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Test Setup And Benchmarks

Gaming At 1920x1080: AMD's Trinity Takes On Intel HD Graphics
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The first question we asked ourselves was what a sub-$500 HTPC should look like. In the age of Netflix and Hulu, we were willing to let tuners go by the wayside. As Jon Bach indicated, discrete audio was also another easy omission. Part of our mission here was to only examine integrated graphics, so add-in cards were out, and we were also willing to assume that most media would be streamed in across the LAN, not stored in a local hard drive. We ended up with this:

Test Hardware
Processors
AMD A10-5800K (Trinity) 3.8 GHz (19 * 200 MHz), Four Cores, Socket FM2, 4 MB Total L2 Cache, Turbo Core enabled, Power-savings enabled

AMD A8-5600K (Trinity) 3.6 GHz (18 * 200 MHz), Four Cores, Socket FM2, 4 MB Total L2 Cache, Turbo Core enabled, Power-savings enabled

Intel Core i3-3225 (Ivy Bridge) 3.3 GHz, Two Cores, LGA 1155, 3 MB Shared L3 Cache, Power-savings enabled

Intel Core i3-3220 (Ivy Bridge) 3.3 GHz, Two Cores, LGA 1155, 3 MB Shared L3 Cache, Power-savings enabled
Thermal Paste
SIIG Ultra-Chill
Motherboard
Asus F2A85-M Pro (Socket FM2) AMD A85 FCH

Gigabyte Z77M-D3H-MVP (LGA 1155) Z77 chipset
Memory
AMD/Patriot 16 GB (4 x 4 GB) DDR3-1600, AP38G1608U2K @ 8-9-8-24 and 1.65 V
Storage Drive
Intel SSD 330 120 GB, SATA 6 Gb/s
Graphics
AMD Radeon HD 7660D

AMD Radeon HD 7560D

Intel HD Graphics 4000

Intel HD Graphics 2500
Power Supply
Antec EarthWatts 380 W
System Software And Drivers
Operating System
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
DirectX
DirectX 11
Graphics Driver
HD Graphics Driver For Windows 7 (15.26.8.64.2696)

Intel VGA Driver For Windows 7 (9.17.10.2792)


What was the final bill? Apart from the processors and Asus board supplied by AMD, we went shopping at Newegg. Here’s what we figured:

  • AMD or Intel integrated graphics CPU/APU: $135
  • Supporting microATX HDMI SATA 6 Gb/s motherboard: $120
  • 2 x 4GB AMD Performance Edition DDR3-1600: $50
  • SilverStone ML03B HTPC case: $55
  • Antec EarthWatts EA-380D PSU: $45
  • Intel 120 GB 330 Series SSD: $95
  • LG 12X Blu-ray drive: $45
  • Total Cost: $545

The BuildThe Build

What the heck, right? Paul built his System Builder Marathon machine for $500 with a GeForce GTX 560 in it. Clearly, we could have saved a lot of money by buying a more affordable motherboard, scrapping the SSD, and buying a cheaper optical drive. But this wasn't to be a dedicated gaming machine; it needed to succeed in a living room environment. In the end, had we been willing to settle for a DVD drive, a 1 TB hard drive, and a lower-end PSU, we could have easily shaved $100 off the price—enough to cover an OEM copy of Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.

Given the focus on gaming for this article, we selected ten currently popular titles:

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Metro 2033
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Battlefield 3
  • Crysis 2
  • The Witcher 2
  • DiRT Showdown
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

All of these were tested at 1920x1080 resolution, but with the lowest graphics settings. We took the last three on this list as a fair cross-section and reran them a couple of times under more strenuous settings, just to see how they’d hold up. After all, we're not willing to call integrated graphics a good solution if it forces you into the lowest available graphics options. Along the way, we’ll show you screen shots taken during testing so you can see how the image quality looked at these performance levels.

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