AMD A10-4600M Trinity For Mobile Review: Trying To Cut The Ivy
GPU Acceleration, Portability, Performance
General GPU Acceleration Performance
Intel has been boasting of its enhanced media acceleration and GPU-compute features found on its processors, such as Intel Quick Sync. They’re not the only one in that game. AMD has offered hardware acceleration support in the past and continues that with Trinity.
How much of an improvement do you receive when you use this feature? Let’s have a look.
The results are all positive, though much more significant in some areas than others. ArcSoft MediaConverter saw a fairly small benefit – only 15 seconds, which represents about a 15% improvement.
However, CyberLink MediaEspresso saw a whopping 50% improvement and WinZip returned a respectable 30% improvement. These results are good, and it’s clear that GPU compute is helping Trinity make up for its weak processor performance. If the feature is available in software you use you’ll see receive a nice boost from enabling it.
The reference platform is not a production laptop, so portability is impossible to judge. I imagine there will be Trinity APUs in systems of all shapes and sizes. I can, however, consider battery life.
According to press data the battery is a 62Wh unit (the reference platform battery doesn’t include this on its label, as it was built for use in Japan). That’s a bit larger than the average mainstream laptop battery, and the results are better than average, as well.
From this data I am guessing that Trinity systems will offer battery life competitive with Intel. The 17W Trinity part could end up being an endurance king.
Early on in the process of writing this review I made a comment to the other PC Perspective writers that summarized my impressions of Trinity. “The GPU is not as good as needs to be and the CPU is better than I expected it to be.”
The addition of the new Piledriver cores has given Trinity a solid boost over what Llano could offer. In some cases the AMD A10-4600M is nearly on par with an Intel Sandy Bridge dual-core. Trinity is still way behind Sandy Bridge, nevermind Ivy Bridge, in per-clock performance. It's not a stretch to say that Trinity is good enough for many users, but then again, Intel offers a competitive or superior value at virtually every price point. Sandy Bridge Core i5 dual-core systems are not expensive. There are a number of them available on Amazon with price tags between $500 and $600.
AMD promises that the lackluster performance of the processor is made up by the Radeon IGP. That’s the entire marketing position of Fusion, and that’s where Trinity stumbles. The problem is not that the IGP is bad. I’m just not sure that it’s good enough. I wonder – why buy a Trinity system instead of an Ivy Bridge dual-core with a low-end discrete GPU? The only answer I can fathom is price, but even then I can’t imagine a mid-range Ivy Bridge Core i3/GT 630M system will cost more than $800.
And let’s not forget that the 7660G is the fastest part AMD offers. The next-quickest has 34% fewer cores than the 7660G (256 vs 384) and a slightly lower maximum clock. Other versions are slower still, with fewer cores and/or lower clock speeds. Intel, on the other hand, ships HD 4000 on every Core branded Ivy Bridge laptop. There are some small clock speed changes, but nothing like what AMD imposes on Trinity. An Ivy Bridge Core i3 might be tough for an AMD A6-4400M to handle even if the Core i3 isn’t rocking a discrete GPU.
Battery life could be a high point. The 62Wh battery shipped in the reference design offered over seven hours of light use, which is solid. If manufacturers don’t skimp on battery sizes the run times of Trinity systems should be competitive with Intel, or better. Still, it’s hard to make a definitive judgment about battery endurance with a single system.
I can’t find a way to look at Trinity that paints a favorable picture. Though certainly an improvement over Llano, it’s not enough. AMD is way behind Intel in processor performance, and the graphics performance does not offer redemption. The only way systems based off Trinity will be made competitive is by slashing and burning the prices.
That's what AMD has done in the past, and that's what they'll do again - A10 based systems are expected to cost $699, which isn't a lot of coin for a quad-core laptop with a decent graphics solution. It's still not low enough to make an AMD-A10 system an easy recommendation. Yes, it's cheap. But you're getting what you pay for.