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AMD A10-4600M Trinity For Mobile Review: Trying To Cut The Ivy

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged: trinity, radeon, igp, gpu, APU, amd

Introduction, Overview



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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?

Continue reading our review of the AMD Trinity APU!!

Getting The Band Back Together 

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In the image above we have the platform diagrams for Llano (on the left) and Trinity (on the right). As you can see, they are similar. Switching out the old cores in favor of (up to) four new Piledriver cores has not resulted in any radical changes in how a Trinity APU is laid out. 

This means the L2 cache still maxes out at 4MB and you’ll still be receiving a maximum of four USB 3.0 ports in addition to 10 USB 2.0 ports from the A-Series chipset controller. Turbo Core is still implemented in basically the same way (though there have been some enhancements, which we’ll discuss later). Outside of the new Piledriver cores AMD has simply reunited the band for another tour.

Memory is almost the same, but there is now support for low-power ULVDDR3-1333 memory, which features a voltage that limbos under 1.25V. DDR3-1600 memory running at 1.5V is still the quickest supported by the platform.

Another minor change can be found in instruction set support. FMA3 and F16C are now included, joining the previous team of AVX, AVX 1.1 and AES. Including the FMA3 instruction set is a small concession to Intel. AMD had used FMA4 in Bulldozer, but Intel announced that they would not be supporting it and would instead use FMA3 starting with the Haswell microarchitecture. 

For those interested, here’s the full platform definition table for Trinity.

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Trinity’s most significant change is not the platform specifications but rather the thermal design power. Llano only fit within 35W and 45W TDPs, which meant AMD has no answer to Intel’s low-voltage Sandy Bridge processors. With Trinity the entire range has been moved downward and there are now processors with 17W, 25W and 35W TDPs.The fastest Trinity A-Series APU has a significantly lower TDP than the fastest Llano APUs. This change will allow for slimmer systems and should help improve battery life. 

May 14, 2012 | 10:07 PM - Posted by Saumya (not verified)

http://liveoncampus.com/wire/show/3379815
Here is the AMD Demonstration of the Next Generation Trinity Fusion APU For Notebooks.
Further here is an Exclusive interview of the Prominent industry analyst Rob Enderle discussing the future of PC benchmarking in advance of AMD's Second-Generation A-Series APU launch.
With next DX11 capable integrated graphics, the new mobile CPU will still maintain a 17 Watt power envelope.

May 14, 2012 | 11:06 PM - Posted by Shashwat (not verified)

waiting for pcper awesome video series :)

Just like you did for LLano

Thanks for the review :)

May 14, 2012 | 11:14 PM - Posted by tbone (not verified)

good improvement over llano!

wow impressed with battery life against ivy bridge.

looking forward to the 17w version in retail

May 14, 2012 | 11:17 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

I agree. While the 17W part is going to have a fairly gimped GPU (compared to this 35W A10) it will be fast enough for on-the-road use and cheap. I'd really like to see a nice $500 Trinity ultraportable... preferably made by ASUS or Lenovo.

May 15, 2012 | 03:00 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

Now all we need is for someone at PCPer to take an FX-4100 and downclock it to same speeds and lower voltage accordingly to have a direct (well nearly as the L3 cache difference) comparison between Piledriver and Bulldozer.

As for the review it self, well done Matt.

May 15, 2012 | 04:05 AM - Posted by iExcellero (not verified)

First of all, I want to say I'm a HUGE AMD fan, so this was not easy for me to write...

The Trinity is a BIG disapoitment! Why? Because they (AMD) fail to deliver strong graphics performace with usual lack of CPU power to follow that. Ok, A10-4600 has a decent iGPU BUT that is the fastest one! All others are significantly slower. So HD4000 will be faster over all :( And OMG every Trinity APU has its own iGPU specifications! That will not confuse ordinary customer (who only cares about performanse) at all... NOT! And why the 25W and 17W APUs have bigger model numbers?!
And question that was bothering me from release od Bulldozer, who is the genius, better say wizard, in AMD who thought that AMD should sell processors as 1 module = 2 cores? It is 1 module = 1 core with 2 threads, same as Intel. And if they sold them like that it would lower performanse expectations and actually gave AMD better fighting chance. It's not the same to say "8 core AMD can't compete with 4 core Intel i5" and say "ok, 4 core AMD is little bit slower than Intel's i5". Am I right?!
So, lose - lose situation for AMD. I hope that GCN and Steamroller will be step foward for AMD (GPU's FPU integration with CPU modul and real 1 modul = 2 cores performance).

