Battle of the IGPs
Our long journey with Frame Rating, a new capture-based analysis tool to measure graphics performance of PCs and GPUs, began almost two years ago as a way to properly evaluate the real-world experiences for gamers. What started as a project attempting to learn about multi-GPU complications has really become a new standard in graphics evaluation and I truly believe it will play a crucial role going forward in GPU and game testing.
Today we use these Frame Rating methods and tools, which are elaborately detailed in our Frame Rating Dissected article, and apply them to a completely new market: notebooks. Even though Frame Rating was meant for high performance discrete desktop GPUs, the theory and science behind the entire process is completely applicable to notebook graphics and even on the integrated graphics solutions on Haswell processors and Richland APUs. It also is able to measure performance of discrete/integrated graphics combos from NVIDIA and AMD in a unique way that has already found some interesting results.
Battle of the IGPs
Even though neither side wants us to call it this, we are testing integrated graphics today. With the release of Intel’s Haswell processor (the Core i7/i5/i3 4000) the company has upgraded the graphics noticeably on several of their mobile and desktop products. In my first review of the Core i7-4770K, a desktop LGA1150 part, the integrated graphics now known as the HD 4600 were only slightly faster than the graphics of the previous generation Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge. Even though we had all the technical details of the HD 5000 and Iris / Iris Pro graphics options, no desktop parts actually utilize them so we had to wait for some more hardware to show up.
When Apple held a press conference and announced new MacBook Air machines that used Intel’s Haswell architecture, I knew I could count on Ken to go and pick one up for himself. Of course, before I let him start using it for his own purposes, I made him sit through a few agonizing days of benchmarking and testing in both Windows and Mac OS X environments. Ken has already posted a review of the MacBook Air 11-in model ‘from a Windows perspective’ and in that we teased that we had done quite a bit more evaluation of the graphics performance to be shown later. Now is later.
So the first combatant in our integrated graphics showdown with Frame Rating is the 11-in MacBook Air. A small, but powerful Ultrabook that sports more than 11 hours of battery life (in OS X at least) but also includes the new HD 5000 integrated graphics options. Along with that battery life though is the GT3 variation of the new Intel processor graphics that doubles the number of compute units as compared to the GT2. The GT2 is the architecture behind the HD 4600 graphics that sits with nearly all of the desktop processors, and many of the notebook versions, so I am very curious how this comparison is going to stand.
Introduction, Virtual V-Sync Testing
In my recent review of the Origin EON11-S portable gaming laptop I noted that the performance of the laptop was far behind that of a larger 15.6” or 17.3” model. The laptop won a gold award despite this, as all laptops of this size are bound to physics, but it was an issue worth nothing.
Origin surprised me by responding that they had something in the works that might buff up performance. This confused me. Were they going to cast a spell on it? Would they beam in a beefier GPU? What could they possibly do that would increase performance without changing the hardware?
Now I have the answer. It’s called Lucid VirtuMVP and it uses your existing integrated GPU to improve performance. As with Lucid’s other products, VirtuMVP makes it possible for two different GPUs – in this case, your integrated GPU and your discrete GPU – to work together. It’s not magic – just ingenuity. Let’s take a closer look.
Introduction, Driver Interface
There exist a particular group of gamers that are consumed by dreams of gigantic dual-SLI laptops that replace towering desktops. And who can blame them? Walking into a LAN party with a $5,000 laptop under your arm is the geek equivalent of entering a party wearing a $2,500 jacket or driving through your neighborhood in a $250,000 car. We can dream, right?
On the other hand, those super-powerful laptops are a bit...boring from a critic’s standpoint. Why? Because they are almost always excellent machines (due to price) and because most readers gandering at a review (of an expensive gaming laptop) I pen about will never buy one – again, due to the price.
Most folks – even many geeks – lust over a beefy gaming rig, but end up buying a $600 to $1000 multimedia laptop. This is the laptop that the average person can actually afford, regardless of his or her enthusiasm about computer hardware.
In the past, this market segment was a gaming wasteland, but that began to change about five years ago. The change was due in part to the fact that many game developers started to veer away from (a focus on) jaw-dropping graphics in favor of expanding their potential markets by going after clients with average/medium-range hardware.
