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AMD A8-3870K Unlocked Llano APU Review

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MAC

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Over the years there have been some noteworthy IGPs, the ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated into the 780G chipset comes to mind as one product that was head and shoulders above the rest. However, no matter how much better they were than their predecessors, past IGPs still never really provided a pleasing gaming experience.

This historical truth is one of the reasons why we were so impressed with the A8-3850 when we first reviewed it. The 32nm quad-core Llano A-Series APU (Accelerated Processor Unit) featured the first integrated graphics processor that was able to provide a satisfying level of performance in contemporary games. Even the lower-end A6-3650, which has 25% less shader cores and a 35% lower GPU clock, proved to be a quantum leap better than any of the IGP variants found in Intel’s Sandy Bridge lineup.

Ironically, despite being Llano's claim to fame, the IGP is not the most important aspect of the APU model that we are reviewing today. What we are interested in is that the A8-3870K has unlocked multipliers for both the CPU and GPU portions. While we had reasonable success overclocking our A-series APUs, this was achieved by increasing the APU bus and this approach can be fraught with complications since it has an affect on the core clock, the GPU clock, the memory frequency, the NCLK, and the PCI-E/SATA/USB interfaces. By being able to freely adjust the multipliers, we should now be able to not only circumvent any secondary bottlenecks, but also achieve a better and faster overclock.

As you will see on the next page, aside from the unlocked multipliers and a very minor frequency bump, this new model is pretty much identical to the A8-3850, but thankfully it only comes with a $10 price premium too.

A8_3870K_APU_2.jpg
 

MAC

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Codename 'Llano' - A Quick Look at the A8-3870K APU

Codename 'Llano' - A Quick Look at the A8-3870K APU


A8_3870K_APU_8.jpg

Before we dive in and take a closer look at the A8-3870K, we just want to remind those of you who are interested in the Llano APUs but haven't yet read our earlier reviews to check out the following sections from our previous articles:


With that out of the way, let's take a peak at the table below to see how this new model compares to the previous A-series APU offerings:

A8_3870K_APU_3.jpg

So as mentioned in the intro, the A8-3870K is pretty much identical to the A8-3850. They are both 32nm native quad-core processors, with 256KB of L1 cache, 4MB of L2 cache, 100W TDP, and they both have the same excellent Radeon HD 6550D GPU with 400 shader cores, 8 ROPS, and a 64-bit memory bus. The A8-3870K is distinguished by an incremental 100MHz frequency bump and the unlocked multipliers. Thankfully, this new K model does not carry much of a price premium, retailing at about $145 versus $135 for the locked chip. The ease of overclocking definitely justifies the minor additional expense. On a site note, AMD has also just released the A6-3670K, which is basically an A6-3650 with a 100Mhz higher core clock and unlocked multipliers.


As you can see, the A8-3870K sample is physically identical to the other A-series APUs, as well as the previous Athlon II and Phenom II series. This is a socket FM1 chip so it has 905 pins, instead of AM3's 938 pins, but AMD have wisely decided to keep the same AM2/AM3 mounting bracket for the FM1 socket, so all your previous CPU coolers will be re-usable. Our particular sample was manufactured in the 32nd week of 2011, which is 9 weeks later than our A6-3650 and 13 weeks later than our A8-3850.



Much like Intel have done with Sandy Bridge, AMD have elected for a 100Mhz reference clock on the A-series APUs, which they aptly call the APU bus. Unlike Intel’s approach though, this new APU bus has good a bit of overclocking headroom, with early results ranging from 133Mhz to 150Mhz.

Thanks to some new power-saving features and the 32nm manufacturing process, these new chips can undervolt themselves by an incredible amount when idle. As you can see in our screenshots, our sample would dip down to 0.444V when idle, while requiring up to 1.392V under full load, both of those figures are identical to our A8-3850.
 

MAC

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Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology



For this review, we have prepared four different test setups, representing all the popular platforms at the moment, as well as most of the best-selling processors. As much as possible, the four test setups feature identical components, memory timings, drivers, etc. Aside from manually selecting memory frequencies and timings, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.

AMD Llano FM1 Test Setup​
A8_3870K_APU_9.jpg

Intel Core i7 LGA2011 Test Setup​
A8_3870K_APU_10.jpg

AMD Zambezi AM3+ Test Setup​
A8_3870K_APU_11.jpg

AMD Phenom II AM3 Test Setup​
A8_3870K_APU_12.jpg

Intel Core i5/i7 LGA1155 Test Setup​
A8_3870K_APU_13.jpg

Intel Core i3/i5/i7 LGA1156 Test Setup​
A8_3870K_APU_14.jpg

Intel Core i7 LGA1366 Test Setup​
A8_3870K_APU_15.jpg

For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks are applied to Windows 7 and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • UAC – Disabled
  • Indexing – Disabled
  • Superfetch – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan – High Performance
  • V-Sync – Off

D) Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates

E) All programs are installed and then updated, followed by a defragment.

