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AMD Llano APU Review - Slow CPU, Fast GPU 184

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the welcome-to-the-doldrums dept.
Vigile writes "Though we did see the fruits of AMD's Fusion labor in the form of the Brazos platform late in 2010, Llano is the first mainstream part to be released that combines traditional x86 CPU cores with Radeon-based SIMD arrays for a heterogeneous computing environment. The A-series of APUs reviewed over at PC Perspective starts with the A8-3850 that is a combination of a true quad-core processor and 400 shader processors similar to those found in AMD's Radeon HD 5000 series of GPUs. The good news for the first desktop APU is that the integrated graphics blows past the best Intel has to offer on the Sandy Bridge platform by a factor of 2-4x in terms of gaming. The bad news is the CPU performance: running at only 2.9 GHz the Phenom-based x86 portion often finds itself behind even the dual-core Intel Core i3-2100. On the bright side you can pick one up next month for only $135."
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AMD Llano APU Review - Slow CPU, Fast GPU

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  • Re:Who buys AMD? (Score:3, Informative)

    by hedwards (940851) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @09:56AM (#36622096)

    Well, people that don't want to reward Intel's illegal behavior for a starter. I recently got a Llano based laptop and was shocked at how well the chip handles the things that I do on a day to day basis. Sure, there's no chance of playing The Witcher or DNF on it, but it handles casual gaming just fine, especially the older games that I tend to like to play.

    In practice, the dual core is much more responsive than the celeron I was using a couple years back, even though it's a third slower than that older Intel chip.

    It's not for those that want top speeds, but it was substantially less expensive than the Intel option. A $100 price difference is pretty significant these days in terms of the machines that most people use. And in practice, I'm not so sure that it is only a $100 price difference as you then don't need to shell out for a graphics chip or the circuitry to make that worse. I ended up spending several hundred dollars less than I would have for the Intel option. Personally, I'd rather spend the money upgrading the warranty or paying for a back up plan.

  • by butalearner (1235200) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @10:00AM (#36622160)
    I did a little digging for those wondering: it does run Linux [phoronix.com], but only with the proprietary Catalyst driver at the moment. Might be interesting once the open source driver catches up (assuming AMD shares the required info).
  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @10:04AM (#36622196)

    One of the SandyBridge selling points was "our integrated graphics no longer suck, and are now semi-decent". And calling the Llano a CPU/GPU combo while not doing the same for Intel is kind of pointless; both have integrated graphics, and both have it as a selling point. Since the prices are comparable, "one gives me good graphics and the other sucks" isnt a hard choice to make.

  • Re:Slow? (Score:3, Informative)

    by cshake (736412) <cshake+slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 30, 2011 @10:58AM (#36622910)

    I know this article is about the desktop APUs, but as I've been running the C-50 Ontario on my netbook (Acer AO522-BZ897) for a few months now, I think I can share some real-world experience.

    Overall: It's a dual-core netbook, and still gets 6 hours battery life if I'm writing code with the brightness down, a little less if I'm listening to music. It may be slower on the individual cores than a competitive Atom, but if your program is threaded it's great. I'm very happy with the performance. It replaced a Powerbook G4 (I know, different class altogether, but still), and in terms of % CPU used for common tasks it's far and away better. No more mp3/m4a decoder taking 10+% CPU for decent bitrate songs.
    Real-world Performance: I can say that any downside I've seen is entirely due to bad software - I hear that in windows I could watch 720p on it, but right now with x64 linux and the beta multi-threaded flash player in the latest firefox or chromium I can't watch youtube videos at more than 480 before it starts to drop frames. Not a big deal for me though. Once the video drivers caught up with the chipset I can say that compositing and desktop effects work flawlessly, no lag whatsoever. I don't play games on it, being a netbook, except for the occasional flash thing (which sometimes lag, but again that's the flash plugin).
    Hooking it up to a 1080p TV over HDMI and running at native resolution, playing standard definition (624x352) XviD files zoomed to fullscreen works flawlessly in VLC. 720p x264 almost works - it saturates a single core and drops a frame here and there, and will really hang if you try to bring up a semi-transparent control bar over the video, but again if the codec were multithreaded it would be perfectly fine. I suspect that VLC on linux isn't taking full advantage of the GPU here either, considering I'm running the open source radeon drivers and not the official binary. For those of you running with officially supported closed-source software, i.e. official drivers or windows, I suspect it might even play 1080p without a problem.
    Let's remember that this APU is in the same power class as an Atom, and it's a netbook - impressive performance in my mind.

    As my only direct comparison points are the G4 powerbook that it replaced and my Phenom X4 9950 desktop, it's (gasp) right in the middle, but comparing a netbook to a desktop built for CAD and gaming is stupid, and so is comparing it to something 5 years older.

    My only gripe is that you can't set how much RAM the GPU side takes, so no matter what size stick I've got in there the system sees the total minus 256M. The upside is that you only need a total of one stick of RAM, but the downside is that when it comes with a 1GB stick, suddenly you're trying to run a windows 7 system (out of the box) with ~750MB, and that's asking for trouble. As I swapped out the HD and RAM before ever turning it on the first time and installed linux fresh, I can't say I've seen the slowdown, but it could be there.

  • by ewhenn (647989) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @11:55AM (#36623596)

    Two 5870 running at full will be 350~400 Watts Each.

    Add in the motherboard and other basics you're talking 1000 Watts constantly.

    Nice job pulling those numbers out of your ass.

    Here's the real power consumption of a 5870 right off of AMD's spec sheets: http://www.amd.com/us/products/desktop/graphics/ati-radeon-hd-5000/hd-5870/Pages/ati-radeon-hd-5870-overview.aspx#2 [amd.com]

    I'll pull the relevent part out for you: Maximum board power: 188 Watts

    Assuming people who bitcoin mine use at least a decent power supply that is 80% efficient PSU at given load (realistically most decent ones are 82%+ in optimal load range), you're going to be pulling 235 watts from the wall per card, max.

    235 watts is way less than 350-400 watts, by a long shot.

    The rest of the system isn't going to be pulling huge amounts of power, since nobody who is mining bitcoin for real cash does it on a CPU, they do it on GPUs, and the amount of power a motherboard, RAM, disk drive, CPU use while they aren't really working is pretty low, usually in the 30-60 watt range, depending on your CPU, but nowhere near 200 watts of draw

  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday June 30, 2011 @01:12PM (#36624496) Homepage

    Performance is one thing, it's not close in features or stability either. The 5850 was released in September 2009, I still can't get HDMI audio, there's no video acceleration, OpenGL is at 2.1 (card supports OpenGL 4.1) and last I checked it was rather easy to hang it. I'm not blaming the guys who work on it because they're few and working as hard as they can, but they're no match for the 100+ developer Catalyst team. It didn't help that in the long years where both ATI and nVidia were closed source the graphics stack really didn't get much love. But the info is there now, all it really needs is the manpower.

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