About two and a half years ago Intel (again) committed to raising the bar on integrated graphics with the release of Intel HD and has since consistently improved its IGP offering with each new generation. AMD has done the same with its Fusion products and NVIDIA (already in the game with its numerous x10/x20/x30M products) just recommitted to power efficient GPUs with its Kepler architecture.
These changes mean that “serious” gaming is now possible on an inexpensive laptop. But how possible? What sacrifices do you make and how do low-end IGPs and GPUs stack up against each other?
Subject: Processors | May 16, 2012 - 02:29 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: trinity, radeon, igp, gpu, APU, amd. A10-4600M
AMD's A10-4600M APU has finally arrived, showing off an enhanced Piledriver core and a new Northern Islands based graphics core. This is a big step up from Llano in terms of general processing power but not a huge improvement over Bulldozer chips, though the raised clock speed does help it in general tasks. Unfortunately the AMD still chip lags far behind the performance of Intel's mobile i5 processors and while the graphics are certainly more powerful on Trinity they still aren't up to an impressive level of performance. The Tech Report liked the high end A10-4600M but think that Trinity's low power chips are really going to shine in inexpensive ultraportable machines.
You can also check out Matt's review of Llano in a reference laptop from AMD for more information.
"AMD has pulled the curtains back on Trinity, its next-generation APU, which features new Piledriver CPU cores and Northern Islands-derived integrated graphics. Join us as we outline Trinity's architecture and run it through a whole host of benchmarks, from old staples to OpenCL-accelerated apps and "inside the second" gaming tests."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- AMD Launches New Trinity APU @ TechwareLabs
- The AMD Trinity Review (A10-4600M): A New Hope @ AnandTech
- AMD A10 'Trinity' APU review @ Hardware.Info
- AMD Launches New 2012 A-Series APU (Trinity) @ Bjorn3d
- AMD Trinity Preview @ Neoseeker
- AMD Trinity A10-4600M APU Review: Jumping the Shark? @ VR-Zone
- AMD Trinity: Going Mobile with a New APU @ Hardware Canucks
AMD’s position is not enviable. Though they’re the only large competitor to Intel in the market for x86 processors, the company is dwarfed by the Giant of Santa Clara. As a resident of Portland, I can’t forget this fact. Intel offices are strewn across the landscape of the western suburbs, most of them at least four times larger than any office I’ve worked at.
Despite the long odds, AMD is set in this course for now and has no choice but to soldier on. And so we have today’s reference platform, a laptop powered by AMD’s latest mobile processor, codenamed Trinity. These processors, like the older Llano models, will be sold as the AMD A-Series. This might lead you to think that it’s simply another minor update, but that’s not the case.
Llano was released around the same time as Bulldozer, but it did not use Bulldozer cores. Instead it used yet another update of Stars, which is a mobile incarnation of Phenom II, which was of course an improvement upon the original Phenom. The “new” Llano APU in fact was equipped with some rather old processor cores. This showed in the performance of the mobile Llano products. They simply could not keep up with Sandy Bridge’s more modern cores.
Bulldozer isn’t coming to mobile with Trinity, either. Instead we’re receiving Piledriver. AMD has effectively skipped the first iteration of its new Bulldozer architecture and moved straight on to the second. Piledriver includes the third generation of AMD’s Turbo Core and promises “up to 29%” better processor performance than last year’s Llano-based A-Series.
That’s a significant improvement, should it turn out to be correct. Is it true, and will it be enough to catch up to Intel?
Subject: General Tech | October 19, 2011 - 12:23 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: jon peddie, igp, egp, hgp
Jon Peddie refers to the SandyBridge family as EGPs, embedded graphics processors, and AMD's Llano series as HPGs, heterogeneous graphics processors, but whatever the label they may sound the death knell for IGPs. He does not see any sign that this new industry practice of including a usable GPU in their CPU having much effect on the discrete graphics card market, apart from the bumps when they were first introduced. Compared to the IGPs of previous generations both Llano and Core i3 graphical capabilities are far beyond anything we have seen, but compared to the current generation of graphics cards they cannot stack up. While it seems obvious that the discrete market will stay, not only because of the current generations power but also because of the faster evolution of the GPU compared to the CPU, one segment of the graphics card market will likely be disappearing. NVIDIA and AMD have been fighting for the sub-$100 market, flooding that price point with a variety of cards that differ by as little as $5 between models. Now that your new CPU will have the equivalent graphical processing power, why would someone toss money away on a low cost GPU? Hopefully this does not mean a resurgence of GPUs that cost $1000+.
