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Second-Generation APUs: Playable, If You Compromise Detail

Gaming At 1920x1080: AMD's Trinity Takes On Intel HD Graphics
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Have we grasped the Holy Grail in our quest to achieve playable performance from integrated graphics at 1920x1080? Yes and no.

If you had asked us one year ago whether we thought it was possible to play current-gen games on an HDTV or 24" monitor's native resolution using AMD's Llano or Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture, we would have shot back a decisive "No." In most of the tests we were running, even 1280x720 was a stretch for those designs. Today, Trinity and Ivy Bridge get us a lot closer to 1920x1080, which is where both AMD and Intel need to be if they hope to convince gamers that their on-die graphics engines are actually viable for gaming. And while both companies cautiously steer customers toward fairly mainstream titles, they're both clearly looking to a day when they can count more demanding games amongst those playable on integrated graphics.

This generation, it's fairly safe to say you won't be playing Crysis 2, Witcher 2, or Battlefield 3 at 1920x1080, even at the lowest detail settings those games offer, and that'll almost certainly remain the case until both AMD and Intel introduce the next generation of hardware. But the other seven titles give us something to look forward to. Intel’s Core i3-3225 can get a foot in the door on three or four of them, and AMD can now transcend the lowest detail settings in a few titles with its fastest Trinity-based APU. This is a huge improvement. For the folks trying to build into compact form factors without room for discrete graphics, this may even come as a revelation. And it probably goes a long way in explaining why so many folks wanted to see what an APU could do in Take That, iMac?: Build Your Own All-In-One PC. We can only hope that AMD is exploring the potential of all-in-ones able to cope with its APU's 100 W thermal ceiling.

As we continue moving forward, we expect AMD and Intel to both take advantage of the fact that their respective processors support OpenCL to empower ISVs. There are many more applications supporting OpenCL today than there were when we first looked at AMD's Llano architecture, but OpenCL-enabled games are proving slower to materialize. It remains to be seen if developers utilize the API to improve performance or add visual effects that might have been too expensive to implement in software previously. Depending on the approach that games take, we may see this latest batch of CPUs with on-die graphics make even deeper inroads to mainstream gaming.

AMD is officially lifting the veil on pricing, overclocking headroom, and application performance of its Trinity-based APUs next week. For now, though, we remain encouraged by what we've seen here today (even more so since we published the first preview of Trinity's performance almost four months ago in AMD Trinity On The Desktop: A10, A8, And A6 Get Benchmarked!).

Both companies are making a concerted effort to shift focus from their components to the experience you get from a total solution built using their respective technologies. In a sense, that’s what we’ve tried to assess here. Can you have a satisfying gaming experience with integrated graphics today? Undoubtedly, some folks will find that the titles they enjoy play well enough to get by without discrete graphics. And that's something we discerning enthusiasts have never felt comfortable admitting before. For others, the idea of dialing settings down as low as they go just to avoid a three-dimensional slide show is going to be enough to spring for the cheap add-in graphics card it'd take to get smooth performance at 1920x1080, form factor be damned. We cannot deny, however, that each generation we progress takes us closer and closer to a place where innovation in hardware enables compelling software. And, even as AMD struggles to catch Intel in more general desktop application performance and efficiency, graphics is one segment where Intel plays follow-the-leader.

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Top Comments
  • 30 Hide
    luciferano , September 27, 2012 5:31 AM
    They both have graphics that have HD in their name, but AMD's HD graphics are more *HD*, lol.
  • 26 Hide
    esrever , September 27, 2012 7:39 AM
    Personally I would rather run games at 720p with medium settings than at 1080p with low.
  • 26 Hide
    digiex , September 27, 2012 6:27 AM
    This would do it, I don't play at 1920x1080 since my monitor is only at 1366x768.

    AMD really deliver stinging jabs at Intel with its APU's. I hope the pricing would be OK.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    confish21 , September 27, 2012 5:05 AM
    120 GB memory for an HPTC? outside of that good write up!
  • 9 Hide
    confish21 , September 27, 2012 5:08 AM
    HD...

  • 24 Hide
    azathoth , September 27, 2012 5:31 AM
    Seems like a perfect combination for a Casual PC gamer, I'm just curious as to the price of the Trinity APU's.
  • 30 Hide
    luciferano , September 27, 2012 5:31 AM
    They both have graphics that have HD in their name, but AMD's HD graphics are more *HD*, lol.
  • 14 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 27, 2012 5:39 AM
    Consoles set the bar for game developers. These iGPU's are comparable to the consoles and thats why games will run smooth here.

    With next gen consoles coming out next year, game devs will target them. Hence the minimum standard for games will rise, making the next gen games much slower on the iGPU's. So both AMD and Intel will have to increase performance much more in the next 1-2 years.

    tl;dr : next gen games will run poorly on these igpu's as next gen consoles will set the minimum performance standard.
  • 14 Hide
    mousseng , September 27, 2012 5:50 AM
    Quote:
    tl;dr : next gen games will run poorly on these igpu's as next gen consoles will set the minimum performance standard.

