AMD A-series Performance and Benchmarks
I’ve already explained that our test notebook features the AMD A8-3500M APU with Radeon HD 6620G graphics and Radeon HD 6630M discrete graphics (which provides Radeon HD 6690G2 graphics in Dual Graphics mode). This processor has a base clock speed of 1.5GHz and bumps up to 2.4GHz with AMD Turbo Core when the system is running intense applications. That’s not bad for a processor with 35W TDP. Again keep in mind that’s a 35W TDP for BOTH the quad-core CPU and the integrated graphics on a single chip.
As AMD claims, on paper this A8 APU looks like it’s roughly in line with the latest Intel Core i3 and i5 processors. I’m eager to see if the system performance lives up to AMD’s claims or if AMD made a mistake sacrificing 50% of the processor die to the graphics cores.
With that out of the way, let’s jump into the benchmarks:
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
As you can see from the above synthetic benchmarks for raw system performance, AMD doesn’t deliver the same calculation horsepower that we see from Intel notebooks. AMD argues that this doesn’t matter beyond performing calculations on multi-page Excel spreadsheets. However, these synthetic benchmark numbers also translate into real-world performance for tasks like video conversion/encoding and converting MP3s in iTunes.
In short, although it’s good to have powerful graphics for video and gaming, general productivity might take a hit thanks to sacrificing half of the processor to graphics.
Speaking of which, let’s see what the synthetic benchmarks have to say about the latest AMD graphics.
3DMark06 measures gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark Vantage measures gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):
If the A8-3500M APU delivers lackluster performance for basic productivity it more than makes up for those limitations in terms of graphics. Not only does the integrated Radeon HD 6620G graphics deliver synthetic scores that are 24% better than the current Intel integrated graphics, but the Radeon HD 6690G2 dual graphics produced scores that were between 38% and 233% better than Intel integrated graphics.
In the real world of gaming this translates into some very impressive game play. Our test system with A8-3500M APU and Radeon HD 6690G2 dual graphics performed quite well for a notebook that is expected to be in the $699 to $800 price range. We played Mass Effect 2 at 1280×720 resolution with high detail settings and our test system played the game with average frame rates around 42 frames per second (fps). Just Cause 2 with similar graphics settings came in at 39fps and the notebook gave us an average frame rate of 49fps in Left 4 Dead 2.
Keep in mind that in a perfect world you want a gaming laptop to deliver frame rates of at least 30fps to simulate fluid, lifelike motion. The fact that the AMD A8-3500M APU with Radeon HD 6690G2 dual graphics is giving us around 40fps in several modern games puts it roughly on par with an Alienware M11x gaming notebook in terms of average in-game frame rates.
A larger unknown in terms of performance is what the future will hold in terms of GPU-accelerated software. More and more applications are being developed that use graphics processors to speed up PC performance — all of the latest web browsers now do this in order to render web pages more quickly and deliver faster web surfing. If the majority of software eventually uses the GPU then AMD probably made the right choice by focusing on graphics performance. Unfortunately, if you’re currently running CPU-intense applications then the powerful graphics in the new AMD APU doesn’t do you any good.