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Professional Help: Getting The Best Overclock From AMD's A8-3870K

AMD A8-3870K: Coming Close To Radeon HD 6670

AMD's Radeon HD 6670 DDR3 earns one recommendation after another in our monthly Best Gaming Graphics Cards For The Money column because, at $65, it represents a great baseline for gamers on a budget. It can handle most games at 1920x1080 using low detail settings, and more demanding games are still playable at 1680x1050 or 1280x720.

Knowing that, we must admit to being surprised that an overclocked A8-3870K could come so close to our entry-level discrete recommendation. For $75 more than the graphics card alone, you get a quad-core processor and an on-die graphics engine capable of impressive feats, providing that you have fast-enough memory to let it shine. The good news is that 2000+ MT/s RAM has never been cheaper, and is now within the budget builder’s reach.

We tested five retail A8-3870K samples in order to generate our results, and we saw very consistent outcomes. All five chips managed at least 900 MHz on their GPUs and 3.5 GHz from their x86 cores. Our best samples muster just over 960 MHz and 3.7 GHz from both subsystems, respectively, so there doesn’t seem to be a lot of variance. We think it’s reasonable to expect similar overclocking potential from most A8-3870Ks, so long as you invest in a decent aftermarket cooler.

How about a counter-point? Intel's $70 Pentium G630, paired with a $65 Radeon HD 6670 DDR3, slightly cheaper RAM, and a low-cost motherboard promises slightly better performance in the games we tested. That's not much of a surprise, though, considering the A8-3870K couldn't quite match the Radeon in this story. The Pentium should also be faster in single-threaded apps, in addition to using less power all around. In fact, we ran a few tests on the new overclocked machine and compared them to the results we generated in February. The stock Pentium-based platform with AMD's Radeon card turn out to be slightly faster than our most aggressively-overclocked Llano-based configuration.

Having said that, the A8-3870K’s four cores generate much better numbers in many threaded apps compared to the dual-core Pentium, especially when it comes to media encoding.

When the smoke clears, AMD's A8-3870K is more compelling now than ever before, thanks in no small part to lower prices on high-performance memory. We were able to play three out of the four games we tested at 1920x1080 at smooth frame rates. Battlefield 3 nudged us down to 1280x720, but that remains an acceptable resolution on many high-def televisions. There's definitely a lot more to this APU once it's in the hands of an expertly-guided overclocking enthusiast.

  • buzznut
    This is pretty cool, this addresses most of the questions I would have about gaming with a LLano part. But it seems Trinity is right around the corner so I would still have reservations about recommending it. Except for the fact I just saw one of these quads for $90 at the egg, which does make a compelling case for folks on a tight budget.
    Reply
  • EzioAs
    Interesting read. Can't wait to see how much of an improvement the desktop Trinity APU brings seeing Llano is better than what I imagine it would be
    Reply
  • esrever
    Don is the best!
    Reply
  • peroludiarom
    Hi Don, you have wrote great article!
    I have just one question - do you try to overclock the memory controller as well, because its not mentioned in the article? Thanks in advance
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    Llano is great, but i am waiting for the die-shrink to reduce power and heat.
    Reply
  • Wife's pentium intel g620 and amd 7750 on budget board and 8 gb budget ram .....only pulls 150 watts max !!!!!!!!lcost less and performs much better. Apu is a epic idea, alas still useless maybe trinity will save the day. Until then the hype and misleading performance promises will still make them money.
    Reply
  • Fokissed
    On page 2 there is a reference to hwbot.com, which seemingly doesn't exist anymore.

    Thanks for catching that, fixed to hwbot.org!
    Reply
  • freggo
    FokissedOn page 2 there is a reference to hwbot.com, which seemingly doesn't exist anymore.
    Makes you wonder how old the article is that a dead domain link made it into the text :)
    Reply
  • csbeer
    "So, we installed it (6670) in the overclocked system and disengaged its on-die GPU."

    I don't get why all these major sites don't test the dual graphics nature of the asymetrical xfire that Llano supports? Marry that APU with a 6570 or 6670 for maximum performance, that's the whole point of the Llano experience imo! I have a Llano notebook and am so hungry for info on other's experiments and results with the APU+DGPU.
    Reply
  • biggerbooger
    Excuse the noob question, but if you had say 2 x 4gb sticks rather than 2 x 2 and you put on a corsair H40 contained water cooler for example could you get much better OC performance? This is looking like a viable option.
    Reply