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Better With Time? The A8-3870 And Pentium G630, One Year Later

Better With Time? The A8-3870 And Pentium G630, One Year Later
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AMD's desktop APUs, which combine x86 cores and graphics resources, emerged more than a year ago. We take a Llano-based A8-3870 and compare its performance from 2011 to what you get today using new drivers, application versions, and OpenCL acceleration.

More than one year ago, we published AMD A8-3850 Review: Llano Rocks Entry-Level Desktops to coincide with the company's client-oriented APU introduction. It was the first design we'd seen with more emphasis on graphics hardware than x86 cores. Up until that point, Intel's efforts to serve up integrated graphics took a back seat to its processor cores. Back then, editor-in-chief Chris Angelini concluded that, "Llano, as a package, is more balanced in a world where 3D pervades."

That wasn't meant to suggest Llano-based APUs could compete with entry-level discrete graphics. However, AMD's first desktop APU did give us a taste of what it'd be like to play a mainstream game at modest quality and resolution settings without the need for an add-in card. It was a small step forward, but a step nonetheless. The original vision for the Fusion initiative, which we covered in AMD Fusion: How It Started, Where It’s Going, And What It Means, was officially on its way.

The timing of AMD's emphasis on graphics couldn't be any better. Over the course of a few years, the company has lost ground to Intel in most comparisons of x86 performance, core for core, clock for clock. This started as far back as Intel's Core architecture. It was amplified by Sandy Bridge, which we saw in Intel’s Second-Gen Core CPUs: The Sandy Bridge Review, and further exacerbated by Ivy Bridge (Intel Core i7-3770K Review: A Small Step Up For Ivy Bridge). What does all of that mean for the end-user?

Mainstream vs. Enthusiast

It means that, depending on your workload, an Intel-powered machine could be a better choice. In other applications, as we'll see, AMD pulls into the lead. At any given entry-level price point, you're generally able to get a dual-core Intel chip or a quad-core model from AMD. In lightly-threaded apps, Intel's architecture shines. In parallelized tasks, AMD overtakes its competition with more processing resources.

But keep in mind that this sort of analysis is what you'd expect from enthusiasts, which we are. Not everyone breaks their hardware down by the workloads where it excels, or the detail settings it's able to achieve at playable frame rates. Regardless of whether you go with Intel or AMD, both entry-level processor line-ups provide more than enough performance for using office apps, browsing the Internet, and playing back the highest-definition video. Once you hit the Pentium/Celeron or A8/A6/A4 level, you're way ahead of what something like an Atom processor could muster.

The mainstream factor is what we're taking into consideration today. If you follow our Best Gaming CPUs For The Money or Best Graphics Cards For The Money columns, then you know that ~$110 is where we start getting excited about graphics and $100 is where CPUs catch our attention (though we still have recommendations all the way down in the $60 dollar range). Enthusiasts can't be bothered to care about anything under those prices. But a great many of our friends, family, and co-workers never notice if a given song takes 40 seconds to rip in iTunes or 55. They just want their computer to work so they can get on with their lives. You really can't impress those folks with neatly-organized benchmark charts. It takes something radically different to get their attention.

Software Is Most Apparent

Giving a mainstream user a PC with a CPU that's 25% faster just doesn't really register with them. But what about software able to utilize hardware-based features to totally change the way they use their favorite apps? Take Intel's Quick Sync technology as an example, slashing the time it takes to re-encode a video for use on your mobile devices. Or how about OpenCL, allowing you to apply effects to a video by harnessing graphics resources? Hardware-accelerated encryption and decryption, advanced vector extensions, and 64-bit computing are all capabilities that have taken some time for the software community to harness, but are now paying off in dramatic ways.

When we first looked at AMD's Llano architecture, we saw that it more elegantly incorporated the compute power of an Athlon II with an entry-level Radeon HD 6000-series graphics card. What we weren't able to test back then were any of the applications that'd spring up to support the Fusion initiative, utilizing x86 and graphics resources together. More than a year later, that software is starting to become widely available from big-name devs.

We decided to take two mainstream systems, one based on AMD's Llano architecture and the other on Intel's Sandy Bridge design, and draw a few comparisons. Has the performance profile of each changed in the last year using the applications in our usual benchmark suite? We look at how the apps have evolved, from thread optimization to OpenCL support to improvements attributable to better drivers.

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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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