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AMD A8-7600 Kaveri APU Review - HSA Arrives

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

System Setup and Review Goals

With this release, AMD is attempting to do things very differently compared to other launches and I want to point this out before we go any further.  Over the past 14+ years of doing PC hardware reviews, new processors and graphics cards were always sent to us in a "top down" fashion.  If a high end CPU option was available (whatever the flagship part was) it was the one sent to reviewers for the initial release.  For Kaveri, the first true HSA-ready part, things were set up a bit differently.

When I arrived home from CES last week, I found a box from AMD that I assumed would have all the necessary hardware to allow us to put together the same comprehensive review for our readers that we are used to.  Instead, inside the box was a completely system built around the AMD A8-7600 APU which is the lowest end Kaveri part being announced today for the desktop.  This APU includes 10 compute units (4 CPU and 6 GPU) with a maximum clock rate of 3.3 GHz (Boost to 3.8) in its 65 watt option and 3.1 GHz (Boost to 3.3) for its 45 watt setting.

The A8-7600 differs from the A10-7850K flagship Kaveri APU in several key ways.  First, it has fewer GPU cores (384 SIMD units down from its bigger brother's 512 SIMD units).  That is a drop of 25%.  While GPU clock speeds are the same, the A8-7600 has a 400 MHz disadvantage in base clock so you are likely to see some noticeable performance deltas.  Of course, all of this comes at the price of power. The A8-7600 will be available in both 65 watt and 45 watt TDP options, configurable in the BIOS if the motherboard vendor implements configurable TDPs.  

Let's make it clear: AMD is making a play into the low power space rather than attempting to pit the A10-7850K against the likes of Intel's Core i5 Haswell processor lineup and this is likely because it falters in a lot of areas.  It was spelled out to me that, with the move to 28nm on GlobalFoundries, there were some production differences that made the higher power and higher voltage parts less flexible (and less scalable) than expected.  But, in contrast, the lower end parts like the A8-7600 shown here today can use less power and hit higher performance levels than was previously possible.  

We will test the A10-7850K as soon as we can buy one.  For today, however, the comparisons are going to be quite straight forward as we dive into the world of 45 watt TDPs.  The Kaveri A8-7600 is going to have company in the form of two Richland APUs, the A10-6700T and the A8-6500T, as well as the Intel Core i3-4330.  Intel's Haswell part is a dual-core HyperThreaded unit that has a rated TDP of 54 watts.  Both of the 6700T and 6500T APUs from AMD are rated at 45 watts.  Thanks the configurable TDP options in the system provided, I have results from both the A8-7600 running at a 65 watt TDP and at a 45 watt TDP.

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Keep in the back of your mind that, though the 6700T is an A10 part, the base clock speed of that APU was only 2.5 GHz indicating that the performance of the A8-7600 should be much better (thanks to a 600 MHz edge there).  This demonstrates how Kaveri is able to scale, both because of architecture adjustments and because of process technology changes, when compared to Richland.

The system that AMD provided was built inside a nice looking Mini ITX case from Xigmatek called the Nebula which is not yet officially released.  The motherboard was the Asrock A88X-ITX+ and the memory was AMD's own DDR3 rated at 2133 MHz.  The system OS was Windows 8.1 and it was installed on a Samsung 840 Pro 256GB SSD.  The power supply included was a bit overkill; an Antec High Current 750 watt.  The complete system was used for all APU testing and I must say that really enjoyed my time with the Xigmatek case.  It is well built and fairly easy to work inside for a Mini ITX design.  I'll have a separate story and video on that case in the near future.

For the review of the Intel Core i7-4770K we updated our entire suite of CPU benchmarks and thus we have a new set of results to present.  The review today of Ivy Bridge-E will continue with that same set of tests.

