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AMD AM1 Athlon 5350 Reviewed: Low Power, Low Price APU For the Masses

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Conclusion

This was something of a wild ride.  I have always had an attraction to budget and midrange products, and I think a big part of that is seeing where that sweet spot of price vs. performance really falls.  I like to tweak things to see where I can really see some performance games.  The budget and midrange sectors give users the greatest chance for the greatest gains for the lowest overall price.  The AM1 platform is attempting to perhaps not redefine this area, but rather change the conversation about it.  AM1 will likely not overclock worth beans, but the combination of efficiency and a deep feature set will make this product appealing to a significant cross section of consumers.

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AMD saw that there was a market for a product like Kabini at 25 watts.  Previously AMD kept Bobcat at 18 watts, but the extra headroom they are giving Kabini allows for double the cores and a boost in clockspeeds.  Not to mention the jump from the VLIW-5 graphics architecture to GCN!  Kabini also features quite a few fixed function units to offload video playback as well as encoding from the CPU, thereby making the processor even more efficient in commonly used applications and scenarios.

The price is right for these parts as well.  The combination of motherboard and APU will be less than $100 in most instances.  Throw in an inexpensive hard drive, power supply, case, and a single 4 GB DIMM, it will all be available for less than $250 (without OS).  It is a nice combination of performance considering the features that this particular APU brings to the table at 25 watts.  A true quad core running at 2 GHz with a solid GCN based graphics implementation attached makes for a pretty neat part.

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Whatcha gonna do with all that power?  The power delivery system is pretty minimal for a 25 watt TDP APU.

This product is not for everyone, though.  Users who want more graphics and gaming performance from their APU will need to look elsewhere.  Enthusiasts who are willing to spend thousands of dollars on their rigs are going to ignore this.  People who want a very inexpensive, efficient, and feature packed product that can get themselves and their relatives through their regular computing day without issue could very well be interested in this.  It can play a lot of casual games, it can do some interesting things with video and photo editing/presentations, it has the capabilities to show 4K content at 30 Hz.  Good things come in small packages, right?

It is unfortunate that I was unable to get a working Intel Bay Trail D based product in for testing, but all indications point to these AM1 parts outperforming the Intel J1900 and J2900 products across the board.  The only exception of course is that of power.  The Bay Trail parts for the desktop are listed as 10 watt TDP.  We will dig more to see exactly how much more efficient they are as compared to the performance they exhibit against the AMD lineup.

AM1 is not the end-all, be-all of computing.  It is a tightly focused product that is aimed at a certain market.  It will not appeal to all consumers.  It will appeal to some.  It has shown itself to be a nicely performing part that is extremely energy efficient.  AMD won’t blow any hair back with this release, but they do deliver on a product that hits all the major checkboxes for modern home computing.  Now we just have to see if the uptake in the consumer market was worth AMD’s time.  I think it might just be.

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April 9, 2014 | 09:28 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Good review. Nice to see AMD back in the upgradeable low-end arena again unlike it's competitor. I believe in emerging markets this might be a hit as well as HTPC/router/NAS for the rest of us.
Question though how well does this play 4k high bit-rate videos? Does it play the puppy video well?

April 9, 2014 | 09:40 AM - Posted by idiot101 (not verified)

Have you tried streaming the 4K videos posted on YouTube? I would also like to know how well it would handle Bluray playback too.

April 9, 2014 | 09:42 AM - Posted by Pholostan

Nice article :)

AMD did extensive work on the front end (including a beefier branch predictor), re-arranged the integer and SSE/MMX/AVX pipelines to balance out the workload, and improved the caches.

According to Kanter over at Real World Tech, that branch predictor proved to be quite good so AMD implemented it also in Piledriver. I think a evolution of Jaguar keeps getting more and more interesting :)

April 9, 2014 | 09:43 AM - Posted by SKLDRBLDS (not verified)

Quarter of the power, half of the performance.
^This is what tweaks my nethers!!!!!
EPIC JOB AMD!

April 9, 2014 | 10:23 AM - Posted by John Hendrick (not verified)

"It is unfortunate that I was unable to get a working Intel Bay Trail D based product in for testing, but all indications point to these AM1 parts outperforming the Intel J1900 and J2900 products across the board. "

Unlikely.

Anandtech has a few dual core bay trail D numbers, bay trail out performs in some (single threaded), not in others (multithreaded i.e. dual vs quad). The quad core bay trail D, I suspect would come in equivalent to slightly better on the CPU side at lower power while the GPU will be behind, naturally.

April 11, 2014 | 04:07 PM - Posted by Hikingmike

Here's a good comparison at the Tom's Hardware article-
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/athlon-5350-am1-platform-review,3801...