May 15, 2012 | 06:52 AM - Posted by Daedric (not verified)

hi.
Am a bit confused over the results. Anandtech shows Intel HD4000 beating amd in skyrim ??? What driver was used here?
Just wondering ...

The price is what is going to sell this. though I expected better gaming performance , this is gonna get my cash (assuming I manage to avoid pos 1366x768 gloss)

May 15, 2012 | 08:42 AM - Posted by Matt Smith

I don't think our settings were exactly the same, since I used the straight medium detail presets, as they tweaked the AA settings a bit. If I have time I'll try running it again, and seeing if there is any change.

May 15, 2012 | 08:15 AM - Posted by Zanthis

Shout out to my fellow portlander, nice review matt.

May 15, 2012 | 10:30 AM - Posted by Uncle Bob (not verified)

Trinity works for me. It's better in every possible way - CPU/GPU performance and battery life.

Few people use their laptop all day long for number crunching. Unless that is all you do Trinity is by far the better platform and value than Intel even IB with HD 4000 graphics. If you want to pay more and get less, then Intel is the way to go. If you want to pay less and get much more of what typical laptop users need, then Trinity is spot on for the majority of consumers and that's where my paycheck is going.

May 15, 2012 | 10:39 AM - Posted by collie man (not verified)

So, what I take away from this review is if AMD can work this architecture down to a super low heat version {like 40c on full load} than the atom may finally be dead on the cheap silent system. That may be the only chance in hell they have left. Time will tell I supose

May 15, 2012 | 11:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

All is well, but the author of this review forgot about one thing... The iGPU is a standard Northern Islands part, and is going to be CrossFire'able with a discrete AMD GPU part. Why pay for an Ivy Bridge plus a low-to-middle end discrete GPU, if you can have a much stronger Trinity + discrete Radeon dual-GPU gaming rig - for a lower price! I agree it's not going to compete with Intel in raw CPU performance, but in games the Trinity + discrete Radeon combo will be the absolute budget-friendly gaming king. Just as it was with Llano.

May 15, 2012 | 11:52 AM - Posted by Matt Smith

I didn't forget about it. I just can't review what I don't have. I liked the old Llano+discrete system that ASUS K53T put out, and which we use for comparison in this review.

However, those systems are kind of hard to find. There's not much selection. Even the ASUS K53T I reviewed seemed like it was available at retail for a month or two. Then - poof! - gone. Now I can't find it anywhere.

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May 15, 2012 | 11:39 AM - Posted by ChrisB (not verified)

Typo: 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, why pay good "more" for less?

I think you want "money" there.

Solid review otherwise, was hoping for an improvement over K53T. (which is an awesome/cheap laptop btw)

May 15, 2012 | 02:04 PM - Posted by Zicoz (not verified)

Also isn't it supposed to be A10-4600M and not A6-4600M?

And anyone know when we can expect to see machines with the 17w part? And will we see computers that are as small as the ultrabooks "from Intel"?

May 15, 2012 | 06:32 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Thanks, I have fixed this.

May 16, 2012 | 09:39 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

comparing the 35watt trinity to Ivy which has 45watts a 30% power advantage I'd say Trinity is a huge advancement for AMD

May 16, 2012 | 04:06 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That ivy chip is priced at almost 400 bucks (for the cpu only) and its HD4000 is clocked at 1250Mhz, higher than most dual cores will be no doubt.

Joke of a comparison really. Not Pcper's fault, it's all that intel gave them for a reason.

May 16, 2012 | 12:41 PM - Posted by SEA (not verified)

35W 2 modules/4 threads AMD vs 45W 4 Cores/8 threads Intel is highly biased comparison. Particularly failing to show the 30% better battery live in AMDs notebooks

May 16, 2012 | 07:52 PM - Posted by Uncle Bob (not verified)

Tests have shown that Trinity is way ahead of IB HD 4000 graphics so IB is not going to save Intel in the laptop segment. Only a fool would pay hundreds more to get less performance from Intel.

http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1928/1/

June 5, 2012 | 03:54 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Review weak and biased, especially with regard to the gpu. amd drivers are beta / alpha (not sure) of the intel are definitive. llano means already in these reviews. I saw the difference between drivers in a4 330m in 3D Mark06 was 3500pts to 5800pts. learn to predict what will be and not what is pre releases.

February 12, 2013 | 02:46 AM - Posted by VZT (not verified)

Can any1 tell me, if there is a chance/place to buy the same exact laptop that was tested. Or in the worse case scenario the test laptop itself?

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