Test System Setup
CPU AMD A8-7600 (Kaveri)
AMD A10-6700T (Richland)
AMD A8-6500T (Richland)
Intel Core i3-4330 (Haswell)
AMD A10-5800K (Trinity)
Motherboard Asrock A88X-ITX+ (Kaveri, Richland)
MSI Z87I Gaming AC (Haswell)
MSI A85 (Trinity)
Memory 8GB DDR3-2133
Storage Samsung 840 Pro 256GB
Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card Integrated
Graphics Drivers Catalyst 13.30 (Beta)
Intel 
Power Supply Antec 750w High Current
Operating System Windows 8.1 x64

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Never mind the odd processor name; AMD was being very security conscious this time around...

So, while I am disappointed in AMD's decision to withhold the A10-7850K from our testing (although I am sure someone will have results today), there is still a lot to be learn about Kaveri and its position as the first HSA-enabled APU from AMD.  From a lower power standpoint, looking at the 45 watt performance levels of Kaveri will be interesting for SFF builders and those of us looking to predict the performance per watt of upcoming Kaveri notebook parts.  Is the new architecture, on the new process, more or less likely to find success in the thin and light notebook markets that are growing without a solid AMD option today?

We will also be able to see the architectural efficiency of the entire APU by comparing it to A8 and A10 parts from the previous generation.  Does the upgraded graphics and CPU core make that much difference in performance when power is limited?  

Let's start with the most interesting capabilities of the APU: gaming and OpenCL.

January 14, 2014 | 08:56 AM - Posted by TinkerToyTech

"Now that it is 2014, AMD has marked off the PCI-E 3.0 checkbox for their OEM partners and have opened the door for future, higher performing FX processors utilizing the FM2+ socket infrastructure."

Editor - should this be FM3+ ??

January 14, 2014 | 09:38 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Not that we know of.  FM2+ is what Kaveri is based on, and it supports PCI-E 3.0.  That socket should be around a long time.

January 15, 2014 | 08:35 AM - Posted by Prodeous

I think the issue was when reading "higher performing FX processors utilizing the FM2+ socket infrastructure."

First thing comes to mind is the FX-xxxx series, not the Axx-xxxx series. hence the reference to AM3+. maybe change "FX" to "steamroller" or some other reference outside of "FX"?

January 15, 2014 | 08:37 AM - Posted by Prodeous

well it seems the person was refering to FM3+ not AM3+ socket.. my bad. got confused :P

January 15, 2014 | 08:49 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Sources at AMD have stated that FX branded processors will be back, but AM3 is a dead end.  These things point to AMD eventually releasing a FX processor on FM2+.  Now, this FX processor will be a APU and not the traditional FX products we have seen so far.

January 14, 2014 | 09:30 AM - Posted by AMDbumlover (not verified)

why are you the only reviewer who didnt get the a10? also what about comparisons with iris pro, is that still in the works?

January 14, 2014 | 11:52 AM - Posted by renz (not verified)

TR doesn't get A10 either

January 14, 2014 | 03:42 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

We definitely were not the only ones to NOT get an A10 part, but we were short on time after CES to go out and source one from a different place, that's for sure.  

January 14, 2014 | 09:44 AM - Posted by gamerk2 (not verified)

CPU wise, not much of an upgrade. Kaveri is sill relegated to low end PC's and laptops.

January 14, 2014 | 10:14 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Sadly, this seems true. I understand now why there won't be an FX Steamroller CPU; it's just nowhere near competitive to the Intel counterparts. As a longtime AMD enthusiast, I am saddened by this, but by the same token, if I were the CEO of AMD, it would be hard for me to make a business case to invest the engineering resources to catch up (strictly referring to integer performance). The future seems to be phablets, tablets, and convertibles.

January 14, 2014 | 10:38 AM - Posted by collie (not verified)

but that is kinda the point isnit? race to the bottom.
Most users but the cheapest option possible, that is why there are so many people with atom (pre silvermont) and low end celeron systems, constantly complaining how shity their laptop is.
A good enough cpu {and lets face it modern day low end cpu's are more than powerful enough for 90% of home users} with a good entry level gpu for around $600 will be the biggest sellers. It's just good business. AMD pushing the low end by making said low end systems good enough to play games at very decent quality will encourage the pc gaming ecosystem to once and for all dominate the console.

