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Conclusion

AMD A8-3850 Review: Llano Rocks Entry-Level Desktops
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I’ve had Llano in the lab for nearly two months in various stages of readiness. More than anything, in that time, motherboard BIOSes have evolved to the point where they’re production-ready, stable, and feature-complete. From one update to the next, overclocking goes from flat-out impossible to surprisingly scalable.

When the platform first landed, I was concerned about how it’d fare against Core i3—a processor we’ve already established performs exceptionally well in the company of discrete graphics. But Core i3-2105 itself costs $140 and a Radeon HD 6570 adds $70 to that bill. That’s an entry-level graphics card, too. Between the pair, you’re already over $200.

Strip Core i3 from the add-in graphics component that makes it shine and you’re left with HD Graphics 3000. While significantly faster than HD Graphics 2000, Intel’s best integrated effort can’t even come close to the engine built into AMD’s A8-3850. When you consider the LGA 1155- and FM1-based packages on their own merits, the Llano architecture makes a lot more sense. This is a simple matter of cost and balance.

We’re huge proponents of balance. You put the right processor with the right graphics card and the right memory. When you find the sweet spot for any given budget, you get the best all-around performance. That’s the entire premise underlying Paul Henningsen’s Building A Balanced Gaming PC series. Intel and AMD each made judgment calls when they were designing their respective next-gen products. Intel put most of its focus on very powerful execution cores. As such, its dual-core part is often able to beat AMD’s quad-core implementation. But AMD sunk more resources into on-die graphics able to complement the mainstream cores.

Source: AMD. The result of different prioritiesSource: AMD. The result of different priorities

The result is that Llano, as a package, is more balanced in a world where 3D pervades. Take 3D out of the picture and Sandy Bridge is superior. You really can’t downplay 3D, though. At least for most of us, we touch 3D-oriented content on a regular basis. For those workloads, Sandy Bridge really requires a discrete GPU in order to excel. That’s where you run into the cost component.

Specifically, A8-3850 (the only APU for which we have performance data) doesn’t rely on any other hardware to enable reasonable performance. Pair it up to a low-cost motherboard, 4 GB of fast DDR3, and a sub-$100 hard drive and you’re looking at a very entry-level machine that can do many things moderately well. For $135, you get a processor and GPU in a 100 W package. At $140, Core i3-2105 gives you a killer CPU and an afterthought of a graphics engine. I still love what Intel did with Quick Sync, but it’s telling that the company dedicated transistors to hardware-accelerated transcoding rather than spending them on more complex 3D capabilities, where it knew it couldn't compete.

Now, Who’s Going To Buy It?

I really would have loved to had time to test AMD’s Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition with a Radeon HD 6570 for this piece because those two parts cost about the same as an A8-3850. Overclocked through its multiplier, the Phenom II is almost certainly faster than Llano’s very Athlon-ish design. And the discrete GPU is absolutely quicker than the Radeon HD 6550D logic inside of Llano.

But that’s an enthusiast-oriented brute force approach to more speed involving a 95 W processor and a 60 W graphics card. A8-3850 more elegantly tucks its feature set into a 100 W part. Perhaps AMD is counting on system builders deriving additional value from the smaller physical and thermal footprints a Llano-based machine leaves compared to existing Phenom and Radeon combinations.

It goes without saying that this isn’t technology for enthusiasts. Even mainstream gamers with $500 bucks to spend on hardware can do better than the best integrated graphics we’ve ever seen. The fastest Llano-based APU is aimed squarely at entry-level desktops and all-in-ones—folks with $400 or $500 for a complete machine. For anyone else, quicker options are available at only marginally higher prices. AMD sees its addressable market between $400 and $700 with these APUs. Frankly, I think the $400 to $600 range is more realistic.

That still leaves a ton of ground for AMD to cover with the Bulldozer launch. But we have to be less than a couple of months out now. The question of whether it’ll catch up to Sandy Bridge and give power users a reason to revel in the FX suffix yet again will soon be answered. Until then, Llano is a cool piece of tech for your more mainstream mom and dad.

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Top Comments
  • 17 Hide
    Yuka , June 30, 2011 5:54 AM
    stardude82That's about all the sense it makes then.


    Actually Llano on the Desktop is (IMO) aimed at HTPC a 100% and, off course, notebooks.

    I would really, really like to see more media features with the Llano parts you guys have if it can be done 8)

    Great article as usual!

    Cheers!
  • 16 Hide
    Anonymous , June 30, 2011 3:23 PM
    Heh, I love these comments - for $150 more than a $135 AMD CPU you can get a better Intel CPU and AMD GPU!

    No shit, really? I wouldn't have thought so, it's just twice the price!
  • 16 Hide
    cknobman , June 30, 2011 2:37 PM
    Good lord reading the comments some of you people are really dense. Do you not understand the target market for these and can take the review in context????? Not everything should be looked at as though you are a custom power cpu/game builder.

