AMD A8-3850 APU Review: The Arrival of Llano

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We first heard of Fusion years ago when AMD and ATI still had separate names. It was announced as a technology that would revolutionize the PC and notebook market as there would be a marriage between the CPU and GPU in a single die. Knowing the power behind ATI cards and the affordability of the AMD processors, this was something that was much anticipated by the PC world. It wasn't until the 2011 CES that we were able to get a taste of this technology and see it in action. Then, in March, we were able to get our hands on the first Fusion products. They didn't disappoint.

 

Those first products were the "Brazos" boards. These were micro-ATX motherboards aimed at the smaller computing market. They only featured single or dual core 40nm processors soldered to the motherboard, but the graphics packed a big punch for that platform. We were finally able to see netbooks and ultra small form factor PCs able to handle high definition playback and high quality flash. Something that, at the time, only a full sized notebook or larger PC was capable of doing. These smaller boards also gave us a glimpse into the Fusion technology and how it worked. We were introduced to two new terms, APU and FCH. APU, or Accelerated Processing Unit, was the term coined for the CPU/GPU combination. FCH, or Fusion Controller Hub, was the the workhorse controlling all of the secondary processes, like SATA ports, audio, and USB ports. This next release takes a cue from the Brazos platform and enhances it for the mainstream market.

 

This next platform was dubbed "Llano". With Llano, we get much more power and performance that mainstream users demand. This is also AMD's first 32nm chip release. Flavors will range with the Llano lineup, just like any other platform release, to meet both budget and performance needs of most users. The A-Series APU will contain up to four x86 CPU cores that range from 2.1GHz to 2.9GHz and two will contain AMD Turbo CORE technology. TDP configurations range from 65W to 100W. There will be two flavors of FCH configurations, the A75 and A55. The A75 will contain more high end features, like SATA 6 Gb/s ports and USB 3.0 Ports. The A55 will have the lower features, like SATA 3 Gb/s ports and USB 2.0 ports.

Integrated Radeon Graphics will also vary from an HD 6530D, which contains 320 processing cores, to a 6550D, that has 400 cores. In comparison, a desktop Radeon 6450 only contains 160 processing units. For some people, this negates the need for any discrete graphics. The Radeon cores contain all of the newest features that we see on current desktop models. There is full DX 11 support, including DirectCompute. There is full Blu-Ray 3D playback and a complete UVD3 decoder. OpenCL Acceleration and AMD APP is also available. One big graphic feature is AMD Dual Graphics, which will allow a combination of a discrete GPU with the integrated GPU for accelerated performance.

 

The AMD A8-3850 will be the focus for this review. The A8-3850 is the on the top of the AMD charts for their Llano lineup. The 3850 features quad cores with a CPU clock set at 2.9 GHz. There is 4MB of onboard L2 cache and the TDP is rated at 100W. This chip comes with the Radeon HD 6550D, which has the top 400 stream cores, 5 SIMDs, 20 texture units, 2 render back ends, 32 Z/Stencil ROPs, 8 color ROPs, a GPU clock set at 600 MHz, and a peak compute of 480 GFLOPS. There is support for dual graphics also and a max DDR3 memory speed of 1866. This chip doesn't contain the AMD Turbo Core feature.

 

 

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