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AMD A10 and A8 Trinity APU: Virgo Desktop Experience
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Date: Sep 27, 2012
Section:Processors
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

We’ll be taking a somewhat different two-tiered approach with our coverage of AMD’s new Trinity-based APUs for desktop systems today. AMD is lifting the veil on their new product line-up, in addition to graphics performance and power consumption, but we can’t quite give you the full monty just yet, due to a new multi-tiered launch approach AMD decided to take with these products. If you want to see how well AMD’s latest desktop APUs overclock, how their processor cores perform, or how they’re priced, you’re going to have to stop by in a few more days. For now though, we’ve got graphics performance and power consumption characteristics to talk about and have some rather interesting side-by-side comparisons in store as well.


AMD Trinity APU Die Shot

We’ve already shown you what AMD’s Trinity-based APUs can do in their mobile form, but the desktop variants are somewhat different animals. Although they’re based on the same piece of silicon, Trinity-based APUs for desktop systems have much more power and thermal headroom to play with. As such, the chips are clocked much higher, in regard to both their CPU and GPU cores. In fact, one of the chips we’ll be showing you here today, the A10-5800K, can Turbo all the way up to 4.2GHz. Take a look at desktop Trinity’s main features and specifications below and take a few minutes to see how the A10’s GPU performs versus an Intel Core i3 in the video here. We’ll move on to more details and performance data on the pages ahead.


AMD Trinity A10-5800K Piledriver APU vs Intel Core i3 Ivy Bridge Demo
 

AMD Trinity-Based APU
Specifications & Features

  • Die size: 246mm2
  • 1.303B transistors
  • Process: 32nm SOI
  • 2.09W MobileMark 07 power consumption
  • 1.08W idle power
  • Power reduction during HD media playback
  • Unified Northbridge (UNB)
  • Quad-core and Dual-core configurations
  • Updated AMD Radeon™ DirectX®11 GPU
  • 3 dedicated display outputs
  • 4 independent display controllers
  • DisplayPort 1.2 with symbol rates of 1.62, 2.7 and 5.4 Gbit/s
  • UVD and AMD Accelerated Video Converter
  • IOMMU v2 (Input/Output Memory Management)

As we detailed in our coverage of the mobile variant, AMD's Trinity APUs are comprised of a little over 1.3B transistors and have a die size of 246mm2. If you're keeping track, Intel's Ivy Bridge processors are built from roughly 1.4B transistors with a die size of about ~160mm2. That's the difference between 22nm and 32nm process technology; AMD is still a full process generation behind at the moment.

Though die size is directly proportional to cost, power consumption may or may not be, depending the power gating technologies, architectural enhancements, and leakage currents at play. As you can see in the chart above, Trinity sips barely over 1W of power at idle and the current top-end A10 desktop chips have a 100W TDP with a max clock speeds of 4.2GHz. Beyond that, you can see that AMD is bringing out several versions of their new desktop Trinity-based APUs, with both dual-core and quad-core variants, along with various Radeon HD 7000 series integrated GPUs on board, clocked at different speed bins and varying numbers of active GPU cores.


AMD A10-5800K and A8-5600K Side-by-Side

AMD's lowest power desktop chip is the A4-5300, which is a dual-core CPU with a Radeon HD 7480D graphics engine on board consisting of 128 Radeon cores. Today, however, we'll be showing you all the graphics performance of the high-end A10-5800K and A8-5600K unlocked quad-core parts designed with on-board Radeon HD 7660D and 7560D graphics engines and comprised of 384 and 256 Radeon cores, respectively, running at a peak clock speeds of 800Hz and 760MHz. The CPU cores however, come in at 3.8GHz / 4.2GHz for the A10-5800K and 3.6GHz / 3.9GHz for A8-5600K, taking into account base and maximum turbo speeds.

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Introducing Trinity for Desktops and Virgo

AMD's Virgo platform consists of a desktop APU based on Trinity and a motherboard built around the A85 PCH. As we've noted, AMD has either tweaked or revamped many of the primary functional blocks in their Trinity architecture over the previous generation Llano. From the new Piledriver-based CPU cores themselves to the Northern Islands-based GPU core, Trinity offers performance improvements and additional features in a number of key areas.


