AMD A8-3850 APU Review: Llano Hits the Desktop

Author: MAC
Date: June 29, 2011
Product Name: AMD A8-3850
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From GPGPU to APP - Simplified Parallel Processing

One of the primary benefits of AMD’s Fusion architecture is its ability to leverage the serial computing benefits of x86 processing cores alongside the massively parallel capabilities of GPU computing. In short, Llano APUs should be able to dedicate the appropriate resources (be it CPU or GPU) to a given program instead of using the CPU cores for every task.

In order to carry on the torch from ATI’s Stream Compute moniker, AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing or APP has been created. This is now an all-encompassing term which can be used for graphics cards as well as the Fusion APUs.

AMD’s new APP SDK v2.2 has now hit developers’ doorsteps and with it there should now be a seamless integration of OpenCL computing for both x86-based CPUs and GPUs. This is one of APP’s major benefits over NVIDIA’s competing solution as it can be leveraged for a heterogeneous environment where specific tasks are sent towards whichever APU processor will complete them most efficiently.

With an architecture that is tailor made for low latency communication between the processor cores and the onboard GPU, AMD has been able to drastically increase the compute capacity of their A-series APUs. It may not sound all that important but higher compute performance can benefit everything from HD decoding to video transcoding to in-game physics acceleration.

Naturally, Open CL 1.1 and DirectCompute compliant programs will be the cornerstones of AMD’s Fusion generation and there are already quite a few on the market as programmers come to realize the benefits of GPU acceleration.
Since a program itself needs to support APP GPU acceleration, the real potential of Fusion APUs will live and die at the hands of manufacturer support rather than driver revisions.

Not all GPU accelerated programs are made equally and the algorithms used by some tend to benefit certain compute architectures more than others. One example of this is Cyberlink’s MediaEspresso which clearly favors Intel’s new Sandy Bridge IGPs. We can however see that transcoding on the A8’s HD 6550D GPU does net some substantial time savings over using just the CPU.

Touching Upon AMD’s New Steady Video

AMD has recently announced a new APP accelerated feature for their GPUs and APUs called Steady Video. With such an unassuming name, it may be glossed over by many users but its benefits are far reaching and can be attained seamlessly through the Vision Engine Control Center.

Basically, through the use of GPU computing Steady Video removes the shaking and wiggling out of videos that use DXVA or Flash 10.2. This means any jerky handicam or amateur footage hosted on sites which use streamed Flash 10.2 content like Youtube and Vimeo will be automatically smoothed out.

For the time being, Steady Video is an exclusive technology for AMD’s APUs. Its real world benefits may not be apparent upon first glance but it will have a noticeable effect upon your online video watching experience. It was so unobtrusive throughout testing that we forgot it was active…right up until we switched back to our standard test system and were greeted by the usual shaky Youtube videos. As a side note, there were some situations where we found that having Steady Video enabled tended to detract from the director’s original intent.

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