AMD A10-7850K Kaveri APU Review

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AMD APUs continue to evolve with better graphics and compute performance with each new release. The Kaveri APUs are no different in this regard and attempt to redefine the landscape for what can be done on a single chip solution. Several new technologies have been introduced since the release of Trinity and Richland APUs, which we’ll explore today. AMD sent along the A10-7850K APU for us to have a look at, which is the flagship model for the Kaveri line. So, let’s dive into this latest APU offering from AMD and see what they have in store for us.

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Specifications and Features

Here are the major specifications for the A10-7850K APU as pulled from the AMD press deck we were provided. There are a few things noticeable right from the start when looking at the below specifications. First, you’ll need a FM2+ motherboard (A88X chipset) in order to use the Kaveri APU. You can install the older Trinity and Richland APUs into a FM2+ motherboard, but Kaveri APUs won’t work on older FM2 (A85X chipset) motherboards. You’ll also notice that AMD has implemented support for 2400 MHz memory and their Mantle API for the iGPU.

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A screen shot of CPU-Z and GPU-Z confirm much of what we see above.

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Breaking away from the Piledriver core architecture found on the Trinity and Richland APUs, AMD has opted to use four Steamroller x86 cores on the Kaveri A10-7850K APU.

Up to 4 “Steamroller” x86 computing cores
  • Support for the latest ISA instructions including FMA4/3, AVX, AES, XOP
  • Up to 2MB L2 cache per dual-core module (up to 4MB total)
  • Maximum Turbo Frequencies up to 4GHz
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amd_a10-7850K (3) amd_a10-7850K (6)
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The A10-7850K also incorporates eight GCN-based R7 series GPU cores, which support all of AMD’s latest technologies, including Eyefinity, 4K resolutions, TrueAudio, and dual graphics.

Up to 8 GCN-based GPU cores
  • Up to 512 shaders
  • Up to 720MHz
  • 8xAA and 16xAF Support
  • DirectX®11.2 Support
  • Mantle Support
  • AMD Eyefinity Technology2 and 4K Ultra HD Support
  • DisplayPort 1.2 Support
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The FM2+ platform offers several enhancements from previous AMD platforms. Most notable is official support for 2400 MHz memory, Crossfire, and PCI-E Gen 3.

FM2+ Platform Highlights
  • Backwards compatible platform means support for other FM2+ APUs new and old
  • PCI Express Gen 3 support
  • AMD CrossFire support with AMD A88X motherboards and above
  • AMD Memory Profile (AMP) support for up to DDR3-2400MHz
  • AMD Dual Graphics3 support with AMD Radeon™ R7 graphics cards
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The HSA Heterogeneous Computing technology makes its debut with Kaveri APUs and promises better interoperability between the CPU and GPU cores. Both the hUMA (Heterogeneous Unified Memory Architecture) and hQ (Heterogeneous Queuing) work together to allow shared access to the system memory by both the CPU and GPU cores. This allows CPU and GPU cores to schedule tasks independently of each other. AMD claims 12 compute cores (4 CPU/8 GPU) linked together with the HSA technology, which in turn means GPU cores could theoretically handle tasks similar to the CPU cores. Software developers will need to optimize their applications to take advantage of HSA technology in order for us to reap the benefits, so hopefully, it will be widely adopted.

HSA Hetereogeneous Computing
  • hUMA – Heterogeneous Unified Memory Architecture enables shared memory between CPU and GPU cores
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AMD’s TrueAudio Technology makes its way to the R7 based iGPU found on the A10-7850K. Because TrueAudio has a dedicated DSP, it unloads that function from the CPU. This allows developers more freedom to enhance audio performance without impacting CPU performance.

AMD TrueAudio Technology
  • Dedicated DSP for true-to-life audio with no performance compromise
  • Enable dynamic 3D sound processing effects across more audio channels
  • Programmable audio pipeline grants artistic freedom to game audio design
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If you have been following the AMD APU products over the last couple of years, you may have noticed that the Kaveri A10-7850K actually has a reduction in both CPU and GPU clock speeds when compared to the Richland APU. The Richland A10-6800K CPU speed is 4.1 GHz stock/4.4 GHz boost, but the Kaveri A10-7850K sits at 3.7 GHz stock/4.0 GHz boost. However, AMD claims the Steamroller cores offer a 20% greater IPC (instructions per second) performance boost over previous APUs, which should actually equate to improved performance even at the reduced clock speed.