Block Diagram: Trinity's VLIW4-based GPU Engine

The GPU engine on board Trinity is based on AMD's previous-generation Northern Islands family of GPU cores. You can loosely think of these as Radeon HD 6400 class GPUs, though the company is re-branding them as integrated Radeon HD 7000 family cores. The GPU has an improved hardware tesselator over the previous gen Llano APU. In addition, it's VLIW4 design offers balanced stream processor cluster with each of the four SPUs offering equal capability and more simplified scheduling, versus the VLIW5 design used in older Radeon HD series GPUs. The number of active Radeon cores in the on-die GPUs will vary from APU to APU, but all desktop Trinity variants sport the same architecture.

As part of the GPU block, AMD has also incorporated an updated version of their HD Media Accelerator with enhanced UVD (Unified Video Decoder) and AVC (Accelerated Video Converter) blocks. The UVD block offers hardware offload for Blu-ray 3D, MPEG-4/DivX, and Picture-in-Picture with dual HD streams. In addition, within the HD Media Accelerator engine, A series APUs also offer AMD Quick Stream video streaming technology for prioritizing video stream packet data for uninterrupted video streaming. And of course many software ISVs will be offering optimized versions of their applications to take advantage AMD's A-series video acceleration and conversion technologies.


Trinity's Enhancements

The other major design advancement is AMD's new Piledriver compute cores. Piledriver is an optimization of AMD's Bulldozer core that shares the same high-level architecture as Bulldozer, but with a number of major enhancements. The same shared fetch, decode, floating point and L2 cache resources per pair of integer units is present in desktop Trinity, however, AMD has improved their branch prediction and L2 efficiency and improved hardware prefetch as well. Piledriver cores also have a larger L1 TLB or Translation Look-aside Buffer. All told, AMD is claiming a combined performance increase of ~14% on the desktop versus their Bulldozer architecture along with a 50% increase in GPU perf, clock-for-clock. However, factor in Turbo Core 3.0 speed boosts and AMD is claiming larger aggregate performance gains in both desktop and mobile platforms over previous-gen A-series APUs.

Trinity also incorporates an updated DDR3 memory controller that now supports new low power 1.25V DDR3 memory, incorporated with in a new UNB or Unified Northbridge design. It's interesting to note that PCI Express now replaces HyperTransport for serial connectivity to downstream I/O devices in Trinity and it makes sense, given the obvious mass adoption of PCIe serial interfaces across platform and chip-level interconnects. The Radeon Memory Bus or RMB offers a full bandwidth path for the GPU engine to system memory that bypasses cache coherency mechanisms for lower latency access.


AMD Trinity Technical Specifications

Finally, AMD's Turbo Core 3.0 technology offers more aggressive clock gating and overclocking, with up to a 20% increase in top-end GPU clock speed, 19% in single core CPU clock speed and an 8% boost in multithreaded CPU performance. Specifically, the A10-5800K and A8-5600K that we'll be running through their paces next, scale up to 4.2GHz and 3.9GHz, respectively, in single-threaded applications on the CPU, but have base clocks of 3.8GHz and 3.6GHz with dynamic scaling as needed in multithreaded workloads.
 

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Virgo Platform, Socket FM2

Accompanying AMD’s new Trinity-based APUs for desktop systems is a new chipset and socket, the A85 FCH and socket FM2, and of course new motherboards featuring both…


AMD A85 FCH (Hudson D4) Block Diagram

 

 
The A85 Chipset and Socket FM2 Exposed

Above is a high-level block diagram of the A85 (Hudson D4) controller hub. On many levels, this chipset is similar to the A75/A55 that was used with Llano, but the A85 allows for different PCI Express lane configurations and has 8 SATA 3.0 ports with RAID capabilities, up from six in the previous gen. Other features include HD Audio, 4 USB 3.0 ports, 10 USB 2.0 ports, and 2 USB 1.1 ports. In addition there are SD and IR controllers present and legacy PCI support (for up to three slots). Like the A75, the A85 also connects to the APU using AMD’s Unified Media Interface (UMI), which offers 2GB/s of bandwidth.


AMD's A10-5800K FM2 904 Pin Layout

As for the new socket, FM2 was created to add support for additional voltage rails for the Piledriver cores and additional connectivity for the displays that run off of the APU, enabling AMD Eyefinity technology. We should note that socket FM2 is not backwards compatible with FM1. There is one fewer pin on FM2 APUs (904 vs. 905), and the pins are keyed differently to prevent insertion into differing sockets. While FM1’s lifetime was relatively short, especially by AMD’s standards, we’re told FM2 will be around much longer, thanks to the changes made to the socket to support desktop Trinity and future mainstream APU designs.

