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.
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.
A screen shot of CPU-Z and GPU-Z confirm much of what we see above.
|Up to 4 “Steamroller” x86 computing cores|
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|
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.
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|
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|
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.
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
- 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!
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.
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.
Here is a quick look at what AIDA64’s Cache & Memory Benchmark reports. No surprises here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.