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Testbed Configuration and Testing Methodology

The major goal of our today’s test session is to study the consumer qualities of the platforms based on AMD A8-3870K processor and to investigate their ability to serve as inexpensive universal gaming systems. At first glance A8-3870K and Socket FM1 infrastructure seem to be a pretty good fit for that. Socket FM1 mainboards are quite affordable, and even though the A8-3870K is priced at $135, it brings to the table four computational cores and pretty good Radeon HD 6550D graphics.

If you were to put together a system with comparable characteristics but using Intel components, you will have to go with an external graphics card in any case. As a result, you will have to sacrifice the CPU performance and go with something like a combination of a dual-core LGA 1155 Pentium processor and a Radeon HD 6670 graphics card. Will this system be able to offer better functionality than the AMD offering? This is the first question that we will try answering during our today’s test session.

The idea of involving Dual Graphics technology seems like a reasonable option with the Socket FM1 platform. Combining A8-3870K with an external Radeon HD 6670 or similar graphics card will be able to significantly boost the gaming performance. At the same time, the additional investment on top of a $135 processor won’t be too big. Therefore, the second part of our today’s analysis will focus specifically in Dual Graphics.

Note that by increasing the budget allocated for a Socket FM1 system with an additional graphics accelerator allowed us to come up with faster competitors on Intel’s side, too. There are two ways of increasing the performance of LGA 1155 systems: by raising the processor frequency or by increasing the graphics card performance. in the first case, a system built with AMD A8-3870K and Radeon HD 6670 can compete against Core i3 + the same Radeon HD 6670 graphics card. The second option is to stay with a Pentium processor, but use a faster and more expensive graphics accelerator, such as Radeon HD 6770, for example. We are going to check out both these alternatives and estimate their performance against that of A8-3870K based system with Dual Graphics technology. This is going to be the third goal of our today’s test session.

As a result, we ended up testing five different platforms:

  • AMD A8-with integrated graphics:
    • Processor: AMDA8-3870K (Llano, 4 cores, 3.0 GHz, 4 MB L2, Radeon HD 6550D);
    • Mainboard: Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H (Socket FM1, AMD A75).
  • AMD A8-3870K with external Radeon HD 6670 graphics card working as part of Dual Graphics technology:
    • Processor: AMDA8-3870K (Llano, 4 cores, 3.0 GHz, 4 MB L2, Radeon HD 6550D);
    • Mainboard: Gigabyte GA-A75-UD4H (Socket FM1, AMD A75);
    • Graphics card: AMD Radeon HD 6670 1 GB GDDR5 128-bit.
  • Intel Pentium G850 with external Radeon HD 6670 graphics card:
    • Processor: Intel Pentium G850 (Sandy Bridge, 2 cores, 2.9 GHz, 3 MB L3);
    • Mainboard: ASUS P8Z68-V Pro (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express);
    • Graphics card: AMD Radeon HD 6670 1 GB GDDR5 128-bit.
  • Intel Pentium G850 with external Radeon HD 6770 graphics card:
    • Processor: Intel Pentium G850 (Sandy Bridge, 2 cores, 2.9 GHz, 3 MB L3);
    • Mainboard: ASUS P8Z68-V Pro (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express);
    • Graphics card: AMD Radeon HD 6770 1 GB GDDR5 128-bit.
  • Core i3-2120 with external Radeon HD 6670 graphics card:
    • Processor: Intel Core i3-2120 (Sandy Bridge, 2 cores + HT, 3.3GHz, 3 MB L3);
    • Mainboard: ASUS P8Z68-V Pro (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express);
    • Graphics card: AMD Radeon HD 6670 1 GB GDDR5 128-bit.

Memory, disk drives, power supply unit and software components were identical in all five testbeds:

  • Memory: 2 x 4 GB, DDR3-1866 SDRAM, 9-11-9-27 (Kingston KHX1866C9D3K2/8GX);
  • Disk drive: Crucial m4 256 GB (CT256M4SSD2);
  • Power supply unit: Tagan TG880-U33II (880 W);
  • Operating system: Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 Ultimatex64;
  • Drivers:
    • AMD Catalyst 12.1 Driver;
    • AMD Chipset Driver 12.1;
    • Intel Chipset Driver 9.3.0.1019;
    • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Driver 15.22.50.64.2509;
    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology 10.8.0.1003.

We tested all AMD A8-3870K based systems twice: in the nominal mode and in overclocked mode (as described above at 3.6 GHz/960 MHz frequencies). Pentium and Core i3 based systems cannot be overclocked that is why all LGA 1155 platforms were tested only in nominal mode.

 
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