    Keep in mind, though, that that's exactly what's going to allow AMD and Intel to advance their hardware faster than games will, as they were discussing in the article (first page of the interview). Look how far Fusion and HD Graphics have come over the past 3 years, and look how long the previous console generation lasted - if that trend is anything to go by, I'm sure integrated graphics could easily become a viable budget gaming option in the next few years.
  • -7 Hide
    falchard , September 27, 2012 5:52 AM
    Since when as AMD or nVidia actually taken on Intel graphics? Thats a bit insulting considering the disproportionate results time and time again.
  • 13 Hide
    dudewitbow , September 27, 2012 5:52 AM
    I'm actually liking the progression the igpu gets on the apu based chips.
  • 3 Hide
    luciferano , September 27, 2012 5:54 AM
    mayankleoboy1Consoles set the bar for game developers. These iGPU's are comparable to the consoles and thats why games will run smooth here.With next gen consoles coming out next year, game devs will target them. Hence the minimum standard for games will rise, making the next gen games much slower on the iGPU's. So both AMD and Intel will have to increase performance much more in the next 1-2 years.tl;dr : next gen games will run poorly on these igpu's as next gen consoles will set the minimum performance standard.


    Actually, the A10 and A8 have somewhat superior graphics compared to current consoles. Current consoles can't even play in 720p as well as these AMD IGPs played 1080p despite being a more optimized platform, so that this is true is kinda obvious IMO. Also, new games would simply mean dropping resolution for these APUs. They wouldn't be unable to play new games, just probably at 1080p and 16xx by 900/10xx resolutions too.


    Intel probably isn't very motivated by gaming performance for their IGPs and they're supposedly making roughly 100% performance gains per generation with their top-end IGPs anyway, so they're working on growing IGP performance. AMD also gets to use GCN in their next APU and I don't think that I need to explain the implications there, especially if they go the extra mile with using their high-density library tech too.
  • 10 Hide
    e56imfg , September 27, 2012 6:10 AM
    What about Intel i3's / APUs with the 6570 or any other hybrid compatible card?
    How about one more article with Ivy Bridge i3s and the 6570 on both setups. I want to see how much better gamin performance will be with AMD's hybrid cards.
  • 26 Hide
    digiex , September 27, 2012 6:27 AM
    This would do it, I don't play at 1920x1080 since my monitor is only at 1366x768.

    AMD really deliver stinging jabs at Intel with its APU's. I hope the pricing would be OK.
  • 16 Hide
    gondor , September 27, 2012 6:40 AM
    Can you run a memory-scaling test to see how Trinity responds to more bandwidth ? Llano was considerably faster when paired with faster RAM.
  • 0 Hide
    Menigmand , September 27, 2012 6:45 AM
    If intel/amd can convince most mainstream buyers that this is "good enough", and the next generation of consoles will run for 10+ years, could this be the end of dedicated graphics?

    With market share going down, there could be less economy of scale and less investment, leading to stagnation and very high prices.

    For some time, you will still be able to buy a dedicated GPU, but it will be a niche product that costs you an arm and a leg, and soon hardware support will dwindle as producers move to smaller form factors.
  • -1 Hide
    EzioAs , September 27, 2012 6:53 AM
    I like the performance improvement in graphics, but I wish it was a little better. Maybe 20% more, but hey, at least it's improving
  • 22 Hide
    jijibu , September 27, 2012 6:55 AM
    DDR3 1600 could limit AMD's performance. It would be better to see benchmarks with 1866 MHz and higher frequency kits and overclocking results, because they depend on RAM frequencies...
  • 4 Hide
    army_ant7 , September 27, 2012 6:57 AM
    Quote:
    Consoles set the bar for game developers. These iGPU's are comparable to the consoles and thats why games will run smooth here.

    With next gen consoles coming out next year, game devs will target them. Hence the minimum standard for games will rise, making the next gen games much slower on the iGPU's. So both AMD and Intel will have to increase performance much more in the next 1-2 years.

    tl;dr : next gen games will run poorly on these igpu's as next gen consoles will set the minimum performance standard.

    I'm not sure it's accurate to say that consoles play on a game's absolute minimum settings, disregarding resolution. With that in mind, the PC versions would still have graphics options to tune down compared to the what the console versions would have their settings configured, I would think. :) 


    I do wonder how good these Trinity APU's could typically overclock, and how they'd perform there, along with their RAM overclocked to a reasonable level to compensate for the more graphics processing power.
    More so, I'm wondering if the PSCheck method where you manipulate core P-states would have a substantial affect with mainly dual-threaded titles.
    Also maybe I'd like to see if Dual-graphics performs better (scaling) and has a wider compatibility range than Llano's.
  • 6 Hide
    luciferano , September 27, 2012 7:03 AM
    EzioAsI like the performance improvement in graphics, but I wish it was a little better. Maybe 20% more, but hey, at least it's improving


    They did what they could on their 32nm process node that they had to stick to. Kaveri, assuming that it is true that it has GCN, will make undoubtedly some much more huge improvements over Trinity than Trinity did over Llano.
  • 26 Hide
    esrever , September 27, 2012 7:39 AM
    Personally I would rather run games at 720p with medium settings than at 1080p with low.
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