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GPGPU Applications

When we tested the new AMD APU, we couldn’t help checking out those applications that use the graphics engine not for 3D graphics, but for calculations. Especially, since this is exactly what Fusion is all about: the GPU stream processors should get involved in computational work and should contribute to the overall APU speed.

At first we again resorted to synthetic benchmarks from SiSoftware Sandra 2011 suite. This suite helps measure the computational performance of shaders using OpenCL and DirectCompute software interfaces. Llano’s integrated graphics supports both of them, so there are no problems here. As for Sandy Bridge processors, Intel doesn’t allow access to the computational resources of the graphics cores, that is why all these calculations in Intel systems are performed by the x86 cores exclusively.

These particular results are the reason why AMD decided to get involved with Fusion concept. The graphics core can handle parallel calculations very well, that is why getting it involved in data processing may be an excellent way of improving the overall performance.

But that is a synthetic test that targets the stream processors specifically. It is much more interesting to see how well the APU will perform in real applications. AMD’s marketing people keep stressing that the number of applications optimized for APUs continues to grow constantly. You can check out this special section of the official corporate web-site to see what applications these are. Frankly speaking, this list is not particularly impressive, but there are a few interesting titles among the applications on that list. We decided to pick them for our today’s APU performance analysis, so that they could demonstrate how much better the APU is than a CPU in the optimized environment.

The first test measures HD video transcoding speed in Cyberlink Media Espresso 6.5. This utility may use UVD3 engine for decoding and stream processors for video encoding acceleration. And on Intel processors it can take advantage of Quick Sync technology.

The good news is that Radeon HD 6550D graphics core built into A8-3800 may be of great help during video transcoding. If it gets involved together with the x86 computational cores, transcoding is completed in almost half the time. However, the bad news is that when the stream processors of the graphics core are used, the performance of A8-3800 only reaches as far as Core i3-2100 would do without Quick Sync. As soon as Intel’s hardware coder is activated, AMD APU can no longer compete against Core i3-2100.

Among applications optimized for the APU, AMD mentions Microsoft Internet Explorer 9. It can really use graphics core resources to display web-pages and execute HTML5 and JavaScript code. But what about actual performance? To get some numeric representation of it we used two special tests. Futuremark Peacekeeper, which focuses primarily on performance during work with JavaScript, and a new HTML5 benchmark called Stimulant WebVizBench.

In the test with HTML5-pages A8-3800 falls between Core i3-2100 and Core i3-2105. And it can be considered a good result, especially since in JavaScript test the AMD solution is completely defeated by everyone including Core i3-2100.

Continuing with APU optimization for Internet applications, AMD also claims that the latest Flash player versions are also Fusion-friendly. We have known for a long time that this player can use UVD3 engine to accelerate video playback. But what about other applications? We will try to answer this question with the help of a multi-player online arcade game called Tanki Online built on one of the most advanced 3D Flash engines – Alternativa3D. The tests were performed using Adobe Flash Player 10.3.181.34.

The graphics processors resources are really utilized here, even though Flash version 10 doesn’t use the video card to display 3D graphics. However, it doesn’t help the AMD APU much. Core i3-2100 and Core i3-2105 processors are about 30% faster than A8-3800.

Another application, which AMD believes uses the graphics core resources effectively, is Windows Live Movie Maker 2011. Our test in this application was to create a small HD-video by compiling video, images and music.

A8-3800 graphics core is loaded quite heavily here, but Core i3 processors still cope with the same task much faster. They have special Quick Sync hardware coder, which comes in very handy during video processing.

Wrapping up our search for applications where new hybrid Llano processor can really shine, we ran a few tests in one more utility called ArcSoft Panorama Maker 5 Pro. It is used to put together a panoramic image using several photographs. This was our test task during the performance test.

APU is also fully supported here and the load on the graphics core is undeniable, but Core i3 is again better.

So, we managed to find multiple applications that really take full advantage of the APU, but it doesn’t produce the anticipated effect. We don’t see any significant performance increase, and Intel CPUs from the Core i3 family that work with similar tasks using only their x86 cores in most cases are way ahead of AMD Llano.

Nevertheless, we can’t deny that Llano has huge potential. Synthetic tests showed clearly that Radeon HD 6550D graphics core had tremendous computational power. So, let’s hope that the programs that will truly benefit from Fusion concept are yet to come in the nearest future. And as of today, the only real task where Llano will undoubtedly be faster than Core i3 thanks to the stream processors of its graphics core is hashed password cracking.

 
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