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AMD A8-3850 Llano Desktop Processor Review - Can AMD compete with Sandy Bridge?

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

AMD A-series Chipset Features

Along with every new processor (or at least most of the time) comes a new chipset.  The AMD Llano APU launch is no different and the desktop landscape will get a pair of new options with which to pair up against the processor.  The A55 and A75 FCH (Fusion Controller Hub) products have some pretty distinguishing differences that are worth pointing out though most of our readers will definitely want to get their hands on the A75.

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The new chipsets are available on the Llano-only FM1 socket for the Lynx platform and will include your normal collection of features as well as some interesting surprises.  For starters, while the A55 chipset will including six SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports for a lot of storage connectivity, the A75 option upgrades them to SATA 6G (6.0 Gb/s) ports for even faster storage option.  Should you want to connect a SATA 6G ready SSD to your Llano system then you will be able to take full advantage of the technology.  Both offer support for RAID 0, 1 and 10.  The other storage feature is FIS-based SATA port multiplier support that will only be found on the A75.

Oh!  It should be noted as well that if the motherboard you buy for Llano has a UEFI BIOS then it should support the latest 2.5 TB and 3.0 TB hard drives without the use of any kind of add-in card.  That is good news for those of us that horde data like no tomorrow...

The only other differentiating feature between the two chipsets is the USB support.  While the A55 does include a boat-load of USB 2.0 ports (14 in total) the A75 chipset actually is the first to integrate USB 3.0 support natively with support for four of them.  With 10 USB 2.0 ports also support, the A75 will ironically become one of the most powerful chipsets available on one of the lowest priced overall platforms.  

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We have well documented the performance advantages of USB 3.0 on PC Perspective - we love the technology and wish everyone would just freaking adopt it already!  Obviously this information above was provided by AMD so you have to take it for what it's worth, but it is very apparent to anyone that has used it that USB 3.0 is what we all need.  And, with a native solution built into the chipset that Intel can't match yet, it is very likely that performance and integration will be much better on Llano platforms going forward.

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Before we get into the real hardware of the Llano platform on the next page, this final graphic pretty much defines what AMD views as their advantages over Intel are in the battle ahead for 2011.  Obviously these are formed to give us the best overall view of the AMD A-series of APUs but on the surface, these advantages are definitely REAL.  Whether or not they are enough for us to recommend it over the power of Sandy Bridge based Core i3/i5 processors will be seen later in the review.

June 30, 2011 | 02:48 AM - Posted by codedivine

That load power consumption doesn't look too good. Given that the GPU isn't active in a CPU-only test, one would have hoped that the power consumption doesn't approach the 100W TDP. That raises questions about Glofo's 32nm process.

June 30, 2011 | 10:53 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

i digg on them big booty hoe's with them daisy dukes on

June 30, 2011 | 11:46 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Interesting take...

June 30, 2011 | 01:43 PM - Posted by James (not verified)

Considering how little of a CPU the average user uses these days, integrating a CPU into a primarily GPU was a good choice. I would really like to see what the retailers(dell, HP, apple?) do with this chip. Especially if we see some sort of media powerhouse 1 chip Micro-ATX configurations. Right now that kind of field is dominated with some of the Atom type systems which are really lacking in the ability to handle media, if we see price drops in the llano line then it could push atom out of the super-compact media lineup.

Alternatively if it is adapted for mobile processors it could be a cheap solution to integrating discreet graphics on a full size laptop, however that 150W under load would eat a battery in no time.

June 30, 2011 | 04:25 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Actually Llano for the mobile market was launched a couple weeks ago and is already showing up for sale.

http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Processors/AMD-Series-Llano-APU-Sabine-Note...

November 7, 2011 | 10:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Saying this over half a year later, I can confirm this is all true. The atom is currently being destroyed, and apple is rumored to be adopting APUs.

June 30, 2011 | 03:04 PM - Posted by dude (not verified)

AMD is using outdated production process in it's chipsets (65nm) that in part adds to power consumption.

