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

Test Setup And Benchmarks

Llano presents us with a number of testing challenges we generally don’t encounter when it comes time to review a new processor or graphics solution. AMD doesn’t have (or at the very least, doesn’t want to share) a tool to report actual clock speeds during operation. So, we have no easy way of telling whether or not Turbo Core is working, how often it’s working or how far it’s accelerating our sample. You’ll remember that when Intel debuted the Nehalem architecture, it distributed a Turbo Boost monitor for tracking the feature’s activity in real-time. AMD needs something similar.

To help us examine this limitation, we’re including benchmarks of a Phenom II X4 at 1.5 GHz and 2.4 GHz, the nominal and Turbo Core limits of the A8-3500M CPU we’re testing today. Not only does this show us if Turbo Core is working, but it gives us an idea how closely the new version of the Stars CPU core compares to Phenom II.

In addition, we’re pairing that Phenom II X4-based system with a Radeon HD 5570. As you now know, this graphics card has the same number of shader cores as the A8-3500M APU, and for our tests, it’s under-clocked it to 444 MHz GPU and 666 MHz DDR3 memory. This allows us to compare APU performance with a discrete graphics card using the same specifications and clocks.

Last but not least, we’re testing a system based on Intel’s mobile Core i5-2520M CPU. This should give us a good idea what similarly-priced laptops based on similarly-priced Intel products can accomplish. Or at least, similarly-priced according to AMD’s not-necessarily accurate estimations.

There are three popular notebook resolutions we’ll focus on for testing games: 1280x800, 1600x900, and 1920x1080. When a particular game struggles with 1280x800, we add 1024x600 as a lower-resolution alternative to see if it fares any better.

Since AMD Dual Graphics only works on DirectX 10 and 11 game engines, we are benchmarking some games more than once, using different code paths in order to see what difference Dual Graphics makes. These games are Metro 2033, F1 2010, and HAWX 2.

