Review: AMD A8-3850

Our score: 3/5
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Published: August 23, 2011 11:00 PM
By Régis Jehl
Translated by: Jack Sims
Fruit of the Fusion strategy that was developed on AMD's purchase of ATI, the AMD A-Series APUs combine a standard CPU and graphics part on the same chip. Reserved for netbooks and nettops until now, the AMD APUs are now targeting the entry level desktop segment. We wanted to see if they gave the sort of performance to compete with the Intel Sandy Bridges, which are designed on the same principle.

CPU performance down

From a technical point of view, the A8-3850 has four cores clocked at 2.9 GHz. There's no Turbo feature, nor any equivalent to Intel's Hyper-Threading technology. The chip has been designed for socket FM1, which is different to socket AM3, used up until now for AMD processors.

There has been very little change (L2 cache doubled) to the architecture used on the Athlon II X4 600 and it isn't surprising to see almost identical performance to the X4 635 (also 2.9 GHz) here.

In comparison to Intel, if we limit ourselves to the APU offer (which is to say CPUs with an integrated graphics circuit) the A8-3850 is a good deal down on the Pentium G6950, which is a good deal cheaper, as well as the Core i3 2100. The Core i3 2100 has an average index of 76, while the AMD A8 is at 65.


General performance average
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Power consumption

We now take four readings for APUs, as against two on standard CPUs. We take two readings first of all (at idle and CPU load) with the NVIDIA GTX 275 graphics card so as to keep a point of comparison with processors previously tested. Next we take two more readings using the integrated graphics and it's on these two values that we have based our analysis.

Whichever way you look at it, the A8-3850 doesn't do as well as the i3 2100. At idle we measured the A8 at 50 Watts and the i3 2100 at 42 Watts. With the processor in full load, the A8 runs at 148 Watts and the i3 2100 at 90 Watts. AMD still has some way to go to make up the ground on Intel.

Radeon HD 6550D, the factor that makes the difference

The integrated graphics on the AMD APU however puts it far in front of the Intel solution. The Radeon HD 6550D (DirectX 11 compatible) is 70 % faster than the HD 2000 used in the Core i3 2100. This is a great step forward but still doesn't give enough on the graphics side to dispense with the need for a discrete graphics card for gaming under acceptable conditions. You still have to set all graphics options to a minimum and play with a low resolution to hope to get sufficient fluidity.

Dual Graphics: who will use it?

AMD is proposing Dual Graphics technology to improve on fluidity in gaming. The idea is somewhat comparable to CrossFireX (or SLI from NVIDIA) and consists in running the graphics part of the APU in parallel with a discrete graphics card.

For the time being, the implementation of this technology is rather laborious to put into place and the results not always convincing.

Power Use
Performance: Applications
Performance: Games

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3/5 AMD A8-3850 DigitalVersus 2011-08-24 00:00:00

Pros

  • Impressive absolute performance of integrated graphics

Cons

  • High power consumption in comparison to Intel
  • A faster CPU is required

Conclusion

A great step forward has been made on the APU side with a much improved graphics part. Unfortunately, there still isn't enough graphics muscle to allow you to dispense with a graphics card for gaming. Pure processor performance is also a good deal down on what is on offer from the competition.

OUR SCORE 3/5
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