The bulldozer chipset is 65nm.

June 30, 2011 | 06:30 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Eh, that really is not an issue.  The problem with going to a smaller process with these chipsets is really how many transistors they have and need.  Now that we are seeing most of the northbridge functionality on CPUs, there is no real reason to shrink chipset logic.  The problem that we start seeing is that these are already small chips, and if we shrink anymore without adding a bunch of extra features (and therefore transistor count), then we run into the problem of having enough pad space on the die for the substrate and pinouts.  These chips also do not eat a whole lot of power at this time.  Maybe 7 watts at max with two chips?  It was different with the 790GX/890GX chips, as they were in the 15 watt range.  But with the 990FX and SB950 both consuming between 5 and 7 watts combined... not a huge issue for a desktop application.

September 9, 2011 | 05:35 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Read a litle and then write!!!! Both Llano and bulldozer are 32nm like sandy bridge.

July 1, 2011 | 01:03 AM - Posted by Denzil (not verified)

I like the new APU and i want it in some new Del laptops. Please keep a eye on this thanks. I dont like to over spend on any PC for it doing a basic job. thats watching vidio surfing and listting to audio and NO incodeing at all. yet i want to watch UTube and vidio content. I dont want any stutter and good audio. 6 ours batry life is fine 8 would be awsome. It has to have USB 3 ports + Thunderbolt. I think Thunderbalt is dead in the water if you have to buy the lead for 50$ too.

July 1, 2011 | 01:27 AM - Posted by noiserr (not verified)

Why is every reviewer using DDR3 1333Mhz RAM? This review is useless as a result. Llano is very memory bandwidth capped.

July 1, 2011 | 04:23 AM - Posted by funkydmunky (not verified)

Hillarious. So many out of touch. Four cores to do meaneal tasks with actual GFX performance and power consumption that equalls the best. AMD will eat the competition despite reviewers being so removed from the reality of what box stores sales are comprised of. Of course Intel will just use its uber billions to advertise your need for "Intel" in the box, and discount its low end to compete.
Reviewers need to stop focusing on CPU performance when it comes to certain market segments. I have 10+ imidiate family members who could never figure out how to stress a modern CPU if they were offered $$$. But they get pissed in a second when they have crap multimedia. I have yet to hear anyone ever complain that their off the shelf just couldn't keep up with Office for them.
We are all past minimum performance being an issue. Get over it. This new AMD tech struggles in no area, yet the competition has constant issues with price or GFX capability in comparison.

July 1, 2011 | 02:06 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

It is an interesting point of view here. Though I disagree with the statement of "who could never figure out how to stress a modern CPU".

July 1, 2011 | 02:05 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

If you actually read the review you will see a lot of testing done on the graphics side of things with faster memory settings than 1333 MHz.

As for the CPU processing side of things, memory bandwidth makes a noticeable difference in very very few cases.

July 1, 2011 | 09:13 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Quote by reviewer: AMD Dual Graphics is a technology that I think has potential but lacks in some areas that I thought it needed to excel in. The fact that it doesn't support DX9 games completely confounds me and the response from AMD was built around the idea of "time commitments and value propositions." I don't see how DX9 titles, which are still FAR AND AWAY the majority of games out there right now, could not be worth the investment for gaming on the APU.

This is laughable, could not be worth investment for gaming on the APU? The I3 I5 or I7 with HD3000 CAN NOT play the DX9 games, the frame rates are to low. Not only that the image quality is less than video cards from 5 years ago. So which company is lacking an investment on DX9 games? Yes it would be nice to see dual graphics work on DX9 games but the fact is the AMD 6650D IGPU can play them just fine without dual graphics. Maybe you should also note that the HD3000/2000 do not support DX11.

July 5, 2011 | 05:36 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Actually, we mention a few times that only the AMD APU can handle DX11 gaming. But the issue is, DX11 titles are going to be most often run at DX9/10 settings on these performance levels of GPUs.

