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Dual Graphics: How Does It Perform?

AMD A8-3850 Review: Llano Rocks Entry-Level Desktops
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Setting Up Dual-Graphics

Don covered AMD’s Dual Graphics technology in his preview of Llano earlier this month. However, now we’re able to test it in a desktop environment.

In his earlier piece, Don figured out that, in some cases, when Dual Graphics wasn’t working, it’d default to the performance of the slower installed GPU. AMD said that wasn’t supposed to be the case. You’re actually supposed to get the speed of the faster graphics engine. We think the company is getting around that unexpected behavior by suggesting you use the discrete card as a primary output when two GPUs live in the same machine. The unfortunate consequence is a messy setup routine.

You have to set your system up connected to the APU...You have to set your system up connected to the APU...

...only then can you swap back over to the discrete card....only then can you swap back over to the discrete card.

By default, Llano wants to be the primary output. So, when you configure your BIOS, set up Windows, and get drivers installed, AMD says use the APU’s outputs. If there’s a discrete card installed, CrossFire gets enabled automatically. At that point you have to install the latest Application Profiles patch, disable CrossFire, shut the system down, and switch over to the discrete outputs. From then on, you won’t see a video signal until Windows loads up. Enable CrossFire, reboot again, and then you should be able to use Dual Graphics. Whew.

At least once you get there, a Dual Graphics-enabled configuration makes Eyefinity a possibility. Using display outputs from each graphics processor, you can connect three or more displays in an extended desktop configuration. Just be careful with the outputs you choose. Some motherboard vendors are implementing single-link DVI connectors, while others use dual-link. Of the boards we have here, they all also come with VGA and HDMI; only Gigabyte gives you DisplayPort connectivity, too.

Now, What Equivalent GPU Do I Have?

Don also explained in his preview piece that AMD uses a specific naming system for determining the equivalent performance of two GPUs in the same machine. The Radeon HD 6550D on AMD’s A8-3850 plus the Radeon HD 6570 add-in card we’re testing with, for example, is referred to as a Radeon HD 6630D2. That designator indicates that, first, performance should be higher than both of the comprising GPUs individually, second, that the this is a desktop configuration (as opposed to a more thermally-constrained all-in-one system, specified with an A suffix), and third, that there are two graphics processors installed.

Dual-Graphics Branding
Radeon HD Discrete Graphics Card
AMD Accelerated Processing Unit
Radeon Brand
Radeon HD 6550D
Radeon HD 6530D
Desktop
HD 6670
HD 6690D2
HD 6690D2
HD 6570
HD 6630D2
HD 6610D2
HD 6450
HD 6550D2
HD 6550D2
HD 6350
-
-
All-in-One
HD 6670A
HD 6730A2
HD 6710A2
HD 6650A
HD 6690A2
HD 6670A2
HD 6550A
HD 6610A2
HD 6590A2
HD 6450A
HD 6550A2
HD 6550 S2
HD 6350A
-
-


While we like the descriptiveness of this system, there’s certainly still room for confusion. Dual Graphics isn’t universal. It supports DirectX 10/11 apps, and performance is at the mercy of driver optimization. You see where I’m going with this—while you know a Radeon HD 6850 will perform a certain way, the results from a Radeon HD 6630D2 can be expected to vary a lot more.

And How Does It Do?

In order to test Dual Graphics, we ran three different games: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in DirectX 9, Metro 2033 in DirectX 10, and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm in DirectX 11.

Testing a DirectX 9-based game gives us a good control. As expected, Dual Graphics doesn’t work. And as AMD claims, the setup defaults to the speed of the fastest GPU, and not the slowest, as we saw in the mobile Llano preview.

The gains in Metro start large and then slowly shrink to a two-frame speed-up at 1680x1050. The implication there is that, as the load increases, the platform cannot keep up, and the gap narrows. Incidentally, this is the opposite of what we’d expect with more graphics muscle (platform limiting performance at low resolutions, and then graphics opening up as the bottleneck shifts). Keep this in mind on the next page, where I test a theory using Core i3.

WoW is less intense than Metro 2033, and DirectX 11 rendering helps boost performance. The gains are pretty minor given already-playable performance through 1680x1050, but there’s definitely a quantifiable frame rate increase when a Radeon HD 6570 is dropped into an A8-3850-based platform.

Display all 148 comments.
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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