AMD A6-3650 Llano APU Review

Author: MAC
Date: August 2, 2011
Product Name: A6-3650
Part Number: AD3650WNGXBOX
Purchase at NCIX: | UK
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Dual Graphics: Hybrid Crossfire Done Right?

Some of you may remember two competing technologies that were originally introduced years ago: Hybrid SLI and Hybrid Crossfire. Their goal was to have the systemís integrated graphics processor and a discrete GPU work in tandem to increase in-game performance over what an IGP alone could provide. Unfortunately, the AMD / ATI solution didnít work all that well due to the somewhat obsolete IGPs being used while Hybrid SLI never really caught on outside of the notebook market. NVIDIA has since gone on to implement Optimus Ėan evolution of the original Hybrid SLI concept- on Sandy Bridge platforms while AMD has now finally introduced their own similar technology called Radeon Dual Graphics.

Much like NVIDIAís technology, Dual Graphics only works under the Windows 7 OS and is able dynamically apply GPU acceleration when itís needed. However what it does that technologies like Optimus (and the desktop version Synergy) and Virtu canít is leverage the rendering power of both the IGP and dGPU for increased performance. In laymanís terms, AMDís drivers now allow for mixed Crossfire configurations between certain discrete GPUs and the graphics coprocessor in A8, A6 and A4 series APUs. The APU acts as the primary display output source while the discrete GPU sends its signals through the onboard PCI-E interface and onto the dedicated I/O pathways.

This may sound simple and straightforward but there is a somewhat complicated set of compatibility requirements that need to be addressed before Radeon Dual Graphics will work with A-series APUs. In short, the graphics controllers on the A8 (HD 6550D IGP) and A6-series (HD 6530D IGP) processors are compatible with any AMD graphics card based off of the Turks and Caicos cores (HD 6670, HD 6570 and HD 6450) while the HD 6410D IGP in the A4 branded APUs will only work with the HD 6450 and HD 6350 cards. The E2 series APUs arenít compatible with Dual Graphics due to their entry level market positioning.

Once AMDís Vision Engine Control Center picks up a Radeon Dual Graphics compatible system along with a supported discrete GPU, it will then assign the Crossfire grouping a new name. For example, combining a HD 6670 with the A8 APU will result in the system displaying HD 6690D2 as the primary display controller once Crossfire is enabled. The chart above illustrates this for other IGP / dGPU combinations as well.

Alongside the potential performance benefits of this technology, multi monitor outputs can also be augmented. With the APUís ability to feed two monitors at once and AMDís 6000-series discrete GPUs able to output three display signals, up to FIVE monitors are supported with Radeon Dual Graphics.

Naturally, with all of this signal routing and GPU switching taking place, there are a million and one things that can go wrong somewhere along the line.

A we saw in our original Llano review, when it works, Radeon Dual Graphics works well but its fluid integration lives and dies by the driver stackís game compatibility. There are obviously some teething pains which boil down to driver issues rather than a fundamental problem with Dual Graphics but that really shouldnít lead you away from a Dual Graphics solution. Weíre told that AMDís is still working out some kinks but to be honest with you, we were left with a very positive first impression of this new technology regardless of the hiccup within F1 2010 and some uneven load balancing (as seen in the image above). Plus, with AMDís new Crossfire app profiles being rolled out with some regularity, any problems should be easily overcome with a few simple downloadable tweaks.

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