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Harnessing The Benefits Of Feature-Rich Hardware

Better With Time? The A8-3870 And Pentium G630, One Year Later
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There are a number of ways you could compare Intel's and AMD's hardware, labeling one elegant and the other brutish.

On one hand, AMD tackles x86 workloads using a quad-core APU rated at 100 W, while Intel holds its own with a dual-core 65 W part. In this context, AMD is brute-forcing performance as Intel operates efficiently. On the other, software developers are increasingly harnessing AMD's on-die graphics resources to accelerate optimized applications, while Intel is left to plod through everything in software. Increasingly, the mantle of elegance is being shifted toward AMD's approach.

Now, Intel does enable OpenCL support on its HD Graphics 4000- and 2500-equipped Ivy Bridge-based chips. However, the entry-level is where performance is needed most, and the company's lower-end parts don't include support for this yet. Moreover, certain applications still only support OpenCL on AMD's graphics hardware.

Today's story involved an APU that was available one year ago and a CPU that came around this time last year. Back then, we had older versions of many of these apps and very few examples of OpenCL-enabled software. Now, we can go back, maintain the same hardware platforms, and compare how the software side has evolved. In many cases, both AMD and Intel are enjoying big speed-ups as developers write more threaded code. But as we incorporate Open CL-based testing, AMD is clearly enjoying the most drastic improvements.

Intel: Like Clockwork

Don't misunderstand: Intel is downright surgical when it comes to refining, improving, and evolving its x86 architectures. Performance continues along on an upward slope, even as the company cuts into power consumption. For this reason, unbiased enthusiasts gravitate toward Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

Not everyone is an enthusiast, though, and Intel's story gets less compelling as you slide down its heavily differentiated product stack.

AMD: The Value Company

AMD has to battle more fiercely in that mainstream space, where 10 or 15% separating benchmark results doesn't mean much at the end of the day to someone using a PC casually. Really, any modern machine with a couple of cores is fast enough for office-oriented applications. By giving you four cores for the same price as Intel's two, AMD virtually assures victory in threaded applications, even as it's forced to concede to Intel in other less-optimized titles.

Again, though, those x86-based victories almost seem inconsequential. The real action is happening in GPU-based acceleration. That's where we just saw the potential to double performance (or halve a task's time to complete).

2011 Versus 2012

Part of today's story also revolved around updating drivers and upgrading the software we use in our benchmark suite. Typically, you expect successive versions of the same application to (ideally) improve performance, particularly if a developer puts time into utilizing processing resources or some other hardware-based feature. We saw several examples of performance boosts that affect AMD and Intel alike in our new suite, WinRAR being the best example.

What To Choose?

Intel’s price structure forces you to spend a lot more money if you want a quad-core CPU. So, our comparison comes down to AMD's four-core A8 against Intel's Pentium or Core i3 with two cores. We know from experience (and just saw again) that AMD wins almost every time if the Llano architecture's cores can all be utilized. Intel's advantage kicks in when you start testing more legacy titles, or a lot of the unoptimized benchmarks we were using back in 2011. The Pentium also has a big advantage when it comes to power consumption. Up until this point, the platform right for you (or the one you recommend to family and friends) depends mostly on what you're using it for.

But then there's the graphics variable to consider. AMD's Radeon HD 6550D engine is much faster than Intel's HD Graphics logic. In fact, the Radeon is good enough for occasional lightweight gaming. Of course, if you're any sort of enthusiast, you already know that discrete graphics are still a requisite. Neither Intel nor AMD yet offer a compelling-enough experience to give up our graphics cards in games. So, it's more probable that an APU-equipped machine is most useful for accelerating applications like Adobe Photoshop CS6, Musemage, vReveal, and the latest version of WinZip. One year ago, AMD didn't have that value proposition. In 2012, a more mature software ecosystem makes this a point to consider before making a purchase. Consequently, the APU is more attractive now than it was back when we published AMD A8-3850 Review: Llano Rocks Entry-Level Desktops.

More than anything, we're excited to see that comparing two systems after the passage of one year can yield substantial improvements just by upgrading software versions and drivers. Moving forward, as developers figure out whether OpenCL has any application to their software, we expect performance to jump up, in some cases, more than any evolution of x86 would be able to achieve on its own.

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Top Comments
  • 24 Hide
    blazorthon , September 10, 2012 5:14 AM
    hapaxogcWhy not compare the AMD to the new Pentium G2120?


    That probably wasn't out when this review was in the works.
  • 18 Hide
    DjEaZy , September 10, 2012 9:54 AM
    ... open standards F.T.W.!!!
  • 16 Hide
    blazorthon , September 10, 2012 5:07 AM
    Is it just me, or does every time the old systems are said to be better, the graph shows the opposite and every time the old systems are said to be worse, the graph says otherwise?
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 10, 2012 5:06 AM
    Why not compare the AMD to the new Pentium G2120?
  • 16 Hide
    blazorthon , September 10, 2012 5:07 AM
    Is it just me, or does every time the old systems are said to be better, the graph shows the opposite and every time the old systems are said to be worse, the graph says otherwise?
  • 24 Hide
    blazorthon , September 10, 2012 5:14 AM
    hapaxogcWhy not compare the AMD to the new Pentium G2120?


    That probably wasn't out when this review was in the works.
  • 4 Hide
    lahawzel , September 10, 2012 5:46 AM
    I think he was more referring to the fact that the Pentium G630 is significantly cheaper than the A8-3870K ($68 vs. $110), hence making the compared processors not on equal grounds.
  • 11 Hide
    blazorthon , September 10, 2012 6:00 AM
    LaHawzelI think he was more referring to the fact that the Pentium G630 is significantly cheaper than the A8-3870K ($68 vs. $110), hence making the compared processors not on equal grounds.


