AMD A8-3850 processor review

AMD's new APU brings powerful dual graphics and easy overclocking
Photo of AMD A8-3850 processor
£101.90

It has been quite a while since AMD brought processors to the market that have caught people’s attention – but with its new A series of APUs (Accelerated Processing Units), it has done just that. The new desktop Llano APUs (codenamed Lynx) are aimed at the mainstream market and combine a quad-core CPU, GPU and a fully functioning Northbridge, all on the same 32nm die.

What’s under the hood
The 228mm sq. die uses a new 905-pin FM1 socket, and the A8-3850 is the current flagship model.  Running at 2.9GHz out of the box, each of the chip’s four cores has 128KB of Level 1 cache and 1MB of Level 2 cache, and the CPU makes do without having Turbo Core.

One significant improvement that AMD has included in the A series is enhanced memory support for RAM running at up to 1,866MHz DDR3 as standard. Built into the architecture is a dedicated UVD (Unified Video Decoder) which offloads the burden of video playback from the CPU and GPU. And despite all of this being packed onto the die, the A8-3850 has a relatively low power draw or TDP (Thermal Design Power) of around 100W.

Integrated graphics that work
The A8 series integrates the 32nm Radeon HD6550D GPU, which compares with a standalone HD6450 card and has 400 stream processors, 8 ROPs and a core speed of 600MHz (the A6 series uses the HD6530D and has 320 stream processors and a 443MHz core).

The HD6550D fully supports DirectX 11, compared to rival Intel’s HD2000/HD3000 integrated graphics, which only support DirectX 10. It also supports AMD’s Dual graphics, which allows the integrated GPU to team up with an AMD graphics card to boost graphics performance using a technique similar to that employed by a CrossfireX dual-graphics card setup. Presently Dual graphics pairing with the A8 chip only works with lower-end AMD cards, i.e HD 6670 or HD 6570.

And there’s more…
Besides having really rather good integrated graphics, the A8-3850 is also quite accommodating when it comes to overclocking. Although the APU’s multipliers are locked (at x29), the base clock can be tweaked, and without having to resort to tinkering with any voltages we managed to get our review sample running stably at 3.6GHz (29 x 126MHz) which is a nice increase on the stock speed.

Company: AMD

Website: http://www.amd.com/

Contact: AMD UK on 01276 803100

Positives
  • At last, integrated graphics that are worthy of the name.
Negative
  • With AMD's next generation of APU technology fast approaching, it's not that future-proof.

Verdict

Integrated graphics are usually dismissed as not worth the effort for users with anything but the most modest needs; AMD's new APUs kick that idea into touch.