Conventional CPUs shouldn’t be confused with APUs. The recently invented concept of hybrid processors has already gained broad recognition on the market, so we can approach APUs not as a variety of conventional CPUs but as a whole new class of products. Although AMD and Intel took different roads to reaching the APU goal, their current products offer a similar set of capabilities: two or four x86 cores, an integrated DirectX 11-compatible graphics core, OpenCL 1.1 support for heterogeneous computing, and dedicated subunits for HD video decoding and transcoding. On the other hand, since each developer has its own priorities and technical experience, the Trinity and Ivy Bridge series are very different and have specific highs and lows due to their design peculiarities. That’s why either series may be viewed as the better one depending on what capabilities of hybrid processors we focus on.
For example, Intel’s products remain unrivalled when it comes to conventional x86 performance. The senior quad-core Socket FM2 APUs from the A10 and A8 series are in between the Core i3 and Pentium in terms of average performance whereas the junior dual-core A6 and A4 are inferior to the Celeron series. AMD tries to make up for this discrepancy by means of pricing, yet not always successfully. The biggest problem of the Trinity family with x86 Piledriver modules is the low performance of the individual execution cores which shows up in many everyday applications.
Instead, AMD can offer much higher 3D graphics performance. With Radeon HD 7000D-class graphics cores with VLIW4 architecture, the Trinity series are much faster than any Ivy Bridge when running 3D games. This is true even for the Core i3-3225 which has the most advanced of Intel’s integrated graphics cores, HD Graphics 4000. In games, the Core i3-3225 can only compete with the AMD A6-5400K but not with the faster Trinity variants. Thus, Socket FM2 configuration without a discrete graphics card can be viewed as entry-level gaming platforms whereas similar configurations with a Core i3-3225 can only be characterized so with many reservations. The other processors from Intel’s Core i3, Pentium and Celeron series have slower versions of the integrated graphics core (HD Graphics 2500 or HD Graphics) and cannot guarantee playable frame rates in modern games even at low resolutions and low visual quality settings.
With their high 3D graphics performance and their architecture optimized for streaming algorithms, AMD APUs turn out to be unexpectedly good at heterogeneous computing. If an application can employ graphics core resources for computations, AMD APUs can show their very best and deliver much higher performance compared to Intel’s CPUs. And such applications are not so exotic nowadays. OpenCL-compatible software is on the rise, such functionality being implemented in many popular video and image editing tools. We have no doubts that there will be more and more such applications in the future.
Ivy Bridge CPUs still remain the fastest solution for basic video transcoding, though. The Quick Sync technology has no rivals as yet, the Trinity’s VCE turning out to be much slower. The bad news is that Quick Sync is only available in Core i3 and higher CPUs and is supported by a limited number of applications. This situation can change in the near future, though. The recent release of Intel Media SDK 2013 has paved the way for the developer community to easily use Quick Sync in their applications.
Intel’s solutions have one more indisputable advantage. The cutting-edge 22nm tech process employed for the Ivy Bridge series and numerous microarchitecture optimizations make the LGA1155 platform much more economical compared to same-class Socket FM2 systems. Thus, Core i3, Pentium and Celeron products seem to be preferable for compact computers or when energy efficiency is the top priority.