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The AMD A8-3500M APU Review: Llano Is Unleashed

The Driver Interface And AMD Steady Video

Ever since the release of Catalyst driver release 11.4, if you have an AMD CPU and AMD graphics card in your system, the driver software interface likes to call itself the AMD Vision Control Center instead of the Catalyst Control Center. Folks with Intel processors and Radeon graphics cards continue to see the familiar Catalyst Control Center.

What difference does the AMD Vision Control Center offer other than a new name? Not much; it’s a feel-good marketing move more than anything. The software works in the same manner on existing APUs we’ve already tested, such as the E- and C-series chips, offering a number of ways to tailor CPU and GPU power usage, including clock rates and your choice of APU, discrete, or Dual Graphics. There are pre-made power presets (profiles) that you can apply based on your situation. Or, if you want more control, you can create your own custom preset to suit your needs.

Dual Graphics

There are a couple of new controls tied to the Dual Graphics feature, though. If your laptop has this capability, you’ll find a page that wasn’t under the Power tab before: Switchable Graphics.

You can set the graphics mode of any application you desire using this applet. If you specify High Performance for a specific app, it uses Dual Graphics. If you choose Power Saving, it falls back to the APU-only. There is even a check box that tells to the driver to show you a pop-up any time a new app is launched, reminding you to set a graphics mode. You can also preemptively choose an application executable file and set its performance affinity. Of course, for Dual Graphics to function at all, you have to enable CrossFire, which you’ll find in its usual place under the performance sub-menu.

AMD Steady Video

AMD is about to release an exclusive feature based on its Accelerated Parallel Processing (APP) initiative purported to dramatically reduce the camera shake that results from hand-held video. The feature is called AMD Steady Video, and it is expected to launch with Catalyst 11.6 in June.

Anyone that considers the amount of work required to fix this kind of problem can’t help but be impressed with the results. AMD’s Steady Video post-processing feature does an amazing job of eliminating camera shake in real-time. The hardware has to track video vectors and shakes, it has to compensate for the frequency of camera movement, and it has to add the missing pixels when the camera shakes off of the screen. The result is worlds better than poor source material.

The point to take away is that there are some specialized applications where APP can really be leveraged effectively, despite the slow pick-up we’ve seen first from what the company called Stream, and now what it refers to as APP. We look forward to seeing what developers come up with to take advantage of the GPU’s general-purpose compute strengths.

Interface Tweaks

The interface underwent a stylistic change, and you’ll notice a lot of things that were previously check boxes are now color-coded switches: green means on and red means off. Aside from this, the interface is mostly the same, except for the addition of AMD Steady Video controls that we explained earlier.

Behind the interface there are some new driver tweaks, though. AMD claims to have improved its switchable graphics technology and Llano now features application-based switching that goes between discrete graphics and the integrated GPU seamlessly with no screen flickering. This appears to work well in a Dual Graphics configuration, based on our testing, with automatic switching transparent to the user.