On the graphics side, we also see a reduction in clock speed from 844 MHz down to 720 MHz. However, by shifting to the GCN architecture and increasing the shader cores up to 512, we should actually see a performance boost over previous iGPU iterations. We’ll find out during our benchmark tests if the new technologies built into the CPU and iGPU indeed correlate to better performance, even at slightly slower clock speeds than the previous generation APUs. To that end, AMD’s own in-house testing does show impressive numbers when compared to their own A10-6800K and Intel’s i5-4670K.

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Photo Op

Ok, so I admit it. A CPU or APU isn’t the most photogenic or interesting piece of hardware to look at. Nonetheless, we’ll do our due diligence and provide a few pictures for you. Worth noting is Kaveri’s pin count difference from Trinity and Richland, which is the reason you’ll need a FM2+ socket motherboard to accept the added pins.

AMD Kaveri A10-7850K APU

AMD Kaveri A10-7850K APU

AMD Kaveri A10-7850K APU

AMD Kaveri A10-7850K APU

AMD Kaveri A10-7850K APU

AMD Kaveri A10-7850K APU

AMD Kaveri A10-7850K APU

AMD Kaveri A10-7850K APU

Benchmarks

Test System

  • AMD Kaveri A10-7850K APU
  • ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+ Motherboard (BIOS P2.40)
  • AMD Radeon Gamer Series DDR3-2400 MHz 2X4 GB Memory
  • OCZ Vertex2 240 GB SSD
  • Thermaltake Smart M 750 Watt PSU
  • Swiftech H220 LCS AIO Water Cooler

CPU Side Testing

The first thing we’ll provide is a head-to-head comparison of the Trinity A10-5800K, Richland A10-6800K, and today’s A10-7850K review sample. The first set of tests will focus on CPU performance, which will give us a good idea of how AMD’s performance is progressing now that we are a few generations in. All the APUs were tested at their stock settings and with the memory set to their respective officially supported speeds.

Beginning with SuperPi and wPrime, we see very impressive gains when compared to the earlier APUs. When compared to the Richland A10-6800K, gains of anywhere from 15% to 21% were recorded. Those are pretty staggering numbers when you take into account the CPU is running 300 MHz slower than the Richland APU. The IPC enhancements AMD speaks of make themselves known here!

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SuperPi 1M and wPrime 32M results

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SuperPi 32M and wPrime 1024M Results

Cinebench R10 and R11.5 show an ever so slight increase in performance over the Richland APU. While the Kaveri A10-7850K handily beat out the older Trinity A10-5800K, it was pretty much equal in performance to the A10-6800K and its 300 MHz faster clock speed. The scores are within the margin of error though, so it’s pretty much a wash between Kaveri and Richland here.

Cinebench R10 Results

Cinebench R10 Results

Cinebench R11.5 Results

Cinebench R11.5 Results

PoV Ray and x264 testing show the Kaveri A10-7850K again taking the win on all benchmarks. Here we see anywhere from a 3% to 6% gain in performance, depending on the test.

PoV Ray 3.73 and x264 Results

PoV Ray 3.73 and x264 Results

Here is a quick look at what AIDA64’s Cache & Memory Benchmark reports. No surprises here.

AIDA64 Cache & Memory Benchamrk

AIDA64 Cache & Memory Benchamrk

GPU Side Testing

As we migrate over to the iGPU testing, we’ll again compare performance against the Trinity A10-5800K and Richland A10-6800K. Because our GPU testing procedure has changed since the Trinity and Richland reviews were performed, I’ll have to resort to a few select benchmarks from the old suite of tests. I’ll also be able to toss in a couple Intel iGPU results for comparison here too. However, don’t think the Kaveri APU will escape our current testing procedure. We’ll run it through the full suite of games and compare it to a couple of lower-end discrete cards. This will give you a good idea of just how close AMD’s APUs are coming to discrete video card performance. Let’s begin the GPU testing from our older suite and use the Trinity, Richland, Intel 3770K, and 4770K for comparisons. Follow the links above to learn how each benchmark is configured.

The synthetic testing shows us a complete sweep for the A10-7850K. The three tests we used showed anywhere from a 26% gain all the way up to a staggering 50% gain in HWBot Heaven when compared to the Richland APU. Certainly nothing to argue about there.

3DMark 11 Results

3DMark 11 Results

3DMark Vantage Results

3DMark Vantage Results

HWBot Heaven Results

HWBot Heaven Results

Continuing with our older game benchmarks, I chose four titles from that suite. Here again, we see the A10-7850K sweep the field as expected. All four of these games were set to their maximum settings. Given the results below, if you’re willing to lighten up on a few of the settings, a playable frame rate could easily be achieved.