January 14, 2014 | 05:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The money(Profits) have never been in High End gamimg, for Intel, at least, and have never been in high end gaming. Intel has always developed for the server, and mainstream market. Intel bases it chips for the enthusiast market arouund its server SKUs, with the server specific functionality removed, or fused off! Intel has always subsidized its gaming SKUs, with its profits from its server, and mainstream sales! AMD can not afford to do this subsidizing, and never really could, to the degree that Intel could! The whole profitable part of the market has shifted to the Moble Tablet/Phone, and low cost laptop/chromebook markets, that is where the money is, and AMD currently can only remain viable as a ongoing concern, by shifting its resources towards the GPU/APU market where it beats Intel, and competes with Nvidia! AMD does provide Intel with plenty of competition in the LOW cost, low to midrange(With Karvei) CPU/APU market! Intel is in deep trouble, in the low cost x86 market, and currently is not a factor in the Mobile CPU/APU market!

Loan AMD half a billion to restart its high end development, and you better have a few billion in reserve for a revolving line of funding, beacuse that is the level of subsidizing that gaming high end development costs!

Put your big money where your pouts are!

January 14, 2014 | 05:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Edit: gaming high end development
TO: gaming high end CPU development

January 14, 2014 | 11:07 AM - Posted by mAxius

well this cements amd's mobile shift they probably have nothing to compete with intel's performence on the desktop/server side till excavator or after... I will give them credit though they were handed a bunch of lemons and made the best lemonade they could.

January 14, 2014 | 01:54 PM - Posted by Chipshot (not verified)

Congrats to AMD! A $120 Kaveri and siblings that beats higher priced Intel i3/i5 at PCMark8 and even the i7-4770k at games like Battlefield 4.

The last time AMD won in PCMark8 over equivalent Intel CPUs they took the majority of market share and with HSA acceleration, TrueAudio and Mantle, they are likely to do it again.

January 15, 2014 | 05:30 AM - Posted by SAnonymous (not verified)

Erm....which graphs are you looking at? Get off the weed

January 16, 2014 | 12:15 PM - Posted by StewartGraham (not verified)

Probably referring to the 7850k APU

January 14, 2014 | 02:03 PM - Posted by Dreadteir

I've always wondered with AMD how long it would be before they try and make a push to have a GDDR5 memory slot included on Fusion Motherboards. Presumably it would give the built in GCN cores quite a boost in performance and gaming.

January 14, 2014 | 02:47 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Intel IPC has been at a virtual standstill since Sandy Bridge (2009) with most of the improvements that do exist coming from tangental features such as dynamic turbo/power modes.

AMD, what the hell are you doing?? Five years. Intel has gifted you five_goddamn_years of making virtually zero IPC progress, and you still can't catch them?

It's like a modern version of the goddamn tortoise and the hare with the hare deliberately doing everything it can to stall on purpose, and yet is still unable to lose the race.

January 15, 2014 | 12:48 AM - Posted by Nilbog

To be fair in the end, the tortoise won the race. Though your point still stands.

I also don't think Intel is stalling for them to catch up (though that would be nice). Intel just plain doesn't care, they consider ARM the threat now. They know AMD isn't going to be catching up for quite a while. Given the way things are going, they can just sit on new stuff until someone actually comes to compete.

January 15, 2014 | 12:53 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Intel is not in the technology improving business, they are in the technology Milking business, Milking those customers for Profit business!!

January 16, 2014 | 12:17 PM - Posted by StewartGraham (not verified)

I'm sure AMD would be just fine if they had Intel's budget.

January 14, 2014 | 03:29 PM - Posted by Dude (not verified)

Everyone is focusing on the APU stuff.

