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Battle At $140: Can An APU Beat An Intel CPU And Add-In Graphics?

Test System And Benchmarks

Intel LGA 1155 motherboards start at $50 on Newegg, while AMD Socket FM1 boards start at about $60. Because of this, we think the comparison is quite fair, despite the fact that both of our test boards cost more than $100. Spending more money on a motherboard doesn’t get you more performance; it gets you additional features and, potentially, more overclocking headroom. This is something we’ve proven many times in our motherboard round-ups, though sometimes we're surprised by low-cost boards that serve up impressive scalability.

We’re using Gigabyte’s Radeon HD 6670 for our exploration. It features an 800 MHz core and 1600 MT/s DDR3 clocks. This particular model currently sells for $80 on Newegg, and it comes with a free Sonic Generations game coupon. Other models with comparable clocks and fewer bundled extras can be found in the $70 price range.

The A8-3870 is tested at its shipping clocks, of course. But because it's also equipped with an unlocked multiplier, we also pushed the processor to its highest stable overclock, with voltage set to 1.515 V, yielding a 3.6 GHz CPU frequency and 960 MHz GPU.

InterfaceSocket FM1LGA 1155
CPU/APUAMD A8-3870K (Llano), Stock: 3.0 GHz, Overclocked to 3.6 GHz @ 1.515 VIntel Pentium G620 (Sandy Bridge), 2.60 GHz
MotherboardAsus F1A75-V Pro, Socket FM1, Chipset: AMD A75Asus P8P67 Pro, LGA 1155, Chipset: Intel P67
GraphicsIntegrated Radeon HD 6550D, Stock: 600 MHz, Overclocked to 960 MHz @ 1.515 VAMD Radeon HD 6670 DDR3, 800 MHz GPU, 1 GB DDR3 at 800 MHz
NetworkingOn-board Gigabit LAN controller
MemoryCorsair Vengeance LP PC3-16000, 2 x 4 GB, 1600 MT/s, CL 8-8-8-24-2T
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s
PowerePower EP-1200E10-T2 1200 W, ATX12V, EPS12V
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 x64
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriversCatalyst 12.1
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Metro 2033Version 1.0.0.1, Built-In Benchmark
Battlefield 3Version 1.0.0.0, Operation Swordbreaker, FRAPS runs
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimVersion 1.4.21.04, FRAPS runs
DiRT 3Version 1.2.0.0, Built-In Benchmark
Just Cause 2Version 1.0.0.2, Concrete Jungle Benchmark
StarCraft 2Version: 1.4.2.20141, Tom's Hardware Guide Benchmark
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 9.0.3.15 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC 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)
HandBrake CLIVersion 0.94: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 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
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.0 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version 12.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 14.0 Pro: THG-Workload (464 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.0 Beta 4: THG-Workload (464 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.2: THG-Workload (464 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.1.17.15, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • tristan_b
    Well of course the option with a better gpu will win in gaming. A dual core sandy bridge is enough for almost any game on max these days. If you paired the apu with a 6670, I'm sure we would see different results.
    Reply
  • esrever
    try the i3 2105 vs the g630 and the 6670 and see the results.
    Reply
  • dragonsqrrl
    tristan_bIf you paired the apu with a 6670, I'm sure we would see different results.Ya, that would also cost a lot more then $140.
    Reply
  • iam2thecrowe
    not surprised here.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    tristan_bWell of course the option with a better gpu will win in gaming. A dual core sandy bridge is enough for almost any game on max these days. If you paired the apu with a 6670, I'm sure we would see different results.
    Actually in most games it should act the same if its just the GPU as most games will be bottlenecked by the mid end GPU. If you include the hybrid CFX (If the A8 can work with the 6670) it will be a bit better in some cases.

    The power draw is very interesting. The CPU load on the A8 is almost as much as a mix of CPU and GPU. It could be a sign of the 32nm still not being mature enough. But it does look better than FX by a lot in power draw.

    Still interesting idea. The G620 plus the HD6670 is about $130 vs $140 which means they are about the same in price. The mobos, RAM and other stuff will be about the same. I have said it before, but it still holds true. Llano is great for the modile sector. In laptops it will be the best value for lower end laptops to provide a decent gaming setup. Not maxed but still better than what HD3K can do. But on DT, its mostly pointless as it uses a sub par CPU with a decent IGP.
    Reply
  • Zero_
    Nice. Something I've always debated to include in my blog (my sig). The G620 + HD6670 always won out in my book. Good to see a confirmation from Toms.
    Reply
  • tigrc
    Intel Pentium G620 has TDP of 65W, not 35. G620T has TDP of 35W. :)
    Reply
  • ohim
    And yet Tom`s managed to miss out something ... the CPU + video card might be the same price as the AMD APU but the Intel motherboard is 50+$ more than the one used in the AMD system .. at least in my country.
    Reply
  • saturnus
    ohimAnd yet Tom`s managed to miss out something ... the CPU + video card might be the same price as the AMD APU but the Intel motherboard is 50+$ more than the one used in the AMD system .. at least in my country.
    Here too. And they could have used the difference on better memory which is known to bottleneck the Llanos. That would probably have pulled the Llano ahead in all tests, not just power consumption.
    Reply
  • tlmck
    Would have been interesting to see 1866 ram used with the APU. Other sites such as Anandtech have shown it to noticeably boost performance. Conversely, there is no advantage to 1600 speed on the Intel. Stock 1333 would have worked the same.
    Reply