F) Benchmarks are each run three to eight times, and unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged..

Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • 3DMark06 Professional v1.2.0
  • 3DMark Vantage Professional Edition v1.1.0
  • 3DMark11 Professional Edition v1.0.2
  • 7-Zip 9.22 beta 64-bit
  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition v1.85.1641 Beta / v2.00.1719 Beta
  • Cinebench R10 64-bit
  • Cinebench R11.529 64-bit
  • Civilization V 1.0.1.383
  • Crysis v1.2.1 64-bit
  • Crysis 2 v1.9 + DX11 Pack + HiRes Texture Pack
  • Deep-Fritz 12
  • DiRT 3 v1.2.0
  • Far Cry 2 v1.03
  • HyperPI 0.99b
  • Lame Front-End 1.0 (LAME 3.97 32-bit codec)
  • Left 4 Dead 2 v2.0.8.9
  • LuxMark v1.0
  • MaxxMEM² - PreView v1.90
  • PCMark 7 Professional Edition v1.0.4
  • Photoshop CS4 64-bit
  • POV-Ray v3.7 RC3 64-bit
  • SPECviewperf 11
  • Street Fighter IV Benchmark V1.0.0.1
  • Team Fortress 2 v1.1.7.6
  • TrueCrypt 7.1
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark v1.0.0.0
  • WinRAR 4.0.1 64-bit
  • World in Conflict Demo v1.0.0.0
  • wPRIME version 2.05
  • x264 HD Benchmark 4.0
  • X3: Terran Conflict Demo v1.0

That is about all you need to know methodology wise, so let's get to the good stuff!
 

MAC

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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results



One of the reasons that we are particularly pleased that AMD has released unlocked A-series APUs is that it will eliminate many of the overclocking-related issues and bottlenecks that we have experienced in the past on this platform. When increasing the APU bus, the VGA display output would quickly start to fail, so sticking with DVI was a must.The native USB and SATA ports also had a tendency to drop out once a certain bus speed was reached. Thankfully you could get around this issue if your motherboard had a third-party USB or SATA controller, but with unlocked multipliers you can get around all these issues. You might still have to increase the APU bus a tiny bit to maximize your overclock, but for most people adjusting the multipliers will be enough.

While overclocking this A8-3870K we decided to keep it simple. With regard to voltage, at least with our ASUS F1A75-M PRO, we simply set the CPU voltage to 1.50V with Load-Line Calibration set to Medium, VDDNB at 1.30V, APU1.2V at 1.30V, and DRAM voltage to 1.55V (or whatever your modules need).


Highest Stable CPU Overclock




As you can see, we were able to overclock our sample to almost 3.63Ghz. This is a tiny bit worse than the 3.71GHz that we were able to achieve with our A8-3850, but nearly all these Llano processorss fall within the 3550-3800MHz range with mainstream cooling solutions. Voltage doesn't really help increase headroom all that much with Llano, and since this sample has a default voltage of 1.392V, the increase it to 1.50V really should not much effect on longetivity. The full load temperatures were 50C flat with our Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme and two 120mm 1600RPM 63.7CFM fans.

So although the unlocked multipliers did not really allow to reach any new overclocking heights with respect to the CPU portion, it did allow us to reach our maximum overclock much easier and much faster. AMD is only charging an extra $10 for this convenience when compared to the A8-3850, and considering that hassles you are avoiding it is worth the price premium.

By the way, for those wanting to see just how fast the A8-3870K is while running at 3.63GHz, we have included in our numerous benchmarks.


Highest Stable GPU Overclock




The unlocked multipliers definitely proved advantageous when it came to squeezing every last megahertz from the GPU portion though. While we managed to hit a 942MHz GPU clock on our A8-3850, that was achieved by upping the APU bus to a lofty 157MHz which is not a feat that most will be able to accomplish without spending many hours tweaking, fiddling and failing.

On the other hand, achieving our GPU overclock on the A8-3870K literally took minutes. All we had to do was select a GPU frequency from a list in the BIOS, save, reboot and test. In end, we settled on 960MHz at the highest stable GPU frequency. We tried increasing the APU bus to 101MHz in order to reach 970MHz, but everything from 970MHz to 1028MHz would artifact a bit at our self-imposed 1.30V APU voltage limit.

Now 960MHz is a 60% increase over the 600MHz default GPU clock, so we can expect some exceptional performance from this already class-leading IGP, the results for which you can see in our IGP Gaming Benchmarks section.
 