    Great review Chris. For the target market AMD is doing a pretty good job here with an old CPU architecture and once they pair this with Bulldozer they should have a killer product.
Other Comments
  • 14 Hide
    whatisupthere , June 30, 2011 4:06 AM
    Great review! Thanks Toms
  • 13 Hide
    Tamz_msc , June 30, 2011 4:21 AM
    Another win for AMD!
  • 1 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , June 30, 2011 4:24 AM
    So then what's the point of getting the Turbo Core versions when they are going to be Turbo Clocked slower then the none Turbo Clocked versions...
  • 15 Hide
    cangelini , June 30, 2011 4:29 AM
    SteelCity1981So then what's the point of getting the Turbo Core versions when they are going to be Turbo Clocked slower then the none Turbo Clocked versions...


    They don't want you to see better performance from a cheaper APU in single-threaded apps by pushing Turbo Core further ;-)
  • 1 Hide
    Known2Bone , June 30, 2011 4:35 AM
    i really wanted see some amazing gains in the content creation department what with all that gpu power on chip... oh well games are fun too!
  • 12 Hide
    ivan_chess , June 30, 2011 4:41 AM
    I think this would be good for a young kid's PC. It would be enough to run educational software and a web browser. When he grows up to be a gamer it would be time to replace the whole machine anyway.
  • 5 Hide
    DjEaZy , June 30, 2011 4:52 AM
    ... it's may be not the greatest APU for desktop... but it will be a powerful thingy in a laptop... the review was nice... but in the gaming department... would be nice to see a standard 15,x'' laptop resolution tests @ 1366x768... or something like that...
  • 3 Hide
    Mathos , June 30, 2011 5:00 AM
    Actually if you want good DDR3 1600 with aggressive timings, the Ripjaws X series memory that I have does DDR3 1600 at 7-8-7-24 at 1.5v, not all that expensive when it comes down to it either.
  • -2 Hide
    Stardude82 , June 30, 2011 5:04 AM
    This makes little sense. An Athlon II X3 445 ($75) and a HD 5570 ($60, on a good day you can get a 5670 for the same price) would provide better performance for the same price ($135) and not have to worry about the RAM you use.

    So is AM3+ going to be retired in favor of FM1 in the near future? Why are there chipset at all? Why isn't everything SOC by now?

    Otherwise this is a very good CPU. If AMD has used 1 MB level 2 caches in their quads when they came out with the Deneb Propus die, they would be much more competitive.
  • 9 Hide
    crisan_tiberiu , June 30, 2011 5:37 AM
    stardude82This makes little sense. An Athlon II X3 445 ($75) and a HD 5570 ($60, on a good day you can get a 5670 for the same price) would provide better performance for the same price ($135) and not have to worry about the RAM you use.

    what about power consumption?
  • -7 Hide
    Stardude82 , June 30, 2011 5:46 AM
    crisan_tiberiuwhat about power consumption?

    That's about all the sense it makes then, for mobile and all-in-one units, but for cheap desktops... eh.
  • 17 Hide
    Yuka , June 30, 2011 5:54 AM
    stardude82That's about all the sense it makes then.


    Actually Llano on the Desktop is (IMO) aimed at HTPC a 100% and, off course, notebooks.

    I would really, really like to see more media features with the Llano parts you guys have if it can be done 8)

    Great article as usual!

    Cheers!
  • -4 Hide
    jdwii , June 30, 2011 5:54 AM
    not bad but can you overclock the graphics core
  • 10 Hide
    fictionforthetame , June 30, 2011 6:11 AM
    I completely agree with Yuka and was thinking the whole way through how amazing these would be (especially the low TDP versions) in a HTPC.
  • 2 Hide
    RazberyBandit , June 30, 2011 6:17 AM
    In regards to dual graphics, the only game that it seemed to work on was WoW Cataclysm. What was the cause, drivers? CAPS?

    And I think you guys may have gotten the min and avg FPS scores for the CoD:MW benchmark backwards... How can the min be higher than the average? Maybe you were actually comparing No AA to 4x AA or something, not min and avg FPS?
  • 3 Hide
    Nintendork , June 30, 2011 6:30 AM
    This review need IGP OC. The Llano GPU overclocks like hell.

    600Mhz to 840/900Mhz? No problem at all.
  • 3 Hide
    frozenlead , June 30, 2011 6:34 AM
    On the COD graphs, the minimum and average FPS bars have to be switched...it's impossible to have a "minimum" data point greater than the average.
  • 9 Hide
    ChiefTexas_82 , June 30, 2011 6:38 AM
    Since when does a 100W CPU and a 6530 need a 850W power supply???

    Anyway, The real show should be bulldozer-based APU's. If they could just get the graphics up to a 5750 level...
  • 7 Hide
    ChromeTusk , June 30, 2011 6:45 AM
    Great article. This really helps me out since I need to replace 2 laptops in the near future.
    As for a higher end desktop, I am waiting for BD and how it affects the market. That will determine which parts I keep and which parts get put into an HTPC.
  • -4 Hide
    fstrthnu , June 30, 2011 7:08 AM
    Definitely looks like a stopgap measure, a product with good execution but no market. Basically, the only people who will buy this are casual/lazy PC gamers - the serious guys would come to sites like this very one to find out that they can get way more for their money than buying Llano. Thing is, at this price point, most people don't even care about games. Like I said on a previous post, any serious, smart PC gamer will build their own or look higher in terms of pricing to get a genuinely strong system.
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