It’s been a while since AMD was able to claim the title of high-performance desktop CPU manufacturer. All the latest products manufactured by this company can shoot for the mainstream price segment at best. However it hardly surprises anyone at this point. Only the craziest fans still can’t put up with the fact that AMD has lost the performance race for good.
At the same time, the absence of CPUs that could potentially compete against Intel Core i7 doesn’t mean that all other products of this company are worthless. For the past few years AMD has been offering a pretty extensive variety of inexpensive processors, which very often offer better price-to-performance combination than the competitor’s offerings. In particular, this is the reason why Socket AM3 processors from the Phenom II and Athlon II families were in high demand and sold like hot cakes.
However, Phenom II and Athlon II era is coming to its logical end. They are built on semiconductor dies with K10 Stars microarchitecture manufactured using 45 nm process that are currently in the final months of their life span. They are being replaced with completely new 32 nm Socket FM1 processors that belong to the so-called Llano family. They are very much like Athlon II in many aspects. Besides, their processor cores are still built on the same exact microarchitecture that underwent minor modifications. However, the new processors boast one serious peculiarity: they have a built-in graphics accelerator inside.
The users are usually very cautious when they see a combination like that. Really, the integrated graphics inside Intel processors is not very advanced and is not fast enough for positive gaming experience. Llano, however, is unique. These processors belong to a completely new class of devices called APU (Accelerated Processor Unit). However, unlike regular processors with integrated graphics core, these devices focus much more intensely on the graphics component. AMD’s Socket FM1 processors feature integrated Radeon HD 6500 graphics core, which is way ahead of Intel HD Graphics 2000/3000. It is DirectX 11 compliant and performs much faster. Therefore, Llano processors, which combine computational and graphics capacities in a single die, may be of immediate interest in a much larger number of cases.
We asked ourselves if desktop AMD Llano processors may be used in entry-level gaming rigs. Although we haven’t yet been able to achieve acceptable gaming performance with a typical desktop resolution of 1920x1080 in any of our previous test sessions, things have changed a lot since then. AMD has rolled out a much faster desktop Llano processor called A8-3870K, which not only works at higher clock speeds, but can also be overclocked. As a result, we got some hope that overclocking will enable this 135-dollar APU to power a gaming system without an external graphics accelerator. But even if it fails, then Dual Graphics technology, which allows combining the potential of the integrated graphics core with the power of an external graphics accelerator, should after all deliver the necessary fps rate for contemporary games to run smoothly. Both these configurations are extremely interesting, because in both cases Socket FM1 systems from AMD could end up being noticeably cheaper than the systems built with Intel components offering similar performance. However, their poorly designed integrated graphics (from a gaming perspective) always requires help from an external graphics accelerator that comes at a considerably higher price.
So, our today’s article will talk about two systems. The first is one based on AMD A8-3870K processor and uses its integrated Radeon HD 6500 graphics core. The second one is based on the same APU, but in addition to the integrated graphics it is armed with an external Radeon HD 6670 graphics card connected using Dual Graphcis technology.