 

 
ASUS F2A85-M PRO Socket FM2 Motherboard

Here we have the ASUS F2A85-M PRO. The ASUS F2A85-M PRO is a fairly feature rich motherboards, despite is Micro-ATX form factor. In addition to exploiting all of the features inherent to the A85X chipset, this board offers what ASUS calls its “Dual Intelligent Processors 2” along with a number of other interesting features. The Dual Intelligent Processors consist of ASUS’ EPU unit, which we’ve covered in the past, and the TurboV processing unit. The processors work together with the F2A85-M PRO’s digital VRM (DIGI+ VRM) and give users the ability to monitor and adjust power delivery on the fly. According to ASUS, the combination of the programmable digital VRM and Dual Intelligent Processors 2 results in superior efficiency and longevity. The F2A85-M PRO also offers USB 3.0 Boost technology (which we covered here), high-speed USB charging capabilities, and real-time network bandwidth controls.


The ASUS F2A85-M PRO offers a host of I/O connectivity, including four display outputs

The ASUS F2A85-M PRO also supports AMD dual-graphics and CrossFireX and ASUS includes a copy of their AI Suite II, which gives users easy access to all of the ASUS-proprietary features mentioned here in a single software package. In addition to the aforementioned features, the F2A85-M PRO also sports a UEFI BIOS with one-click overclocking and tuning that’s navigable using a mouse. Like many of the UEFIs we’ve seen on previous ASUS-built boards, the version included on the F2A85-M PRO is one of the cleanest and easiest to navigate that we have come across. We should also point out that the board is Windows 8 ready, but official certification won’t come until future BIOS / drivers that have been qualified are released.

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Test Setup and Cinebench OGL

Test System Configuration Notes: When configuring our test systems for this article, we first entered their respective system BIOSes or UEFIs and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High performance Defaults". We then saved the settings, re-entered the BIOS and set the memory speed to each platform's maximum, officially supported speed--DDR3-1866 in the case of Virgo. The solid state drives were then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we fully updated the OS, and installed the drivers necessary for our components. Auto-Updating and Windows Defender were then disabled and we installed all of our benchmarking software, performed a disk clean-up, cleared any prefetch and temp data, and ran the tests.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Intel and AMD - Head To Head

System 1:
AMD A10-5800K
(3.8GHz - Quad-Core)
AMD A8-5600K
(3.6GHz - Quad-Core)

Asus F2A85-M Pro
(AMD A85 Chipset)

2x4GB Corsair DDR3-1866

Radeon HD 7660D/7560D
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

OCZ Vertex 3 MaxIOPS

Windows 7 x64
System 2:
Intel Core i5-3470
(3.2GHz - Quad-Core)
Intel Core i3-3220/3225
(3.3GHz - Dual-Core)

MSI Z77A-GD65
(Z77 Express Chipset)

2x4GB G.SKILL DDR3-1866

Intel HD 2500/4000
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

OCZ Vertex 3 MaxIOPS

Windows 7 x64
System 3:
AMD A8-3870K
(3.0GHz - Quad-Core)

Asus F1A75-V Pro
(AMD A75 Chipset)

2x4GB Corsair DDR3-1866
(@ 1866MHz)

Radeon HD 6550D IGP
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

OCZ Vertex 3 MaxIOPS

Windows 7 x64
System 4:
AMD FX 8150
(3.6GHz Eight-Core)

Asus CrossHair V Formula
(AMD 990FX Chipset)

2x4GB G.SKILL DDR3-1866
(@ 1866MHz)

GeForce GTX 280
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

OCZ Vertex 3 MaxIOPS

Windows 7 x64

Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL Test
3D Rendering

Cinebench R11.5’s GPU benchmark uses a complex 3D scene depicting a car chase, which measures the performance of a graphics card in OpenGL mode. The graphics card has to display a huge amount of geometry (nearly 1 million polygons) and textures, as well as a variety of effects, such as environments, bump maps, transparency, lighting and more to evaluate the performance across different disciplines and give a good average overview of the capabilities of the graphics hardware. Results are reported in frames per second.

In our first graphics-related benchmark, the new AMD A10-5800K and A8-5600K APUs finish at the head of the pack. The additional active Radeon cores in the A10-5800K's on-die Radeon HD 7660D GPU give it about a 17% edge over the A8-5600K, but both are much faster than Intel's HD 2500 (Core i3-3220) and HD 4000 (Core i3-3225) graphics engines.
 

