First of all I would like to remind you that Llano is not really a new desktop processor, but mostly a solution that will finally let AMD feel very confident in the mobile PC market. However, today we did get a desktop modification and in this respect Llano makes very versatile impression.
As a new AMD processor that came to replace Phenom II and Athlon II, it doesn’t strike as particularly exciting. Of course, four computational cores of the new A8 processors may help them take the lead over Core i3 in applications that are well optimized for multi-threading, but this is hardly a consolation. The thing is that in systems equipped with discrete graphics Llano work slower than their predecessors from Athlon II X4 family. Llano processors still use x86 cores based on K10 microarchitecture from 2007 and all minor improvements are of purely cosmetic nature, while time has been long calling for a complete redesign. Moreover, trying to achieve acceptable TDP levels AMD had to lower the clock speeds. And even though Turbo Core technology was supposed to compensate lower frequencies, it doesn’t do it too well. Overclocking is also no remedy for this situation. Llano processors do not overclock well and even the Lynx platform itself doesn’t favor overclocking in general.
Luckily Llano is not a traditional processor, but an APU that contains not only x86 cores, but also a fast graphics core. And this particular peculiarity makes us look at Llano from a completely different angle. Built-in graphics is not just the fastest integrated solution in the today’s market. It is about twice as fast as Intel HD Graphics 3000 and delivers the same level of performance as some of the graphics cards in $50-$60 price range. At the same time Llano is pretty energy-efficient (especially the 65 W TDP models), which makes it an excellent choice for integrated low-end gaming home systems or high-performance HTPCs.
But in the end choosing Llano for any type of entry-level system will depend solely on your needs and goals. If gaming performance is your number 1 priority, but you are not ready to invest into a mainstream or high-end graphics card, then there is hardly anything better than an AMD A8 series processor. Especially, since there are at least two ways of boosting the graphics performance at minimal cost. The first one is overclocking, and the second one is Dual Graphics technology that allows combining APU graphics with an inexpensive discrete graphics card within an asymmetric CrossFire configuration.
However, if you are looking to build an inexpensive platform with high computational potential, then Llano won’t be the way to go. And in this case it doesn’t make sense to pay extra for the high-quality graphics core built into this APU. Although Fusion concept implies that stream processors from the APU graphics core can be used for calculations and acceleration of popular general-purpose applications, it doesn’t yet work well enough.
I have to say that this isn’t a final verdict, and the APU idea may have another brilliant comeback one day. The integration of hybrid processors into the existing infrastructure is at its early stage now, and in two-three years things may change dramatically. But at that point there will be new generation APUs, and today Llano is merely a locomotive of evolution helping plant the Fusion concept into the minds of computer users and software developers.