AMD Llano A8-3500M Test SystemAMD Phenom II X4Test SystemIntel Core i5-2520M Test System
CPUAMD A8-3500M (Llano)Quad-Core, 4 MB L21.5 GHz (2.4 GHz Max Turbo)AMD Phenom II X4 (Deneb)Quad-Core, 6 MB L3@ 1.5 GHz and 2.4 GHzIntel Core i5-2520M (Sandy Bridge)Dual-Core, Hyperthreaded, 3 MB L32.5 GHz (3.2 GHz Max Turbo)
MotherboardUnknown Chipset: AMD A70 Fusion Controller HubWith USB 3.0 SupportGigabyte 880GMA-UD2H Chipset: AMD 880GASRock HM65-HT Chipset: Intel HM65
NetworkingOnboard Gigabit LAN controller
Memory4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz  2 x 2 GB, timings unknown4 GB DDR3 1333 MHz  2 x 2 GB, CL 9-9-9-24-1TKingston 99U5471-0014 GB DDR3 1333 MHz  2 x 2 GB, CL 9-9-9-24-1TASint technology C1RETSR4HGF
GraphicsRadeon HD 6620G (Integrated)444 MHz GPU, Shared DDR3 at 667 MHzRadeon HD 6630M444 MHz GPU, Shared DDR3 at 667 MHz(Considered Radeon HD 6690G2when in Dual Graphics mode)Radeon HD 5570underclocked to A8-3500M specifications:444 MHz GPU, 1 GB DDR3 at 667 MHzIntel HD Graphics 3000650 MHz GPU, Shared DDR3 at 667 MHz
Hard DriveHitachi Travelstar 250 GB 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/sWestern Digital Caviar Blue 1 TB 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/sWestern Digital Scorpio Black 500 GB 7200 RPM, 16MB MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 x64
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics DriversIntel Core i5-2520M Test System:: Intel Graphics Driver 8.15.10.2361AMD Llano A8-3500M Test System: AMD Catalyst 11.6 BETAAMD Phenom II X4 Test System: AMD Catalyst 11.5
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Metro 2033Version 1.0.0.1, DirectX 9 and 11, benchmark tool, Low Detail, No AA, 4x AF, advanced physX disabled, tessellation disabled, DOF disabled
Crysis 2Version 1.5, FRAPS run High Settings, No AA, No AF
H.A.W.X. 2Version 1.0.1, DirectX 9 and 10/11, Highest Settings, tessellation Off, In-game benchmark
F1 2010Version 1.1.1.129, DirectX 11, in-game benchmark Medium Detail Preset
Just Cause 2Version 1.0.0.2, DirectX 10, Concrete Jungle Benchmark  Medium Details, textures High, Object Low, 16x AFHigh res shadows, point light specular, SSAO, bokeh Filter & GPU Water Simulation off
StarCraft 2Version: 2.1.2.2105, High DetailsTom's Hardware Guide Benchmark V2
Audio Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
iTunesVersion: 10.0.1.1, 64-bit Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min., Convert to AAC audio format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3 Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 kb/s)
Video Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.94Video: Big Buck Bunny (720x480, 23.972 frames) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept Reference v2Version: 2.0.0.1555 MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Application Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
WinRARVersion 4.0 Beta 4 RAR, Syntax "winrar a -r -m3", Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
WinZip 14Version 14.0 Pro (8652) WinZIP Commandline Version 3, ZIPX, Syntax "-a -ez -p -r", Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
7-ZipVersion 9.2LZMA2, Syntax "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5", Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version: 10 x64, Rendering Space Flyby Mentalray (SPECapc_3dsmax9)Frame: 248, Resolution: 1440 x 1080
Adobe Premiere Pro CS5Video length 2min 21s, Export to H.264 Blu-raySource 960x720, Output 1280x720
Adobe After Effects CS5Create Video which includes 3 StreamsFrames: 210, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously: on
CinebenchVersion 11.5 Build CB25720DEMOCPU and OpenGL tests
BlenderVersion: 2.54 beta Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, Resolution: 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing: 8x, Render: THG.blend frame 1
Adobe Photoshop CS 5 (64-Bit)Version: 11 Filtering a 16 MB TIF (15000x7266), Filters:, Radial Blur (Amount: 10, Method: zoom, Quality: good) Shape Blur (Radius: 46 px; custom shape: Trademark sysmbol) Median (Radius: 1px) Polar Coordinates (Rectangular to Polar)
ABBYY FinereaderVersion: 10 Professional Build (10.0.102.82) Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
BenchmarkDetails
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.0.2.0 Patch 1901
3DMark 11Version 1.0.1
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version: 2010.1.16.10 Processor Arithmetic, Multimedia, Cryptography, Memory Bandwith, GPGPU/GPCPU Processing
  • _Pez_
    HO ! GOD FINALLY I am the first to read this !! Im feeling a Nerdgasm !! :D :D !!
    Reply
  • oneblackened
    I now really want a laptop with Llano. Also first.
    Reply
  • fstrthnu
    AMD is kind of in a fix here, the more enthusiast gamers won't even bother looking at the Llano computers while this is kind of overkill for casual gamers. MAYBE money-pressed college students or something, but most people will just skip this and either buy a regular gaming computer or build their own using one of the guides from this very site! Going for good graphics in cheap desktops is kind of a futile exercise, the people who will care will just get the more expensive stuff anyways. Notebooks are more understandable, but the prices on the decent gaming desktops are just too good for Llano to be very competitive (and also, the CPU portion will be a letdown for the average person. Noticeably slower than the comparable Intel Core i5.)
    Reply
  • vz7
    Do you know when the desktop review for llano will be out?
    Reply
  • stingstang
    Good job, AMD. You finally made a better cpu/gpu combo than intel in terms of graphics power.
    ....big win there...
    Reply
  • vz7
    After reading the desktop benchmarks on anandtech I can't say I'm impressed. The top of the line a8 3850 manages to scratch the best intel integrated graphics, which doesn't say much. Its CPU power seems to be a toss up with the i3. I think this hardly justifies the +70 premium (over an i3) that you'd have to spend to get it.
    Reply
  • billj214
    This APU being somewhat low power and good graphics almost deserves to be in a tablet PC since CPU processing is not critical in tablet PC's and graphics is something that can help with media and games.

    Ditto on the "Good Job AMD" definitely on the right track.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    vz7Do you know when the desktop review for llano will be out?
    The NDA is up on the 30th.
    Reply
  • niceview
    two things:

    1) What happened to the Game Charts results for the Radeon HD 5570, when the games were benchmarked? I thought you made a point to say you were going to compare the APU's 6620G with a discrete card (that has the same number of SPs and same clock). So much for that, unless you thought only comparing the two with a synthetic test was enough. Oh well. Tom's can be such a tease!

    2) I'm just a little disappointed that the APU's graphics power was not able to double Intel's.... Under the best of circumstances, AMD's latest integrated graphics came close to being twice as fast, but i guess that is ok since we are not playing horseshoes. I just thought it would be nice if it had made a nice even doubling, or more. Now, i'm worried IVY BRIDGE will beat it....
    Reply
  • niceview
    sorry, i guess that should be:

    we ARE playing horseshoes...

    and i have to give credit where credit is due: props to AMD for almost doubling Intel's HD Graphics in the integrated space....
    Reply