Alien vs Predator Results

Alien vs Predator Results

Civilization V Results

Civilization V Results

Dirt 3 Results

Dirt 3 Results

Metro 2033 Results

Metro 2033 Results

There is no denying the Kaveri A10-7850K is in a class of its own when it comes to integrated graphics. We were hoping to see AMD make noticeable gains in this area, and it appears they didn’t disappoint.

Moving over to our new GPU testing procedure, we’ll introduce an AMD reference R7 260 and HIS R7 250 into the mix. I went ahead and locked the A10-7850K at 4.0 GHz to match the frequency we test on the Haswell platform. It’s no secret that a discrete video card will perform better on a 4770K Haswell based system than on an AMD A88X based system, that much we know. So, given that we’re testing discrete video cards that were tested on the Haswell platform against Kaveri’s iGPU, we don’t expect the A10-7850’s iGPU to be able to keep up. However, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of gains have been made and how close to discrete-like performance AMD is getting with their APU progression.

Our synthetic tests show pretty much what we expected to see. While the A10-7850K’s iGPU couldn’t keep up with the discrete cards, the difference was less than we expected. Heck, I remember the days when you couldn’t even graph an iGPU on the same chart as a discrete card because of the huge number differences. Those days are gone, and the gap is definitely narrowing.

3DMark Vantage Results

3DMark Vantage Results

3DMark 11 Results

3DMark 11 Results

3DMark Fire Strike Results

3DMark Fire Strike Results

HWBot Heaven Results

HWBot Heaven Results

Moving to our new set of games, we see the A10-7850K’s iGPU able to complete all the game tests under max settings. While the frame rates are far from playable under these conditions, relaxing a few settings will result in a playable experience. The take away from this is that AMD’s iGPU technology is definitely improving with each new release.

Batman: Arkham Origin Results

Batman: Arkham Origin Results

Battlefield 4 Results

Battlefield 4 Results

Bioshock Infinite Results

Bioshock Infinite Results

Crysis 3 Results

Crysis 3 Results

Final Fantasy XIV: ARR Results

Final Fantasy XIV: ARR Results

Grid 2 Results

Grid 2 Results

Metro: Last Light Results

Metro: Last Light Results

Overclocking

Overclocking on the CPU side of things easily resulted in a 1 GHz overclock from the base clock of 3.7 GHz. This landed us at a stable 4.7 GHz with the memory still set to 2400 MHz. A quick 15 minute run of AIDA64’s System Stability Test, and we’re off and running! Pay no attention to the temperatures that AIDA64 shows, they are not accurate. AMD overdrive shows accurate temperatures, but in a manner we are not accustomed to seeing. AMD Overdrive now shows a thermal margin reading instead of the actual core temperatures. Supposedly, the thermal margin reading indicates how much headroom is left before the maximum operating temperature is reached. If the temperature monitoring is correct, it still shows a substantial amount of temperature headroom even with 1.45 V being sent to the CPU.

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With the CPU at 4.7 GHz, let’s check a few benchmarks for performance increases. As you can see by the screenshots below, the A10-7850K scaled beautifully, and huge gains were had over our stock test results. Once again, there certainly isn’t anything to gripe about here.

SuperPi 1M at 4.7 GHz

SuperPi 1M at 4.7 GHz

SuperPi 32M at 4.7 GHz

SuperPi 32M at 4.7 GHz

wPrime 32M & 1024M at 4.7 GHz

wPrime 32M & 1024M at 4.7 GHz

Cinebench R10 at 4.7 GHz

Cinebench R10 at 4.7 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 at 4.7 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 at 4.7 GHz

Ok, now that we have the CPU side overclocked about as far as it will go, let’s turn our attention to the iGPU side. Just to make sure the CPU side overclocking didn’t get in our way, I set it back to stock speeds for this testing. I’ll try to combine the two shortly. I was able to get the iGPU side up to 1000 MHz with only a sight bump in NB/GFX voltage. I ran 3DMark Fire Strike and HWBot Heaven at this speed; and just like we saw with the CPU overclocking, things scaled very well.

3DMark Fire Strike iGPU @ 1000 MHz

3DMark Fire Strike iGPU @ 1000 MHz

HWBot Heaven @ iGPU 1000 MHz

HWBot Heaven iGPU @ 1000 MHz

I think you’ll agree that the overclocking ability of this APU is pretty impressive and holds true for both the CPU and iGPU.