MAC

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Synthetic Benchmarks: AIDA64 / MaxxMEM² / SiSoft

Synthetic Benchmarks: AIDA64 / MaxxMEM² / SiSoft




AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.85 - CPU & FPU Benchmarks


A8_3870K_APU_18.jpg
A8_3870K_APU_19.jpg

A8_3870K_APU_20.jpg


AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.85 - Cache Benchmark


A8_3870K_APU_21.jpg


AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.85 - Memory Benchmarks


A8_3870K_APU_22.jpg

A8_3870K_APU_23.jpg


MaxxMEM² - Memory Benchmarks


A8_3870K_APU_24.jpg

A8_3870K_APU_25.jpg


Sisoft Sandra 2011.SP5 - Memory Benchmarks


A8_3870K_APU_26.jpg

A8_3870K_APU_27.jpg


Sisoft Sandra 2011.SP5 - Cache Benchmarks


A8_3870K_APU_28.jpg

 

MAC

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Synthetic Benchmarks: SuperPI 32M / wPRIME 1024M

Synthetic Benchmarks: SuperPI 32M / wPRIME 1024M



SuperPi Mod v1.5


When running the SuperPI 32MB benchmark, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system. We are running one instance of SuperPi via the HyperPi 0.99b interface. This is therefore a single-thread workload.

A8_3870K_APU_29.jpg


wPRIME 2.03


wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum. This is a highly multi-threaded workload.

A8_3870K_APU_30.jpg
 

MAC

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System Benchmarks: Cinebench R10 / Cinebench R11.5

System Benchmarks: Cinebench R10 / Cinebench R11.5



Cinebench R10


Cinebench R10 64-bit
Test1: Single CPU Image Render
Test2: Multi CPU Image Render
Comparison: Generated Score


Developed by MAXON, creators of Cinema 4D, Cinebench 10 is designed using the popular Cinema software and created to compare system performance in 3D Animation and Photo applications. There are two parts to the test; the first stresses only the primary CPU or Core, the second, makes use of up to 16 CPUs/Cores. Both are done rendering a realistic photo while utilizing various CPU-intensive features such as reflection, ambient occlusion, area lights and procedural shaders

A8_3870K_APU_31.jpg


Cinebench R11.5


Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
Test1: CPU Image Render
Comparison: Generated Score


The latest benchmark from MAXON, Cinebench R11.5 makes use of all your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene using various different algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects containing more than 300,000 total polygons and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights and shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. This particular benchmarking can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. The result is given in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.

A8_3870K_APU_32.jpg
 

MAC

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System Benchmarks: Deep Fritz 12 / POV-Ray 3.7 RC3

System Benchmarks: Deep Fritz 12 / POV-Ray 3.7 RC3



Deep Fritz 12 - Chess Benchmark


A8_3870K_APU_33.jpg


POV-Ray 3.7 RC3


A8_3870K_APU_34.jpg
 

MAC

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System Benchmarks: LFE / Photoshop CS4 / x264 HD 4.0

System Benchmarks: LFE / Photoshop CS4 / x264 HD 4.0



Lame Front End


Lame Front End v1.0 is a single-threaded application, which means that it only utilizes a single processor core. This will obviously limit performance but it will allow us to gauge a processor's single-threaded performance as well as test any turbo feature that it might have. We will be encoding a WAV rip of Santana’s Supernatural album and converting it to MP3 using the highest fidelity VBR 0 quality preset.

A8_3870K_APU_35.jpg


Photoshop CS4 64-bit


For the image editing portion of this review, we will use Photoshop CS4 in coordination with Driver Heaven’s Photoshop Benchmark V3, which is an excellent test of CPU power and memory bandwidth. This is a scripted benchmark that individually applies 15 different filters to a 109MB JPEG, and uses Photoshop’s built-in timing feature to provide a result at each test stage. Then it’s simply a matter of adding up the 15 results to reach the final figure.

A8_3870K_APU_36.jpg


x264 HD Benchmark v4.0 x264


x264 HD Benchmark v4.0 x264
Test: MPEG-2 HD 720P Video Clip Conversion to x264
DVD Video Length: 30 Seconds
Comparison: FPS of Second Pass

x264 is quickly becoming the new codec of choice for encoding a growing number of H.264/MPEG-4 AVC videos. Think of it as the new Divx of HD and you can understand why we felt it critical to include. Tech Arp's recent development of the x264 HD Benchmark takes a 30 second HD video clip and encodes it into the x264 codec with the intention of little to no quality loss. The test is measured using the average frames per second achieved during encoding, which scales with processor speed and efficiency. The benchmark also allows the use of multi-core processors so it gives a very accurate depiction of what to expect when using encoding application on a typical full length video.


A8_3870K_APU_37.jpg
 

MAC

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System Benchmarks: TrueCrypt / LuxMark / SPECviewperf

System Benchmarks: TrueCrypt / LuxMark / SPECviewperf




TrueCrypt 7.1



A8_3870K_APU_38.jpg



LuxMark v1.0



A8_3870K_APU_39.jpg



SPECviewperf 11



A8_3870K_APU_40.jpg
 
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