AMD A10-4600M Review: Mobile Trinity Gets Tested

AMD’s Next APU: Trinity

AMD launched its Llano-based desktop APUs almost one year ago, and we reviewed the then-flagship in AMD A8-3850 Review: Llano Rocks Entry-Level Desktops. While the term “desktop-class” is useful to imply a certain expectation of performance, this product shines brightest in a laptop. We’re still impressed with its powerful integrated graphics engine and excellent battery life, and we don’t doubt that Llano is one of the reasons AMD is capturing notebook market share from Intel.

When you look at the breakdown since 2011, though, the change isn’t as dramatic as you might think: according to IDC, AMD powered about 16 percent of all laptops sold over the last year, representing an increase of about 2.5% since the APU’s introduction. Intel continues to dominate, with about 84% of the mobile segment. Of the 564 laptop models for sale on Newegg, 108 are AMD-based (19%) and 456 employ Intel platforms (81%). If Llano is so great, why hasn’t it captured a greater number of sales?  

Clearly, the APU initiative is gaining momentum in the mobile marketplace. However, it takes time to change the status quo and compel changes in the way software is written—we saw the same resistance when single-core CPUs started giving way to two- and four-core designs. Aside from that, Llano’s weakness is the performance of its x86 cores. Intel simply outmaneuvers AMD in a great many real-world benchmarks. To reiterate the final sentence of our Llano review: “…we’ll have to wait for Trinity to see if AMD can come up with an APU that can simultaneously challenge Intel’s processing capabilities as it wipes the floor with its on-die graphics. A no-compromise part would almost certainly guarantee more success than the give-and-take that is Llano.”

Well, the wait is over. Trinity is here today, and while we expect that it’ll maintain a lead over Intel’s best effort in the graphics department, we’re most curious to see how AMD improved the performance of its x86 cores. Trinity’s CPU architecture centers on Piledriver, the follow-up to the FX family’s maligned Bulldozer design. As we discovered in AMD Bulldozer Review: FX-8150 Gets Tested, the company’s theoretically-sensible module concept came up short against Sandy Bridge-based chips, which have since been replaced by Ivy Bridge. Already knowing some of the steps AMD planned to take in improving Bulldozer, it seems unlikely that it’ll make up the difference between Intel’s most recent efforts.

When we attended the Trinity Tech Day in Austin last month, AMD provided a different perspective, though. Naturally, the company’s message is going to be spun in such a way to make its deficiencies seem less impactful. But this author still saw sense in what the AMD’s marketing representatives were saying: benchmarks don’t tell the whole story.

Now, it’s no surprise that the company selling the processors that struggle to keep up with the competition in many of the tests we run would say this sort of thing. And I certainly don’t buy in to the suggestion that objective data comparisons aren’t important; they should always be at the heart of every good review. But I did take a few thoughts away from the presentation: first, if a feature isn’t benchmarkable in the traditional sense, it may not get much attention, no matter how impactful it might be. Second, it’s probably a good idea to consider how people spend their time on computers when we draw conclusions for a review.

I think that both of those are ideas that any hardware reviewer can adopt. They’re certainly not biased toward a specific manufacturer, and we’ll see if AMD’s message helps or hinders its newest APU in our conclusion.

Now, let’s have a closer look at the hardware you’re probably most interested in: AMD’s new Piledriver-based cores.

    Hope its only the beginning of much more
  • Recently Charlie at semiaccurate (a massive amd fanboy) hinting an upcoming apple products, then I saw an article in thg that tells an upcoming mbp will using retina display... 15 inch retina will require huge gpu horsepower, my wild guess is mbp will use trinity as it's CPU.
  • Based on this, gaming is much better than old i5, but everything else including application performance is still better on the old Sandy architecture. I'm not really sure why I would buy a Trinity other than for a casual gaming laptop. Unfortunately, budget says that my laptops have to be used for business first, play time later.
  • beenthere
    Nice to see that Trinity and AMD have delivered the goods. I want a Trinity powered Ultrathin. Intel can stick their crap where the Sun don't shine.

    BTW, Charlie @ SemiAccurate is not an AMD fanbois IME. He just calls it like it is. Reality bites sometimes be it Nvidia, AMD or Intel's problems. Denial never changes reality. It is what it is.
  • cleeve
    duckwithnukesWhere is the Intel HD 4000 vs. AMD Trinity comparison? Lazy reviewing at its finest.
    A10-4600M laptops will be int eh $600-$700 neighborhood, and we're still waiting for Ivy bridge Core i5 to arrive in this price range.

    We go over this. We also talk about how we'll do a follow up as soon as an appropriate product is available.

    You need to read for it to make sense.
  • FlippyFlap, Apple doesn't use AMD and an HD4000 can power a retina display. I'm sure Apple has worked with Intel engineers to get the drivers right for retina displays which is HD4000's problem. HD4000 is still lacking in terms of driver support (one can see that from the OpenCL benches around the net where only 1/2 get acclerated on HD4000). When the drivers work right, there isn't much difference between Ivy and Trinity.
  • I agree with Cleeve and I personally hate comparing a reference system to a selling system anyway. Review 2 actual selling systems with similar parts and that gives you the benchmark.
  • DRosencraft
    This looks like a very nice effort from AMD. I really, really need to replace my notebook. It's a six year old Toshiba Satelite with an AMD 1.9 GHz Turion 64 X2 with intergrated X2100 graphics.... yeah. Ancient now, I know. I've been trying to figure out a sweet spot in power since my needs are kind of complex. Typically I don't need it to do much more than handle MSOffice and web surfing. But I also tend to use it for video gaming when am interesting game comes around and some work in PaintShop when I'm out of the house, or don't feel like sitting at my desktop. This may be a little closer to what I'd like. It would be nice to get a notebook that combines this with a really good discrete card (sort of like how some MacBook Pros have their dual graphics setup). Nevertheless, Trinity looks to be just about enough power and performance, but the question is price. If tradition holds, it should be a good price competitor with Intel, which is the most important part, otherwise I'd just buy a core I7 already.

    In a related question, does Trinity's details and specs lead to any conclusions about what Piledriver desktop processors will be like?
  • neoverdugo
    So this means that AMD can kick Intel's ass in the gpu department for the moment while AMD suffers greatly in the CPU portion of the apu battle. Didn't I said before that Intel is trying to make an (proprietary) Intel only PC with no third party strings attached? We all know that there is no competition in the CPU battle when it comes to Intel. Still, i would like to see that the morons of intel to drop the price of their hardware for once and for all and drop ridiculously low end hardware out of production.
  • dgingeri
    No WoW benchmarks this time? I was wondering if this might make a good laptop for WoW, but you guys failed me. :(