AMD Trinity A10-5800K APU Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: October 9, 2012
Product Name: AMD A10-5800K
Part Number: AD580KWOHJBOX
Warranty: 3 Years
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The Future is Fusion. This has been AMDís mantra towards computing over the last few years and it has carried the company towards todayís introduction of the new Trinity A-Series desktop APUs and the Virgo platform umbrella they live under. With this launch, the venerable Llano-series APUs and the Lynx platform will eventually move into end of life status while AMDís goal of providing consumers with an all-encompassing heterogeneous computing environment moves one more step closer to reality.

Central Processing Units have been the cornerstone of computing tasks since the dawn of the x86 age and will remain so for the foreseeable future. However, AMD is very much a believer that a CPU can Ėand should- do more for a consumer than just simple processing tasks. In todayís world, users need media acceleration, transcoding capabilities and a myriad of other items a regular x86 processor just canít accomplish efficiently. On the other hand, graphics processors have long been built with a focus upon the very areas where CPUs were lacking. The APU or Accelerated Processing unit was born of a need to centralize as many CPU, GPU and ancillary core functions as possible in order to offer an efficient one-stop-shop for modern computing needs.

There is a certain logic behind this CPU / GPU synergy since a CPU is great at serial computing tasks while the multi core nature of modern GPUs excels at parallel computing tasks. With this in mind, AMDís A-series and E-series APUs are meant to be the Swiss Army knives of the processor industry; they can offer decent performance in standard tasks while drastically accelerating many applications that have become integral in our digitized lives. Meanwhile, the FX-series will remain the answer for enthusiasts who donít need Ėor want- and APU. The previous generation of Llano-series APUs and their associated Lynx desktop platform was the first step towards making this vision a reality.

Naturally, AMDís approach hasnít always met with success and the Virgo platformís introduction is focused upon addressing several of Llanoís shortcomings. The issue with Llano APUs wasnít poor performance but rather the fact that AMD was preaching a forward looking philosophy to a market that may not have been entirely prepared for it. Most applications that support GPU accelerated co-processing have only become available in the last 12 months so the previous generation of APUs wasnít starting from a position of strength to begin with.

Coupled with the lack of supporting applications, the central processing cores on Llano were based off of an outdated Phenom II architecture (which may have been competitive when it was first released) so AMDís APUs were seriously outgunned in most benchmarks by the Intel competition. This route of sacrificing x86 processing power in favor of a more balanced CPU / GPU approach has continued with Trinity but improvements upon the cores themselves and on-die communications should allow for performance thatís up to modern standards.

One of the major changes AMD has made is to forego an aging x86 processing features in favor of new ďPiledriverĒ CPU cores. These Piledriver cores use AMDís Enhanced Bulldozer architecture to increase performance in a number of key areas without sacrificing efficiency. All of the new A-series APUs will include between two and four discrete CPU cores grouped into two distinct engines along with an integrated HD 7000-series GPU core. However, even though AMD calls this a ďHD 7000Ē series part, it actually uses the same VLIW4 architecture as the HD 6000-series desktop parts rather than their GCN totting replacements.

Despite a die space of 246mm≤, 1.3 billion transistors (for comparisonís sake, a Llano die had 1.178 billion transistors and took up about 228 mm≤) and an adherence to Global Foundariesí 32nm HKMG manufacturing process, Trinityís power efficiency hasnít suffered. Due in part to the 32nm manufacturing processí relative maturity and some careful engineering work, Trinity has retained the same 65W and 100W TDP values of its predecessor.

AMDís new A-series lineup follows closely in the previous generationís footsteps by offering a broad selection of solutions at a number of price points. Unlike some Llano SKUs, every Trinity processor incorporates Turbo Core 3.0 technology which allows for dynamically adaptable clock speeds based upon core load and TDP overhead. Through a process of careful redesign and optimizations AMD has also been able to bump reference core frequencies to impressive levels. On average, a Trinity APU will have between 20 and 25 percent higher clock speeds than its predecessor, without even taking into account the Turbo speeds. This is largely due to the refinements which have been built into the architecture of the Piledriver CPU cores which take over from the outdated processor technology within Llano.

We can also see that AMDís Dual Graphics technology has made a comeback on every product while official 1866MHz memory support is available for all segments except the A4 5300. Naturally, these memory speeds can be helped along with AMDís Advanced Memory Profiles which is a rough analog to Intelís own XMP and should allow for easy speed increases.

Sitting atop the product stack is the A10-5800K, an unlocked processor that will be priced around $130, which is in line with Intelís current Ivy Bridge based i3 3220 and makes even this ďhigh endĒ APU quite affordable as a simple drop-in solution. From the A10 5800K, AMDís A-series continues downwards with stops at various performance and price brackets between $130 and the A4 5300ís entry level cost of under $60. Every one of these parts look tempting from a price / performance standpoint but the $110 A8 5600K does seem to offer a tantalizing combination of abilities for those who donít need the A10ís higher end specifications. Obviously, the idea here is to undercut Intelís offerings while offering (on some products at least) the one thing which the entry level i3 processors lack: unlocked multipliers.

Much like Llano, the TDP of Trinity processors runs between 100W and 65W which is something of a noteworthy accomplishment considering AMDís new APU still use a 32nm HKMG manufacturing process while running at higher clocks. Unfortunately, these TDP values are quite a bit higher than their Intel counterparts (for example an i3 3225 rings in at just 55W) but AMD is betting that consumers and large OEMs will be drawn to Trinityís feature set.

AMD is also launching a trio of new Athlon X4 and X2 processors in the form of the X4 750K, X4 740 and X2 340. These are meant to go up against Intelís low end Pentium beanded Ivy / Sandy Bridge products while also overlapping into the Celeron marketplace for system builders.

Like the Trinity APUs, these use AMDís new Piledriver cores, feature Turbo Core 3.0 technology and boast high core clocks. What differentiates Athlon from the A-series is their lack of an integrated GPU core, thus lowering costs for the end user. The $81 X4 750K in particular could be an excellent low cost solution for gamers that donít want an integrated GPU but are running on a shoestring budget. It also happens to include an unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking.

The new A-series APUs and Athlon processors represent a vital step forward after years of disappointing results. While Intel has been able to continue on with their seemingly unstoppable tick-tock approach, AMD has languished amid delayed product launches and supply issues. Thereís hope Trinity, Piledriver and upcoming launches will turn things around and return this company to competitiveness but for the time being, Trinity looks to be a definite step in the right direction. However, the question remains: will it be enough?


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