July 6, 2011 | 08:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This review is lacking. Want to talk about gaming performance, how about a Pentium G620 + $60 discrete graphics?

July 6, 2011 | 10:30 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

That is indeed a good combination there - we just didn't have a chance to test ALL the combinations we wanted too. Soon!

July 7, 2011 | 11:20 PM - Posted by Darren Coull (not verified)

In this video from AMD:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdPi4GPEI74

They were showing how their chip kept plugging away while the mobile i7 ground to a halt due to ineffective multitasking ability.

Does this make any difference in real-world situations? I don't know.

Ryan, have you tried this same test, i.e. comparing the llano when asked to run multiple tasks vs. the Intel i series chips? Just curious if this really is the case, or marketing hype!

July 11, 2011 | 03:22 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

So if you take out the GPU-based gaming from that workload demonstration I think you will find WILDLY different results comparing Sandy Bridge to Llano.

July 8, 2011 | 12:08 AM - Posted by mastrdrver

How well does this multi task though?

While I don't do it, I know several "non gamer" types in my family who like listening to music while surfing the web. I know others do some downloading in the background while playing a game in windows mode so they can switch back and forth between the game and a chat window.

Weird (in my book), but it seems like there are a lot who do these kind of multi tasking things with their systems today.

Love the podcasts by the way. Though, the last couple have had video and audio sync problems (in case you didn't know).

July 17, 2011 | 10:29 AM - Posted by John W (not verified)

Assuming a good watercooling block such as the Corsair h70,and plenty of fans,do you feel this chip has significant O/C capacity?

July 18, 2011 | 06:27 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

In my MC guild, we rolled for gear because we the group was in fact an alliance of 2-3 little guilds operating collectively to create 40-mans achievable. Only merchandise I ever bought was my Pally bracers, a BOE... from the auction home.

October 31, 2011 | 08:13 PM - Posted by Bovinebill (not verified)

That is a totally random comment. What forum were you supposed to be posting that to.

July 19, 2011 | 07:04 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

As usual, a very well written article Ryan. I can tell you really spent a lot of time writing it, unfortunately not all the people commenting seem to care about the time you spent to both research the product as well as actually understand it.

My take on Llano is that they should have stuck to only launching it for "gaming notebooks." There was a toshiba on sale last week with the A8-3850 for $500 and that was the first time i saw an AMD notebook in a long time that actually seemed worth buying at a good price.

I also think a good market for Llano would be gaming nettops. A little Lan box that could play games decent, but nothing like a typical "gaming rig."

August 25, 2011 | 07:12 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

i think its good and im buying it next week along with hd6670...i seen few videos on you tube and im convinced its preety great considering price...so...its for ppl that need PC for new games like me and cant afford to give 2k $ for some beast of PC :) in cross with hd6670 it can play crysis 2 on average of 30-35 FPS so im contend with it :) thx for review :)

September 21, 2011 | 07:08 AM - Posted by K.A. (not verified)

Hi there,
I recently got apu3850 + Radeon HD6850. Any chance to crossfire this combination? Tried it according video tips for apu + 6670, but can't see crossfire option anywhere in AMD Vision Control Panel.

September 28, 2011 | 12:18 PM - Posted by ITXGamer (not verified)

AFAIK, the HD6850 is not supported for Dual Graphics. It's far too powerful to benefit from the onboard HD6550. The HD6670 is the most powerful supported GPU.

November 1, 2011 | 11:43 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm having a similar problem except I have the apu3850 and an HD6770 card... I have the most updated drivers but do not see the "enable crossfire" option in vision center. Any ideas?

October 15, 2011 | 05:16 AM - Posted by geo (not verified)

the APU trades memory bandwidth for more GPU performance; for a weak 64-bit DDR3 6450 it may mean +50% (unlikely), but for a full 256-bit GDDR5 6850 with lots of shaders it may even slow it down ... parallel processing has a cost, if it's added other bandwidth penalty it may be counter-productive ... so NO, you made a pretty bad choice if you miss the 1866 DDR3 support

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