Following up the launch of CPUs with an integrated video controller for laptops two weeks ago, codenamed “Llano,” AMD is finally launching their much anticipated CPU series for desktops with an integrated video controller. Let’s check the performance of the new A8-3850 and how it stacks up against its main competitor, Intel’s Core i3-2100.
AMD calls their CPUs with integrated video controller “APUs” (Accelerated Processing Units). In our articles and reviews, we will still be calling these products “CPUs.”
AMD first announced that they would be creating a CPU with an integrated graphics chip in 2006, and gave the name “Fusion” to this idea. Intel, however, copied this idea and released CPUs with integrated video controllers in the beginning of 2010, within its Core i series.
Because AMD took five years to release their first series of desktop CPUs with an integrated graphics controller, this is one of the most anticipated releases in the PC hardware industry.
The new A-Series CPUs come with a new set of codenames. Both desktop and mobile versions are called internally “Llano” by AMD, with the mobile platform called “Sabine,” and the desktop platform called “Lynx.” The CPU cores are codenamed “Stars,” and are manufactured using the 32 nm manufacturing process.
The main feature of the A-Series CPUs is, as you might expect, the new integrated graphics chip. Two versions of this graphics chip are being released, and more versions will be available in the future. The A8 CPUs use a Radeon HD 6550D integrated graphics engine, while A6 CPUs use a Radeon HD 6530D graphics engine. The main specifications for these engines are listed in Figure 1. They are DirectX 11 parts, which is certainly an advantage over Intel products, which are still based on DirectX 10.1.
Figure 1: Overview of the graphics engines
If you install a discrete video card on your system, it may be able to work together with the CPU integrated graphics in a CrossFireX configuration, improving the 3D video performance. This configuration, called “Dual Graphics,” is currently supported only by Radeon HD 6350, 6450, 6570, and 6670. It is very interesting to note the naming system AMD is going to use. When you have a CPU with an integrated Radeon HD 6550D and install a Radeon HD 6670, your system is said to have a “Radeon HD 6690D2” installed. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Dual Graphics configuration
Both graphics engines also have hardware-based 2D video enhancements in a package called UVD3 (Unified Video Decoder 3). See Figure 3. With this package, video enhancements listed in Figure 3 are processed automatically by the video engine, improving the quality of video playback. Also, the video engine supports hadware-based 3D Blu-Ray, H.264, VC-1, MPEG2, WMV, DivX, MVC, and Adobe Flash decoding, improving performance when you play videos compressed in any of these formats.
Figure 3: 2D video enhancements supported (UVD3)