I'm surprised that im about to update my 1st gen i7 940 to a haswell 4770k, and the actual performance gain is *only* 2x. For a 5-6 years update cycle, that is quite disappointing :/

quick question btw, is there a haswell cpu around that price range with no gpu but more power? i wish i could drop the GPU entirelly and spend the same or a tad more money on a faster cpu.

January 14, 2014 | 03:44 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

You can find some models that don't have the GPU portion but they aren't going to run faster than the models WITH processor graphics.  :/

January 14, 2014 | 03:51 PM - Posted by nashathedog (not verified)

Haswell-e is not due yet, Sandy-e or the newer Ivy-bridge-e are the only options. Because Ivy-e uses the same platform as Sandy-e I decided to go with a 4770k for now and I'm saving for when Haswell-e is released. From what I've read that will have a fairly decent performance improvement. Ivy-e is not much better than Sandy-e just like the Sandy/Ivy-Haswell improvements are minimal.

January 14, 2014 | 03:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Please do not forget to define AMD's mobile tablet based APUs use of the Mobile/Full versions of openCL, openGL, etc, as Nivida's Tegra K1, now supports the desktop/descrete GPU, full versions of openCL, etc., on Nvidia's new mobile Tegra K1 based platforms! AMD needs to offer Full version support of OpenCL, etc. drivers on any SKUs that compete with the Nivida Tegra K1s! In the Future, with respect to any reviews of Mobile devices built around the AMD Kaveri mobile APUs in competition with the Nvidia Tegra K1 based mobile devices based "APU Type" CPU/GPU systems, please make sure to tell the reader if the mobile device will allow loading of a full Linux distro, and if that mobile divice's CPU/GPU APU, or "APU" type(Nvidia k1, etc) system supports the full openCL, etc. versions of the drivers! I am seriously looking for the K1 based tablet devices, and their K1 based ability to run full desktop style applications via full version openCL, OpenGL driver support, to allow me to run Blender 3d(Light Mesh Modeling) and Gimp for graphics, on a mobile tablet, that can run a full Linux Distro. Full openCL, openGL driver support on a Tablet/Mobile processor(K1, YES), (Kaveri, ??), is big news, and I look forward to your device reviews.

January 14, 2014 | 04:22 PM - Posted by Sean (not verified)

here's the problem, One chip, one price, just like how the Nvidia didn't get the consoles.. all three.. they will not be able to beat the price/performance point. I own two NVidia cards. from a business stand point, this spells bad news for Nvidia and anyone else in the smaller factor market. lots of power, all in one, less Watts. this is not high end. I hope they release high end chips but.. I'm beginning to think its not going to happen in the economy

January 14, 2014 | 06:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What did the post, that you replied to, have to say, about what you are talking about? the Poster needs full Linux capability, and full OpenCL, OpenGL from a Mobile "APU"/APU type device(tablet) Nvidia's K1, can provide FULL openCL, openGL support, and the poster hopes AMD can provide an equivalent level of support, with its competiting SKUs!
The poster will buy any tablet, even it was made by marvin the martian, if it meets the posters needs, the poster wants a tablet that runs a full linux rooted distro, that can run Blender 3d, and gimp(both reguire Full OpenGL, and Maybe some Full OpenCL support, and run under windows[Hell no], or Linux)! the Poster would prefer a mobile x86 AMD platform(if it has full OpenGL, openCL, etc. support like The K1), but will use the K1 if there is A blender 3d, and Gimp, Arm based build available, to run on the linux distro based ARM platform! The K1 will compete very well in its intended form factor against the AMD kaveri tablet APUs! BUT no Blender 3d, no Gimp, and No full linux rooted distro, on the tablet, NO BUY!

January 16, 2014 | 12:24 PM - Posted by StewartGraham (not verified)

The Poster's statement was poorly written and incredibly verbose making it more difficult to distill relevant content.

January 14, 2014 | 07:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Good upgrade when compared to the previous generation... it is matching and at times even beat the A10 5800K despite being a lower end part. Yes, it doesn't beat a core i3 in single threaded stuff but the multi-threaded performance is decent.

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