Pushing the Limits

Adding another 100 MHz to the CPU and another 20 MHz to the GPU put me right at the limit achievable without using dangerous voltages. I performed a quick run of SuperPi 1M and 3DMark Fire Strike at these speeds… pics below!

SuperPi 1M @ 4.8 GHz CPU / 1020 Mhz iGPU

SuperPi 1M @ 4.8 GHz CPU / 1020 Mhz iGPU

3DMark Fire Strike @ 4.8 GHz CPU / 1020 MHz iGPU

3DMark Fire Strike @ 4.8 GHz CPU / 1020 MHz iGPU

Conclusion

AMD certainly improved the performance level of their APUs with the Kaveri release. You have to tip your hat to them for leading the way into the realm of heterogeneous computing. While it’s true software developers will have to adopt HSA for us to see the most benefit from it, you can’t deny the potential advantages it can provide should they decide to do so. Harnessing the compute power of both the GPU and CPU can only stand to benefit the end user, so hopefully, developers adopt the idea and provide applications that take advantage of it.

None of the tests we use take advantage of HSA, but we still witnessed good gains from previous APU releases. Even at a reduced CPU clock speed from that of its predecessors, the A10-7850K outperformed them due to improved IPC performance. However, these IPC gains have the potential to be minimized depending upon the task at hand as we saw in a couple of our tests. On the iGPU front, AMD continues to dominate, and it only got better this time around. Leveraging the R7 graphics, the GCN architecture, and TrueAudio, AMD continues to push iGPU capabilities. The Mantle API also makes its way to the iGPU this time around, so when and if game developers begin to utilize it on a large scale, it’ll be ready.

On the enthusiast front, overclocking was very fruitful. Both the CPU and iGPU overclocked extremely well and scaled nicely along the way. On a side note, I did use the AMD Overdrive software to do most of the overclocking, and it worked flawlessly. AMD Overdrive has all the tools you need to get the most from this APU right from the desktop… it certainly has matured over the years.

So, how much will this latest AMD APU cost you? You’ll be happy to know AMD has kept the sub $200 pricing intact. Newegg is currently offering the A10-7850K for $189.99 and that includes a Battlefield 4 game coupon too. Good deal? Most definitely!

I’ll reiterate what I said at the conclusion of the Richland APU review last year with AMD’s catch phrase of “the sum is worth more than the individual parts.” To that end, AMD delivers again with the Kaveri A10-7850K. If you’re looking to build an inexpensive system or are a gamer that doesn’t mind turning a few settings below their maximum, this could be the all-in-one APU you’ve been looking for.

Overclockers_clear_approvedClick the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)

 

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Discussion
  1. ...AMD has gone to no had crafting for the extra bit of ooomph. The reason why performance of the long-awaited Bulldozer was below expectations is not only because it was late, but because AMD had adopted design techniques that did not allow it tweak performance.

    Management decided there should be such cross-engineering ,which meant we had to stop hand-crafting our CPU designs and switch to an SoC design style.
    Dolk
    Basically the article is saying that this is the first generation of this type of architecture. It seems that it was a semi-rush job, ie. using automated wiring methods. AMD may or may not replace the FX line with this new architecture. So it looks like Piledriver may be the last for a bit of time.


    Also: This Kabini article.

    i`d build a kabini based htpc.
    Basically the article is saying that this is the first generation of this type of architecture. It seems that it was a semi-rush job, ie. using automated wiring methods. AMD may or may not replace the FX line with this new architecture. So it looks like Piledriver may be the last for a bit of time.
    @Lycoyote

    Yes that is what I meant. I'm not familiar with the new terms. I may have to pickup one of these APUs. I'm very interested in some aspects.
    Interesting how much better the Super Pi and WPrime times were, Lvcoyote, did you use the Bulldozer conditioner software, when running those? I'm not even sure if it will work on these Apu's but I'm curious.
    I'm really hoping to see AMD APU's get a foothold on the business side of things, Intel just seems to have a strangle-hold that can't be broken.

    Nice review, graphic improvement was a nice surprise :D
    Damn. I wanted to see what the iGPU's impact had as a whole to the system. Old software may not be able to take advantage of the mantle process just yet. I was hoping to see if the architecture could identify specific processes without the aid of drivers.
    Dino can you do something really awesome for me?

    OC the CPU and run Wprime or any other heavy parallel process (preferably something to deal with FP and INT cores). Than OC the iGPU and run Wprime. After those two, OC CPU and iGPU together and see what you get.