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Graphics: 3DMark Vantage

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Vantage

Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista or newer based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though. With this version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, and several new feature tests.  We tested the graphics capabilities of the APUs featured here with 3DMark Vantage's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1200 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

For the sake of reference, we have also included 3DMark scores from a couple of entry-level discrete graphics cards, to give you all an idea as to how AMD's latest APUs (and Intel's integrated graphics solutions) fare in this benchmark.

As you can see, according to 3DMark Vantage, the AMD A10-5800K and A8-5600K offer the best overall performance, clearly dominating anything Intel has to offer. If we tunnel deeper into the results, you'll see why...

The Radeon HD 7660D and HD 7560D graphics cores built into the new AMD A10-5800K and A8-5600K APUs offer significantly higher frame rates than Intel's offerings in both GPU tests, almost doubling the performance of Intel's HD 4000 series graphics engine, which is the Intel's fastest to date.

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Hi-Res Gaming: ET:QW, L4D2, Metro 2033, JC2

For this next set of tests, we pit the integrated processor graphics incorporated into AMD's Trinity-based APUs against Intel's HD 2500 and HD 4000 series engines and a few of the least expensive, discrete GPUs from NVIDIA and AMD, the GeForce GT 430, Radeon HD 6450 and Radeon HD 5550, respectively. We tested the games at high-quality settings, at a resolution of 19200x1200 with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering to put a significant strain on the various GPUs.

Hi-Res Gaming Tests: ET:QW and L4D2
Gaming Benchmarks

In both cases, the Radeon HD 7660D and HD 7560D graphics cores built into the new AMD A10-5800K and A8-5600K APUs offered roughly double (or more) the performance of Intel's integrated graphics solutions.

Hi-Res Gaming Tests: Metro 2033 and Just Cause 2
Gaming Benchmarks



These Metro 2033 and Just Cause 2 tests are somewhat more demanding than the others posted above, and as such, we had to crank down the image quality in both titles. These tests were run at a lower-resolution (1680x1050) with in-game graphics options set to their medium values, with only 2XAA (JC2) and 4X anisotropic filtering.

While the framerates are lower, the AMD APUs are still able to hold onto huge leads over the Intel integrated graphics solutions. JC2 is perfectly playable on both the A10 and A6, while Metro 2033 would be better served by lowering the resolution to boost framerates a bit.
 

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Low-Res Gaming: Crysis and ETQW

For our next set of tests, we moved on to some low-res benchmarking with Crysis (DirectX) and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (OpenGL). In these tests, we drop the resolution to 1024x768, and reduce all of the in-game graphical options to their minimum values to minimize the load being placed on the GPUs and push frame rates as high as possible. However, the in-game effects, which control the level of detail for the games' physics engines and particle systems, are left at their maximum values, to enhance image quality somewhat.

Low-Resolution Gaming: Crysis and ET: Quake Wars
Minimizing the GPU Load


Low-resolution tests such as these are typically used to illustrate CPU and memory performance, when run using a high-end GPU. What these results show, however, is that even with older game titles and relatively low-quality settings, Intel's HD 4000 (Core i3-3225) and HD 2500 (Core i3-3220) graphics cores are the limiting performance factor. The Radeon HD 7660D and HD 7560D graphics cores built into the new AMD A10-5800K and A8-5600K APUs, once again, offered double or nearly double the performance of Intel's integrated graphics solutions.
 
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Power Consumption

Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we also monitored how much power our test systems consumed using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the processors alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested At The Outlet

Idle power consumption is surprisingly similar between the various platforms we tested, with only a 6 watt spread separating AMD's latest Trinity-based APUs and Intel's Ivy Bridge-based offerings. Under load conditions, however, the AMD platforms consumed significantly more power than Intel's and virtually the same as the previous-gen Llano-based A8-3870K.

Though actual power consumption is similar between the A8-3870K and newer A10-5800K and A8-5600K, efficiency is improved with Trinity / Virgo. Both the A10-5800K and A8-5600K offer better overall and graphics performance than the older A8-3870K, but we'll have to save all of those details for our follow-on article we're working on for next week.
 

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The Overall Experience

AMD has long been touting the "user experience" with their APUs. Ever since Conroe hit the scene, AMD has been trailing Intel in terms of absolute x86/CPU performance. But AMD contends that the additional focus the company puts on graphics pays dividends to end-users. AMD argues that most users feel modern processors are “fast enough” for most tasks, but appreciate the additional graphics horsepower afforded by an APU.

