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AMD's Trinity APU Efficiency: Undervolted And Overclocked

The Pursuit Of Balance Warms Our Hearts

Because AMD split its Trinity architecture introduction up into two days of coverage, I’m forced to draw a conclusion today that runs counter to the efficiency data we just presented.

At its stock settings, the company’s flagship A10-5800K is generally faster than Intel’s Ivy Bridge-based Core i3-3220/3225 in heavily-threaded applications and slower in x86-oriented tasks that only run on one core. Some of our benchmarks fall somewhere in between, and the results reflect as much.

Although HD Graphics 4000 is clearly an improvement over HD Graphics 3000, Intel cannot touch AMD in gaming. The difference is significant enough to split the two solutions across resolutions and detail settings. Where AMD is viable, Intel is not. And if you step down to the HD Graphics 2500-equipped Core i3-3220, well, we hope you like spreadsheets, word processing, and Web browsing.

The price you pay for AMD’s heavy emphasis on graphics performance is power consumption, heat, and, at least on our test bench, noise. Intel’s Core i3-3225 can be used to drive a very fast desktop machine that, completely built-up, uses far less power than the TDP of just AMD’s APU. And it does so without as much as a whisper.

Of course, now we have pricing details to consider as well. AMD plans to sell its A10-5800K for $122 and its A8-5600K for $101. The Core i3-3220 sells for $130 and the -3225 is $145. Frankly, neither Intel option is very attractive to us. We’d rather go for a Pentium G2120 for $100 with entry-level discrete graphics. On the AMD side, the A10-5800K touches the performance we’d want from an on-die GPU to feel comfortable recommending to a friend with modest gaming ambitions. The A8-5600K gives up too much ground in that regard, and the A8-3870K couldn't quite get there last generation, either.

In the end, then, both Intel and AMD are offering you an experience. Which one do you pick?

Intel gives you great performance in productivity and content creation apps, with a fantastic thermal envelope. But any aspiration for gaming necessitates discrete graphics, putting you in the $200 range.

AMD counts on a “good enough” showing in x86-based applications and ample 3D muscle to play a number of modern games at mainstream resolutions. In exchange, you’re asked to accept comparatively high power use. But it’s a price point below what Intel charges for its neutered Core i3-3220 that swings favor toward the A10-5800K for enthusiasts on a strict budget.

We’re power users, after all. We know how to cope with heat and noise; we can deal with a 100 W chip, even in an HTPC. But there’s no way to make the Core i3 look better unless you spring for an add-in card. AMD’s emphasis on balance makes the A10-5800K a better platform for more people than Intel’s closest competition.