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AMD A8-3850 Review: Llano Rocks Entry-Level Desktops

AMD A8-3850 Review: Llano Rocks Entry-Level Desktops
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Earlier this month we previewed AMD's Llano architecture in a notebook environment. Now we have the desktop version with a 100 W TDP. How much additional performance can the company procure with a loftier thermal ceiling and higher clocks?

Editor's Note: As we've done so many times before, we're partnering up with CyberPower to give away one of the first Llano-based desktop machines, which the builder calls its Gamer Ultra, to one of our readers. Flip through our review and, on the last page, enter to win a brand new PC, compliments of CyberPower!

A8-3850 Makes Its Desktop Debut

Don Woligroski did an absolutely killer job on our first look at AMD’s Llano architecture. If you haven’t yet read that story and you want to know more about the plumbing inside the company’s first mainstream APU, you really owe it to yourself to check out The AMD A8-3500M APU Review: Llano Is Unleashed before diving into this piece.

Because Don covered the underlying architecture so well, I’m going to use our first experiences with AMD’s Llano-based desktop platform, code-named Lynx, to dive deeper into the stuff I know you guys love: benchmark results and analysis. What kind of performance can you expect out of Dual Graphics? How does Sandy Bridge with discrete graphics compare? What effect does memory performance have on gaming frame rates? How does integrated USB 3.0 support measure up to some of the add-on controllers we’ve seen? I’ll answer all of that.

But first let’s go over the basics of AMD’s first desktop-class Llano-based APUs.

Llano: The Recession-Friendly APU

Oh, Audi would be so proud (or maybe not, given the entry-level pedigree of these processors). AMD is using the same A8 and A6 designators to distinguish between the perceived performance levels of its four launch SKUs.

There are two A8s and two A6s. The Llano-based flagship is A8-3850, a 100 W part with Radeon HD 6550D graphics, four execution cores with 1 MB L2 cache each, and a 2.9 GHz clock rate. That part does not offer Turbo Core support—the only way to get it running faster than 2.9 GHz is through overclocking. AMD says to expect pricing around $135.

The A6-3650 is also rated at 100 W, even though it’s armed with Radeon HD 6530D graphics and a more conservative 2.6 GHz clock rate (again, Turbo Core isn’t available). The -3650 boasts four cores as well, includes the same 4 MB of L2 cache, and support DDR3-1866 data rates, just like the other three models. That one is expected to run $115.

Model
GPU
TDP
Cores
Base CPU Clock
Max. Turbo
L2 Cache
Shaders
GPU Clock
Turbo Core
A8-3850
HD 6550D
100 W
4
2.9 GHz
-
4 MB
400
600 MHz
No
A8-3800
HD 6550D
65 W
4
2.4 GHz
2.7 GHz
4 MB
400
600 MHz
Yes
A6-3650
HD 6530D
100 W
4
2.6 GHz
-
4 MB
320
443 MHz
No
A6-3600
HD 6530D
65 W
4
2.1 GHz
2.4 GHz
4 MB
320
443 MHz
Yes


Interestingly, dipping down to the 65 W level doesn’t seem to sacrifice much in the way of functionality. AMD’s A8-3800 includes the capable Radeon HD 6550D engine, quad-core Stars architecture, and 4 MB L2 repository. However, Turbo Core helps compensate for a fairly severe drop to 2.4 GHz, kicking frequency up to 2.7 GHz in situations where thermal headroom allows for it. Unfortunately, AMD didn’t send over any Turbo Core-equipped processors for testing, so it’s impossible to gauge how much time this four-core part spends at its elevated setting.

Finally, the A6-3600 is also a 65 W component. It scales way back, though, giving up not only processor clock rate—its four cores running at 2.1 GHz by default and up to 2.4 GHz with Turbo Core—but also graphics performance via the less-complex Radeon HD 6530D engine. Is still includes 4 MB of L2 cache though, complementing each core with 1 MB.

What's the difference, exactly, between the Radeon HD 6550D and Radeon HD 6530D GPU engines? One SIMD engine, for the most part.

Graphics Processor Classification
Radeon HD 6550D (A8-Series APUs)
Radeon HD 6530D (A6-Series APUs)
Shader Cores
400
320
SIMDs
5
4
Texture Units
20
16
Render Back-Ends
2
2
Z/Stencil ROPs
32
32
Color ROPs
8
8
GPU Clock Rate
600 MHz
443 MHz
Peak Compute Power
480 GFLOPS
284 GFLOPS


When you look at a block diagram of the Llano's GPU component, it's easy to see how AMD differentiates these two lineups. Each SIMD hosts 80 ALUs and is associated with four texture units. Turning one SIMD off yields the 320 shaders and 16 texture units offered by Radeon HD 6530D.

A Small Launch Gets Smaller

With four SKUs in the initial Llano-based desktop portfolio, a zero-hour revelation that the 65 W A8-3800 and A6-3600 won't be available until an undisclosed date narrows the family down to two models: A8-3850 and A6-3650, both 100 W parts. As a result, it won't be possible to test Turbo Core functionality on Llano until AMD addresses the availability of its lower-power offerings.

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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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