"In 2011, with the full scale production of scalar X86CPUs with powerful multi-core, SIMD graphics processing elements, a true inflection point has occurred in the PC and related industries. And, as a result, the ubiquitous and stalwart IGP- integrated graphics processor, is fading out of existence. For several reasons, many people believed (and some hoped) the CPU and the GPU would never be integrated:
- GPUs are characterized by a high level of complexity, with power and cooling demands, and dramatically different memory management needs.
- GPU design cycles are faster than those of the CPU.
- The GPU has grown in complexity compared to the CPU, exceeding the transistor count, and matching or exceeding the die size of the CPU.
- The x86 has steadily increased in complexity, power consumption, and become multi-core."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Google will redirect all its accounts to SSL search @ The Inquirer
- ARM, TSMC tape out first 20nm ARM Cortex-A15 multi-core processor @ DigiTimes
- Stuxnet-derived malware found infecting SCADA makers @ The Register
- AMD's FX-8150 further overclocked @ The Tech Report
- Intel mocks PC slowdown, laughs at skittish economy @ The Register
- NVIDIA GeForce LAN Day 2 & 3 Coverage @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: Processors | June 30, 2011 - 12:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: lynx, llano, igp, amd, a8-3850, 6550d, 3850
Long story short, the new AMD A8-3850 simply can't compete with Intel's SandyBridge processors as an x86 CPU but as an integrated GPU it is better than anything we or The Tech Report have seen before.
The actual story is far more complicated for the Llano true quad core processor. On the CPU side of the APU equation, it can handle the Core i3-2100 which is it's closest competition on the majority of multithreaded tasks, though it falls behind on single threaded applications. The price war is also on AMD's side as you would need to pair a discrete GPU with the i3-2100 in order to match the graphics performance. The other very important are where AMD falls is power consumption; sure at idle it uses very little power but when operating at full speed it consumes almost as much power as an i7-2600.
On the GPU side we see better gaming performance than anything else out there, assuming you stick to DX10 and DX11 games as DX9 games can have some issues with Llano. That holds especially true of Hybrid Crossfire, as when Ryan paired the A8-3850 with discrete Radeon cards he ran into difficulties in some games. You can read about that in his full review.
"AMD's "Llano" APU makes a compelling proposition as a laptop chip, but its position on the desktop is more precarious. Read on to find out why—and whether it can overcome that hurdle."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- The AMD A8-3850 Review: Llano on the Desktop @ AnandTech
- AMD Llano A8-3850 APU @ TechwareLabs
- AMD A8-3850 Llano APU Review @ OCC
- AMD A8-A3850 APU and Lynx @ Bjorn3d
- AMD A8-3850 Llano APU & Gigabyte A75M-UD2H Review @ Neoseeker
- AMD A8-3850 APU Review: The Arrival of Llano @Hi Tech Legion
- AMD A8-3850 (Llano) APU and A55/A75 Chipset @ Tweaktown
- AMD A8-3850 APU @ Overclockers.com
- AMD Llano A8-3850 APU and Gigabyte A75-UD4H Launch Review @ HardwareHeaven
- AMD A8-3850 APU Review: Llano Hits the Desktop @ Hardware Canucks
- AMD A8-3850 Llano APU @ Techspot
- AMD Llano APU: The Future is Fusion @ InsideHW
- Intel Pentium G850, Pentium G840 and Pentium G620 @ X-bit Labs
Subject: Processors | June 30, 2011 - 10:51 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: lynx, llano, igp, amd, a8-3850, 6550d, 3850
AMD (NYSE:AMD) today announced availability for the AMD Fusion A-Series Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) A8-3850 and A6-3650 desktop processors. The AMD A8-3850 and A6-3650 desktop processors will enable a high- performance experience for desktop users, including brilliant HD graphics, supercomputer-like performance, and incredibly fast application speeds.