April 9, 2014 | 11:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hey Josh, good review, but can we get a more sensible approach to the power consumption tests? Testing a 25W Kabini with a 500W PSU seems a poor way to go about it. Might I suggest that you guys have a picoPSU for the low wattage Atoms, Kabinis and the like? These chips are likely to end up with external PSUs and in miniature form factors anyway, thus I figure utilizing lower wattage PSUs that are more efficient at these power consumptions, or even make more sense with respect to form factors, seems far more sensible.

Thanks.

April 9, 2014 | 11:34 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I finally did get access to one of those really small power supplies.  I will see if I can't get that up and running this week to test power consumption!  

April 9, 2014 | 11:50 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Awesome! Thanks for the response.

April 9, 2014 | 04:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

if only they allowed overclock it would be a fun toy

April 9, 2014 | 05:38 PM - Posted by WaltC (not verified)

Good review!

April 10, 2014 | 11:13 AM - Posted by Adrian (not verified)

Good benches but please get someone to proofread your stuff before you publish it. Your writing is awful. The sentences are downright confusing, the structure is terrible and your use of punctuation is erratic at best. If it weren't for your profile suggesting otherwise I would have assumed that English is not your first language.

April 10, 2014 | 12:24 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

This article provides good benches, but please employ someone to proof-read your articles before they are published.  Your writing is awful; the sentences are confusing, the structure is terrible, and your use of punctuation is erratic at best.  If it were not for your profile suggesting otherwise, I would have assumed that English is not your primary language.

Thanks for reading!

April 10, 2014 | 05:33 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's a burn. A+.

April 10, 2014 | 11:45 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That was awesome!

April 10, 2014 | 12:51 PM - Posted by luuk (not verified)

can the sempron or athlon (2014 version am1 socket) be crossfired or just have an graphics card like a simple r7 250 or hd7770 or something in it and does it handle stable? plz reply by mailing me @ ownertje@hotmail.com

greets

luuk AKA AMDfan :D

i have a fx8350/r9 270x rig just asking if it could be a sort of mini streaming and light gaming pc like skyrim @ low or something

April 10, 2014 | 10:39 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

You could use a single low-to-low/mid-range graphics card, but CrossFire is basically out of the question. The Kabini chips only support 4 PCI-E 2.0 lanes, but there are AM1 Platform motherboards with x16 slots (that run at a max of x4 electrically).

April 11, 2014 | 09:20 PM - Posted by mmstick (not verified)

Actually, they support PCIE 3.0 x4, not 2.0 x4, which is equivalent to PCIE 2.0 x8.

April 12, 2014 | 01:03 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Nope, Kabini is at PCI-E 2.0.  AMD did this for power and money reasons.  PCI-E 3.0 does take up more power as compared to 2.0.  Certification for 3.0 does take more time and money in the development process.  So for a low cost/low power part like this, they stuck with PCI-E 2.0.

April 11, 2014 | 09:37 AM - Posted by Rauelius

Man, I would love to see an 8-Core Version with a GPU with 1152 Steam Processors for future steam machines. That may make a nice game system.

April 12, 2014 | 07:20 AM - Posted by raghu78 (not verified)

Josh
Kabini A6-5200 is manufactured at TSMC. But Athlon 5350 seems to be manufactured at Globalfoundries, Dresden. The "Diffused in Germany" marking on the heat spreader in the image on this page gives clues that its manufactured at Globalfoundries. Jaguar is a highly portable CPU core design and so is the GCN based GPU. With Athlon AM1, Kaveri, Berlin, Seattle and some console APU production (starting likely in H2 2014) all being manufactured at Globalfoundries, AMD should have no problems meeting the USD 1.2 billion 2014 wafer commitments.

April 12, 2014 | 01:19 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

AMD can't give official word right now on that due to them being in their "quiet period" but it does look like you are correct.  Good for GF, I guess.  Odd that it is diffused in Germany, rather than utilizing the US fabs in NY.  I thought FAB 8 was the primary site for 28 nm HKMG... guess not.

April 13, 2014 | 04:16 PM - Posted by Jon Pennington (not verified)

Josh griped on the podcast that the testing motherboard only had 2 SATA ports, so you can't have fast storage (SSD) AND big storage (spindle) AND optical storage. Optical drives work pretty well on USB 2...

April 13, 2014 | 06:36 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

This is true.  Good plan.

April 21, 2014 | 04:44 PM - Posted by Mark S (not verified)

With such low power consumption, if a board manufacturer made a raid capable board with 6+ Sata III ports, would this make a good NAS / media server? It sounds ideal.

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