics in cheap desktops is kind of a futile exercise, the people who will care will just get the more expensive stuff anyways. Notebooks are more understandable, but the prices on the decent gaming desktops are just too good for Llano to be very competitive (and also, the CPU portion will be a letdown for the average person. Noticeably slower than the comparable Intel Core i5.)

    Well, Llano's market is the mobile space. Not desktop. Yes, they are bringing out desktop Llanos, but just like the article said, Trinity is what the enthusists are waiting for. I honestly don't think Llano's aim in the desktop market is for hardcores. I could see Llano's popularity in HTPC, and casual gaming/workstations though. Lower power, GPU over CPU tradeoff, etc. IF AMD releases the right drivers for the APU+Discrete CPU to work together, I see the market being even bigger.
    11
  • I suppose we need to stop suggesting i3-2100 and H67 over in the forums then? Go AMD!
    17
  • How much for the A8 3500M? and it is a 1.5 GHZ chip with turbo to 2.4. I think its price point is more consistent with the I3 2310M @ 2.1 GHZ. Would have like to see you compare it to that instead of a I5 @ 2.5 GHZ
    -4
  • IMO focusing su much on graphics is kind of stupid. You can make use of them only in two sorts of applications: stupid modern games that aren't worth playing and CADs that can make use of a GPU. All other loads are just indifferent to the graphics performance. I'm really suprised why you folks are so focused on games and just ignore everything else.

    There is no single reason to prefer Llano over Sandy bridge, and I really cannot understand your excitement about it.
    -20
  • SlaughteremHow much for the A8 3500M? and it is a 1.5 GHZ chip with turbo to 2.4. I think its price point is more consistent with the I3 2310M @ 2.1 GHZ. Would have like to see you compare it to that instead of a I5 @ 2.5 GHZ


    AMD didn't supply pricing for the processors, they only supplied pricing for the laptops. Accorsing to the price they gave us, the i5-2520M is fair competition.

    Having said that, does it matter? No matter how you slice it, Llano's GPU will beat Intel HD graphics and Llano's CPU will be beaten by Intel. You'll see different degrees of advantage but this point won't change, not until Trinity at least.
    6
  • just another user...modern games that aren't worth playing and CADs that can make use of a GPU... ...There is no single reason to prefer Llano over Sandy bridge, and I really cannot understand your excitement about it.


    You just listed two. :)

    Obviously everyone will have their own priorities, but I think it's safe to say that you will find the majority of people will be more concerned with graphics performance than the ability to encode or render media. That's really what it comes down to; you're not going to notice a difference while surfing the net.
    12
  • How AMD will still be important to gamers: Use Llano profits from mainstream sales to continue funding and improving production of AMD's discrete gpus. Those kick some serious butt.
    6
  • Decent review, though a bit unfair. What's the point of comparing the performance of a CPU that will be in $600 laptops (A8-3500M) to one that will be in $700 laptops (i5 2520M)? The A8-3500M competes with the Core i3 2310M, while the A8-3830MX competes with the Core i5 2520M. Given that, CPU performance for Llano is better than what is painted in the review.

    With Sandy Bridge, I think you're giving up a lot of GPU performance for some additional CPU performance. I think the choice is clear for most users.
    18