Both the AMD A8-3850 and A6-3650 desktop processors combine four x86 CPU cores with powerful DirectX®11-capable discrete-level graphics, and up to 400 Radeon™ cores along with dedicated HD video processing on a single chip. Only AMD Fusion APUs offer true AMD Dual Graphics, with up to 120 percent visual performance boost*, when paired with select AMD Radeon™ HD 6000 Series graphics cards. Consumers can achieve supercomputer-like performance of more than 500 gigaflops compute capacity and enjoy rapid content transfers via USB 3.0.
All A-Series processors are powered by AMD VISION Engine Software, which is composed of AMD Catalyst™ graphics driver, AMD OpenCL driver and the AMD VISION Engine Control Center. With this suite of software, users get regular updates designed to improve system performance and stability, and can add new software enhancements.
With a suggested retail price of $135, the AMD A8-3850 desktop processor operates at 2.9GHz (CPU) and 600MHz (GPU) with 400 Radeon™ Cores, 4MB of L2 cache and a TDP of 100W.
The AMD A6-3650 desktop processor has clock speeds of 2.6GHz (CPU) and 443MHz (GPU) with 320 Radeon™ Cores, 4MB of L2 cache and a TDP of 100W. The suggested retail price of the AMD A6-3650 desktop processor is $115.
In an increasingly digital and visually oriented world, consumers demand more responsive multitasking, vivid graphics, lifelike games, lag-free videos, and ultimate multimedia performance. AMD A8-3850 and A6-3650 desktop processors enable these visually stunning end-user experiences.
FM1 motherboards for the A-Series APUs are available now from leading original design manufacturers (ODMs), including ASUS, ASRock, Biostar, ECS, Foxconn (Hong Hai Precision), Gigabyte, Jetway, MSI and Sapphire.
AMD A8-3850 and A6-3650 desktop processors are scheduled to be available for purchase through system builders and at major online retailers, including Amazon, CyberPower Inc., iBuyPower, Newegg and TigerDirect beginning July 3, 2011. Additional processors are scheduled to be available later this year.
AMD A8-3850 and A6-3650 desktop processors, and the corresponding FM1 motherboards, were created with desktop consumers and gamers in mind.
Just a couple of weeks ago we took the cover off of AMD's Llano processor for the first time in the form of the Sabine platform: Llano's mobile derivative. In that article we wrote in great detail about the architecture and how it performed on the stage of the notebook market - it looked very good when compared to the Intel Sandy Bridge machines we had on-hand. Battery life is one of the most important aspects of evaluating a mobile configuration with performance and features taking a back seat the majority of the time. In the world of the desktop though, that isn't necessarily the case.
Desktop computers, even those meant for a low-cost and mainstream market, don't find power consumption as crucial and instead focus on the features and performance of your platform almost exclusively. There are areas where power and heat are more scrutinized such as the home theater PC market and small form-factor machines but in general you need to be sure to hit a homerun with performance per dollar in this field. Coming into this article we had some serious concerns about Llano and its ability to properly address this specifically.
How did our weeks with the latest AMD Fusion APU turn out? There is a ton of information that needed to be addressed including a look at the graphics performance in comparison to Sandy Bridge, how the quad-core "Stars" x86 CPU portion stands up to modern options, how the new memory controller affects graphics performance, Dual Graphics, power consumption and even a whole new overclocking methodology. Keep reading and you'll get all the answers you are looking for.
We spent a LOT of time in our previous Llano piece discussing the technical details of the new Llano Fusion CPU/GPU architecture and the fundamentals are essentially identical from the mobile part to the new desktop releases. Because of that, much of the information here is going to be a repeat with some minor changes in the forms of power envelopes, etc.
The platform diagram above gives us an overview of what components will make up a system built on the Llano Fusion APU design. The APU itself is made up 2 or 4 x86 CPU cores that come from the Stars family released with the Phenom / Phenom II processors. They do introduce a new Turbo Core feature that we will discuss later that is somewhat analogous to what Intel has done with its processors with Turbo Boost.