    Not if you factor in the cost of a graphics card. That card was probably omitted here because this isn't about gaming performance.
  • 12 Hide
    jezus53 , September 10, 2012 6:06 AM
    Quote:
    We used MSI’s A75MA-G55 mini-ITX motherboard...


    I think you mean Micro ATX.
  • -3 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 10, 2012 6:12 AM
    1. Read the Adobelink you provided.
    the Mercury Engine in CS6 does not use CUDA! Thats a big win for consumers.

    2. Even though 7zip is highly multithreaded, in real world usage, it does not scale so well. Mostly it uses 35-50% of a quad core. It can use 100% CPU in compressing one big file( > 100MB size).

    3.The reply given by Corel is complete BS. They did not even give an example of usage where winzip would use the GPU.

  • 12 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , September 10, 2012 8:38 AM
    Article page 4It comes as no surprise that most apps perform similarly in 2012 as they did in 2012.
  • 4 Hide
    ohim , September 10, 2012 8:48 AM
    mayankleoboy11. Read the Adobelink you provided.the Mercury Engine in CS6 does not use CUDA! Thats a big win for consumers.2. Even though 7zip is highly multithreaded, in real world usage, it does not scale so well. Mostly it uses 35-50% of a quad core. It can use 100% CPU in compressing one big file( > 100MB size).3.The reply given by Corel is complete BS. They did not even give an example of usage where winzip would use the GPU.

    Mercury Engine in CS 6 does use CUDA .. what the hell are you talking about there ?
  • 3 Hide
    jijibu , September 10, 2012 9:01 AM
    LaHawzelI think he was more referring to the fact that the Pentium G630 is significantly cheaper than the A8-3870K ($68 vs. $110), hence making the compared processors not on equal grounds.


    AMD has way more powerful GPU and it's strong in multithread operations. Besides those facts, AMD has good overclocking potential :) 
  • 6 Hide
    alidan , September 10, 2012 9:27 AM
    ohimMercury Engine in CS 6 does use CUDA .. what the hell are you talking about there ?


    probably meant cuda exclusively anymore.
  • 18 Hide
    DjEaZy , September 10, 2012 9:54 AM
    ... open standards F.T.W.!!!
  • 3 Hide
    ojas , September 10, 2012 12:14 PM
    mayankleoboy11. Read the Adobelink you provided.the Mercury Engine in CS6 does not use CUDA! Thats a big win for consumers.2. Even though 7zip is highly multithreaded, in real world usage, it does not scale so well. Mostly it uses 35-50% of a quad core. It can use 100% CPU in compressing one big file( > 100MB size).3.The reply given by Corel is complete BS. They did not even give an example of usage where winzip would use the GPU.

    1. It does. Not supporting it would have been a loss for consumers (yes i support open standards too, but at least there's some competition this way. Software should support both imo). anyway link: http://www.nvidia.com/object/adobe-cs6.html

    2. I've seen my CPU use well over that, 80-100%, yes it's a quad core. Depends on your settings, probably, and the files being compressed. I use tweaked "ultra" level compression with LZMA2.

    3. Don't know what to think. No examples, yes, but seemed to be an adequate response. Giving them a benefit of doubt.

    @article:

    Yeah i guess the authors are right...it's already swimming through my head, that if the difference in the price is $40, you'd expect to see this kind of performance delta...then again cheapest Core i3 is $120 on newegg...and no point comparing another SB pentium because you'll get similar results.

    Probably you guys will have to do this again with the G2120! :p 
  • 2 Hide
    rootheday , September 10, 2012 12:15 PM
    why are you using drivers from the beginning of 2012 for this comparison instead of current drivers. For example, why 15.22.54 graphics driver for the Intel system? Sandybridge based Pentiums are supported on the 15.26.12.2761 drivers dated 7/11/2012 and also on the 15.28.0.2792 drivers (which add Win8 support).
  • 9 Hide
    CaedenV , September 10, 2012 12:15 PM
    go AMD! I don't think this speaks much to their hardware division, but speaks volumes about their marketing department, and the company's willingness to work with software companies in promoting open standards (which they take the best advantage of). Definitely a lesson learned from their dealings with nVidia locking them out of the professional market for so many years.

    That being said, this is hardly a fair comparison. A $70 part vs a $110 part is not much comparison at all. Throw a $60 GPU with openCL support and I would love to see how these stack up then.
  • 8 Hide
    ojas , September 10, 2012 12:19 PM
    Oh and, BTW. AMD may have just played a trump card here, going with OpenCL and GPGPU computing. What they couldn't do with raw performance, they've done with smart optimization. The future is perhaps Fusion, below the i5s and i7s at least.
  • 1 Hide
    ojas , September 10, 2012 12:25 PM
    Though i dunno. If Intel push this same concept against ARM...AMD is non-existent in the SoC space, afaik.
  • 11 Hide
    CaedenV , September 10, 2012 12:27 PM
    This is why people don't buy new computers. why buy a new machine, when it gets faster over time with OS and software upgrades? Truly this is a strange paradigm compared to the previous 20 years of software always getting bigger and slower. Now software gets more feature-full as well as faster with updates. What a world we live in.
  • -8 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 10, 2012 12:55 PM
    how about slapping together a few hunderd ARM cores on a PCIE card, add a x86 to ARM binary converter, and you have a sooper fast co-processor.

    Wait, thats what Intel MIC is
  • 5 Hide
    blazorthon , September 10, 2012 12:56 PM
    mayankleoboy1how about slapping together a few hunderd ARM cores on a PCIE card, add a x86 to ARM binary converter, and you have a sooper fast co-processor.Wait, thats what Intel MIC is


    Intel's co-processors are not using ARM. They use simple x86 cores (based on the Pentium III if I remember correctly).
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