AMD Richland Review; A10-6800K & A10-6700 Benchmarked
AMD has some catching up to do and Richland is their transitional solution between Trinity and Kaveri. It is also meant to shore up their performance metrics now that Intel has released their new Haswell architecture. In a way, this is AMD trying to steal a march on Intel since the Trinity to Richland refresh took just nine months while Intelís cycles typically take 12 months or more.
Richland is actually a bit of a surprise since AMDís product roadmaps never showed it until a short time ago. Simply put, GlobalFoundriesí 28nm manufacturing process delays and intrinsic revisions to upcoming architectures have pushed back the APU and CPU roadmap. This has necessitated the introduction of gap-filler products like Richland which are based on proven architectures.
While it may be a slight departure from earlier roadmap predictions, Richland still very much adheres to AMDís Heterogeneous System Architecture or HSA. This amalgamation of CPU and GPU processing onto a single die will be the central focus for AMD far into the future but, judging from sales, potential customers havenít quite embraced this approach. Luckily, the software is quickly catching up to hardware capabilities and soon we should see a painless transition towards more adaptable programs in the near future.
With Kaveri on the horizon, Richland may not be what many expected but it does give AMD a slightly better chance of competing against Haswellís lower-end SKUs than Trinity did. Just donít expect these new processors to go toe to toe against the i7 4770Ks and i5 4670Ks of this world in the performance or efficiency categories.
With that being said, this refresh is being accomplished through a revised feature set and higher clock speeds. Expect good performance per dollar ratios against Intelís lower-end Ivy Bridge for now and dual core Haswells when they eventually hit the market.
So what makes Richland tick? Mostly the same things as its predecessor, but there has been some fine tuning going on behind the scenes which will allow Richland APUs to compete against Intelís processors on a more level footing.
While Trinity mated up to four Piledriver cores with a Northern Islands class GPU, and AMDís next generation Kaveri APUs will use Steamroller CPU architecture paired up with GCN-based graphics, Richland takes a path between these two. It uses the same architectural bones as Trinity, but rolls in several next generation power management optimizations which directly affect clock speeds. As a result, its GPU and CPU cores operate at higher frequencies without negatively impacting TDP.
Regardless of the HD 8000-series moniker used for the GPU core, Richland still uses the same VLIW4 Northern Islands design as Trinity did. Once again, AMD has rebranded theses units in order to properly reflect the additional performance benefits derived through their higher operating frequencies.
The memory controller on unlocked A10 APUs has also been revamped with support for DDR3-2133 modules, though lower-end APUs donít receive the same treatment. Meanwhile, the use of an FM2 socket retains platform compatibility, allowing Richland to become a simple drop in solution for existing motherboard designs.
The Richland lineup follows in the exact footsteps of AMDís outgoing Trinity APUs, literally replacing them on a 1:1 basis, though the newcomers are slightly more expensive. The only odd man out is the dual core A4-5300 which will stick around until stocks are depleted or it gets discontinued since thereís no replacement.
Headlining this new APU lineup is the $142 A10-6800K, an unlocked APU which has received a significant Base Clock increase coupled with a healthy 200Mhz boost in Turbo frequencies. The 384 core GPU also gets a new HD 8000-series designation (though it still uses an older, pre-GCN architecture) alongside slightly higher clock speeds. This has been accomplished without a corresponding TDP increase.
The A10-6700 uses the same core as the 6800K but includes lower clock speeds across its x86 cores and GPU in order to achieve a lower TDP value. For many, this will become a great companion for an HTPC system or low power desktop.
Much like their higher priced siblings, the A8-6600K and A8-6500 are cut from the same cloth with the K-series part having higher clock speeds and an unlocked multiplier while consuming more power. These are the lowest-end quad core parts as the A4-6400K is simply an unlocked 65W dual core part with a cut-down GPU and clock speeds that are higher than some other quad core SKUs. It is meant to target the entry level, desktop all in one systems.
These new APUs are compatible with AMDís Dual Graphics technology. Dual Graphics is essentially Crossfire for APUs, pairing up the internal GPU with a discrete card, in this case, the HD 6670, HD 6570 and HD 6450. The performance increase is impressive to say the least but buying an outdated $60 to $80 graphics card likely wonít appeal to many people considering Richlandís already-low price. This technology does however ensure that higher performance can be achieved should someone want to do more serious gaming on an APU-based system.
In this particular we will be looking at two APUs which are quite similar in the performance end of the spectrum but they diverge quite drastically in other respects. The A10-6000K is AMDís flagship APU and will remain so until Kaveri is released. It features an unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking and boasts the highest clock speeds of any APU to date. The A10-6700 on the other hand isnít unlocked and operates at slightly lower frequencies but its 65W TDP will likely appeal to those running more efficient systems who donít need the extra performance boost overclocking allows.
All in all, Richland looks like an interesting addition to AMDís product stack but its underlying architecture has already been proven to be deficient in some areas. Luckily, the performance increases should shore things up in some areas that lagged behind while the boost in graphics capabilities (albeit minor) will put some more distance between Richland and the latest Haswell entrants.
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