AMD A8 3870K APU Gaming Media Centre

By Muhammad Faisal 0 comments

AMD A8 3870K APU

AMD A8 3870K APUNot to be outdone by new graphics releases AMD is going back to the APU Processor drawing board with its new AMD A8 3870K.

While its flagship Bulldozer FX processors are failing to shine, AMD has a chip that at the other end of the market really ought be cleaning up. Its LIano Fusion APUs, which combine a multi-core CPU and a Radeon graphics chipset all into one die, are actually rather good low-cost gaming chips.

They may be based on older processor architecture, but quad-core examples such as this AMD A8 3870K hold their own against Intel's similarly priced dual-core Core i3 processors in CPU benchmarks.

When it comes to 3D tasks such as gaming, the on-board AMD Radeon HD 6550D is simply in a different league to Intel's laggardly HD Graphics 3000 cores. The on-board graphics in the AMD offerings are capable of gaming with decent settings at decent resolutions.

Trinity: Dodge this

And if you've ever tried working with Intel's onboard graphics to get any of your contemporary games running adequately, you will know that's not something that you could ever pin on its pixel-pumping silicon. How could they get better? We'd like chunky price drop, but that's not going to happen.

There are plans afoot for the Trinity APUs to hit the shelves sometime in the summer. These will combine the latest Bulldozer FX technology (itself a refresh codenamed Piledriver) as well as Radeon HD 7000 series graphics technology on die.

AMD Radeon HD 6550DNot to be outdone by new graphics releases AMD is going back to the APU Processor drawing board with its new AMD A8 3870K.These APUs could potentially sit happily at the  heart of a serious gaming rig, but they are not ready yet and so, what have we got to tide us over?

AMD has refreshed its LIano lineup and introduced 'Black Editions' of the chips, recognizable by their 'K' suffix. Just like Intel chips with a 'K' monitor, they come with an unlcoked multiplier, which makes them more suitable for overclocking enthusiasts.

Now, you might think that anyone who wants to overclock a chip will be looking at something a little more high-end than these very basic processors, but the entire raison d'etre for overclocking is to turn something cheap into an unexpected powerhouse. An unlocked, gaming-capable hybrid chip for just over Euro 100 sounds like the stuff hardware hackers' dreams are made of. But does it deliver on that promise?

OC ready?

A stock AMD A8 3870K APU ships with its CPU set at 3GHz and the graphics core clocked at 800MHz. Attempt to increase these weren't exactly stellar - it ramped straight up to 3.4GHz/800MHz, but any attemps to go further were frustratingly unstable.

Wit more fine-tuning and a really good CPU cooler, have seen reports of much higher clockspeeds, but are not overly convinced that it's ultimately worth it for the performance.

Perky APU

It's shame really considering that we managed to get the original 2.9GHz A8 3850 up to 3.7GHz with mimial fuss. The difference between motherboard technology seems to be vital to getting anywhere near the top speeds from AMD A8 3870K APUs.

Additionally, it's unlikely that motherboard manufacturers are going to get behind this particular platform with any high-end boards that are full of good, stable overclocking features, because potential purchasers just aren't going to spend the extra they will cost to make.

Still, since the AMD A8 3870K APU is already available for less than its non-tweakable predecessor, the A8 3850, the unlocked multiplier is more of a pleasant extra to have. And if you do your research you should be able to find a motherboard, such as the Asus F1A75-V Pro, that will make use of the unlocked multiplier.

But even if our dream of overclocking one of these  APUs to outperform an Intel Core i7 isn't going to happen the AMD A8 3870K APU is still a great little chip.

The CPU part of Liano however, was never in much doubt. Based on the same architecture as Athlon II and Phenom II with a die shrink, it's old but still capable.

Because it has four native cores it outperforms and Intel Core i3 in tasks such as media rendering, although Intel's computational engine is still superior in games - even if its graphics lags far behind.

For a workplace system, then, the AMD A8 3870K APU is an exceptional choice, and it'ss beat a similarly priced Core i3 system at everything. It gets a bit more complicated if you're after a budget system that game at 1080p - to use as a media centre, for example.

Mix 'n' match

Even overclocked, the AMD A8 3870K APU alone isn't an alternative to discrete graphics - although it does come very close if you're willing to sacrifice graphics quality, Battle Field 3, for example, is close to being playable at 1,920 x 1,080 with low image quality settings. Which are still bloody good looking. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim at similar settings runs like dream.

If you're thinking of adding in a mid-range graphics card, such as the Radeon HD 6870 or even something as powerful as Nvidia's GeForce GTX 560 Ti, though, Intel just wins though - although it's a draw in games that are CPU limited, such as Total War: Shogun 2 and Skyrim.

AMD's architecture does have the curious disadvantage of performing slower in CPU benchmarks when discrete graphics are attached too.

But that leaves one feature that we haven't discussed yet which brings us down in favor of AMD. That feature is Asymmetrical CrossFire, which is the ability to use both the AMD A8 3870K APU graphics and a low-power GPU, such as an AMD HD 6670, for a gaming experience that's capable of playing most games at 1080p with medium settings. That's a hell of a thing in AMD's favor.

Enough that while it's not going to be our chip of choice for a workstation or enthusiast games rig, if you want a small, low-cost PC which is capable of playing occasional games at console quality, it's a steal.

The potential to overclock is a bonus, but really not enough by itself to make us favor this chip over any other quad core LIano. Where it comes into its own is as either a flexible platform for a quad core office machine or as a capable gamer PC with Asymmetric CrossFire.
Vital Statistics
Price AMD A8 3870K $193 approx.
Manufacturer AMD
Core speed 3GHz
Cores 4
L2 cache 4MB
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6550D
GPU speed 600MHz
GPU cores 400
Socket FMI

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