With that in mind, we spent a few days simply computing day to day on an A10-5800K-based system. We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, except maybe run a few apps and games that we wouldn’t normally use on a daily basis.


Adobe Photoshop CS6 Running on the A10-5800K

Day-To-Day Computing: While we’re not ever going to say a system is “fast enough” here at HotHardware---there’s always room for more performance—general computing on a A10-based system we great. Web browsing, checking / writing e-mail, image editing, and tooling around the OS were perfectly smooth and fluid. Of course it helped that our system was equipped with 8GB of fast RAM and a speedy SSD, regardless, the overall feel of the system was fine. Even though we personally use much more powerful systems as our daily workstations, we never found ourselves wanting for additional horsepower, performing everyday tasks.


1080P Full-Screen Flash Video From YouTube on the A10-5800K

Multimedia: Watching videos on the A10-based system was also very satisfying, for the most part. A wide range of MKV and WMV files hosted on a NAS device played back flawlessly on our A10-based system, as did a array of DVDs and Blu-Rays. We did, however, run into a slight hiccup with HD Flash videos. Even with full-screen, 1080P Flash videos, the A10 based system was able to play them back smoothly, with nary a dropped frame. However, CPU utilization was much higher than expected, usually in the neighborhood of 20%. For reference, our Core i3-based test beds hovered around the 3-4% mark playing back the very same videos. AMD has had some issues accelerating certain types of Flash video in the past, and it seems they still have some work to do to ensure proper support.


Left 4 Dead 2 on AMD Latest APU

Gaming: Gaming on the A10 was also pretty good, once we leveled our expectations. We’re used to gaming on high-end multi-GPU configurations, so there were some adjustments to make when gaming on the A10-5800K, which is outfitted with a relatively modest graphics core by comparison. Overall though, running with the right settings, gaming is perfectly acceptable on an A10 APU. As we showed you on the previous pages, older games have no trouble hitting playable framerates at relatively high resolutions like 1920x1200, with high-quality graphics settings. Casual games are also no trouble for the A10’s built-in GPU. More current titles, however, will require scaling back the image quality settings and lowering the resolution. Games like Dirt: Showdown, F1 2012, and Batman: Arkham City, for example, ran best at mid-range quality settings with lower resolutions.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: We can’t talk about the entire performance profile of AMD’s newest Trinity-based APUs and the Virgo platform just yet, but today’s look at graphics and gaming performance and power does shed some light on the situation. As many of you probably expected, the Radeon HD 7660D and Radeon HD 7560D graphics cores incorporated into the A10-5800K and A8-5600K are clearly more powerful than the HD 2500 and HD 4000 offered in Intel’s current Ivy Bridge-based processors. That situation is likely to change when Haswell arrives sometime next year, but for not AMD’s lead in on-processor graphics performance has been extended with desktop Trinity and the Virgo platform as a whole. Not only is graphics performance better with AMD’s latest APUs, but they now support Eyefinity as well, for more flexible multi-monitor configurations.

Power efficiency has also been improved on these Trinity-based desktop APUs, but Intel’s architectural and manufacturing advantages give them a huge edge in power. Idle power consumption was similar across all of the platform, but under load the A10-5800K and A8-5600K used much more power than Intel’s competing offerings.


The AMD A10-5800K and A8-5600K Trinity APUs

There’s still a lot more to talk about with regard to AMD’s A10-5800K and A8-5600K and the Virgo platform, but we’ll have to end things here for now. In the not too distant future we’ll be able to give you the whole picture and talk about CPU performance, overclocking, pricing and availability, but looking back at our comparisons you can probably figure out where AMD plans to position the A10-5800K and A8-5600K. The most relevant comparisons are against the Core i3-3220, at least according to current market conditions.

As it stands now, Trinity for desktops and the Virgo platform are step forward for AMD on the mainstream desktop front. These new APUs offer improved graphics performance and power efficiency versus previous-gen offerings, additional features, and an updated platform that should have a much longer life-span than Llano’s. For more details and the rest of the scoop, be sure to check back here soon. It won’t be more than a few days—we promise.

  • Good Graphics Performance
  • Eyefinity Support
  • Low Idle Power
  • Native USB 3.0 and SATA III
  • Relatively high load power
  • Can't talk pricing and availability yet



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