Next Generation A-Series APUs
AMD has experienced a lot of success in their APU category since its inception in 2011, especially in the mobility space. With their low price and excellent graphics performance, APUs are great for laptops. Unfortunately, AMD hasn’t had much success breaking into the tablet market with their APUs. APUs are also great for entry level systems. They provide processing power on par with Intel CPUs of the same price range, while providing a much superior level of graphics performance. Since the release of the APU, AMD has sat solidly on top of the entry level market. When the second generation of APUs, codenamed Trinity, was released, that position was solidified. For the next generation, AMD’s Richland processors don’t do much in terms of reinventing.
Richland uses the now tested and better-yielding Trinity die and improves on it. The turbo charged Piledriver cores in the Richland APUs have between 2 and 4 cores and have been updated to support the latest ISA instructions like FMA4, AVX, AES, and XOP. In fact, during testing, I was especially impressed by the ability of the A10 APUs in AES encryption tests. The A10 APUs also include 2MB of L2 cache per module (one module = two cores) and higher maximum Turbo frequencies. The A10-6800K can turbo up to 4.4GHz, 200MHz faster than the previous flagship A10-5800K. Of course, the K at the end of the model means that the clock speed is unlocked and can be overclocked more easily.
The real difference in the Richland APUs, however, lies not in the CPU, but in the GPU. The new APUs include AMD Radeon HD 8000 series GPU cores. On the A10-6800K, that means a Radeon HD 8670D with 384 Radeon Cores. The GPU clockspeed is 844MHz and the GPU supports up to 8x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering, although let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It is pretty unlikely that those levels of AA and AF will be used in most games with the A10-6800K and no discrete GPU. The 8670D GPU also supports AMD Eyefinity 3+1 and Display Port 1.2, if motherboard manufacturers play along. They’ll need to if you plan on using that +1 monitor, since it requires a daisy chained Display Port connection.
The other upgrades to the next generation of APUs can be found in the AMD Turbo Core technology. Better yield means stronger processors that can withstand higher clock frequencies and higher voltage levels. That is the main reason for the higher turbo clocks. The new Turbo Cores are also “Temperature Smart”, which I found out means they shutdown a lot more quickly when trying to overclock. The Turbo Core also includes new bottleneck detect algorithms which, hypothetically, would allow the Turbo Core to be more efficient.
Another interesting feature of the new generation of APUs is that they fit into existing FM2 motherboards. That wasn’t the case when AMD upgraded from the first generation of APUs to the second generation. This time, though, you won’t have to upgrade everything at once. You will want to flash your BIOS to the latest version. You can also consider upgrading your RAM, since the Richland APUs support RAM speeds up to DDR3 2133MHz.