AMD A8-3850 Review: We've Got Game, Y'all

July 1, 2011 by J.R. Nelson Reads (5,979)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 8
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 6
    • Usability
    • 9
    • Design
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Features
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 8.17
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

AMD A8-3850
So what about performance?
So – what about performance?  There’s no doubt that most of you are wondering if this is the product that puts AMD back on top.  And we’ve got an answer for you…a resounding maybe. AMD’s new Fusion-powered APUs are impressive, to say the least. 

First, some bad news.  Well, it’s not bad news – more like meh news. The CPU part of the new APU processors, the x86 section…it’s not revolutionary.  It feels like AMD stuck on a pre-existing x86 core from something in between the Athlon II and the Phenom II lineup. It’ll handle any mainstream task fairly well (I firmly believe we’ve reached a level of being utterly spoiled by the massive computational power at our disposal), but it just can’t match Intel’s stellar CPU technology.

That doesn’t matter so much, though, especially once you consider the GPU side of the equation. Before you say that, “Well, I’m not a gamer.  I don’t need a big old GPU in my computer,” hear me out.  You’re right, you might not need a “big ol’ GPU” in your machine.  You definitely need something more powerful than integrated graphics processors have been up until now.

We’ve covered several times across our network of sites the fact that GPU-accelerated computing isn’t just coming, it’s already here.  If you want to run the latest generation of Windows, edit photos in Photoshop, watch Flash video, edit your audio or video files or one of dozens of other tasks, you’re going to want a capable GPU backing you up.  And that, my friends, is where AMD comes in.

AMD A8-3850 AMD A8-3850

Our review hardware consisted of one of AMD’s new A8-3850 APUs sitting in Gigabyte’s new GA-75M-UD2H motherboard (we’ll be doing a standalone review of this board next week, so stay tuned). 

I mentioned that AMD’s CPU part of the new A8-3850 is nothing too too surprising, and it’s not.  We ran wPrime’s CPU benchmarking tool and got a score of just over 14 seconds, which is more than acceptable for a mainstream quad-core processor – and actually a better score than that achieved by AMD’s price point rival, the Intel Core i3-2100.

Where the Core i3 wins out, however, is on a number of CPU-heavy tests – it beat our A8-3850 by 20 – 30% when applying non-GPU accelerated video encoding or compression and decompression tasks.  It also fared better when doing some non-linear photo editing and filter applications in Photoshop.  

The mix changes when you start looking at GPU applications, however, and what better GPU applications are there than video games? First, 3DMark Vantage – we got a score of 3,724 on the Performance preset.  Not shabby at all, AMD, especially considering that we’re using a $130 chip.  The games, though!

We ran through a few of today’s popular games – Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2, H.A.W.X. 2, Crysis 2 (there have been a lot of sequels lately) – and guess what?  It played them all.  Beautifully, I might add.  Now, we have to temper some expectations here.  You’re not going to get a 1080p, maxxed out visuals kind of performance.  What you will get, however, is playable 30fps+ gameplay at 720p resolutions.  That’s a beautiful thing.

Conclusion
Llano for desktops is AMD’s way of saying that they’re not going anywhere?  Sure, Intel has a superior raw CPU technology, but AMD spanks them so hard when it comes to the GPU.  Imagine picking up an all-in-one PC.  It’s not a top-of-the-line TouchSmart from HP that delivers discrete GPUs; it’s a $550 model from a Tier II manufacturer. With an A8 APU, that thing can now game.

The prices will be driven even lower without the built-in screen.  We’ve reviewed ultra-slim desktops before, such as Gateway’s quad-core small form factor, or Dell’s Inspiron 580s.  You can equip these machines with quad-core CPUs and still come in under $500.  Now you can equip them an AMD A8 APU and get suitable CPU performance and still play video games, encode video, hook up USB 3.0 tools – the value proposition is really stellar.

And that’s where AMD truly excels – at the value proposition.  For the moment, you might be able to score a better deal with a low-end discrete video card and Phenom II CPU that could defeat the A8 APUs in testing.  That will rapidly change, however, and as AMD grows their APU lineup, Intel should finally start worrying about whether their own product is good enough for the increasingly GPU-hungry masses.

Pros:

  • Outstanding IGP
  • Native USB 3.0 support
  • 6Gbps SATA support

Cons:

  • New FM1 socket
  • Doesn’t beat discrete GPUs


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