AMD A8-3850 : An HTPC Perspectiveby Ganesh T S on June 30, 2011 6:20 AM EST
Present day consumers use their PCs for multimedia intensive tasks such as HD video playback. These HTPC tasks are not very power efficient when done using the x86 processor alone. Gamers have remained the main focus of the GPU developers. However, the GPU architecture (coupled with a dedicated video decoder on the same silicon) is quite useful for video playback and post processing also. This lightens the load on the x86 processor, and so, even consumers who rarely game opt to go for a discrete HTPC graphics card.
Intel used to integrate the GPU into the chipset till the GMA X4500. In Clarkdale, the integrated GPU became a part of the processor package itself, and eventually became a part of the main die in Sandy Bridge. The GMA X4500 and later models have a very efficient decoder, and renders a discrete HTPC graphics card redundant for most entry level users. AMD, unfortunately, had support for integrated graphics in only some of their chipset models. That is set to change today, as Lynx (the desktop version of the Llano) makes its way into the market. Ever since AMD acquired ATI, a processor with AMD's x86 CPU and ATI's GPU on the same die was hotly expected. The Lynx integrates a number of AMD Stars cores and also an updated Redwood class GPU (called Sumo) into the same die.
GPU Area in the Llano vs. GPU Area in Sandy Bridge (Die shots approximately to scale)
GPU support for basic HD video decoding and the 3D fad (Blu-rays) is provided by all the current platforms from Intel, AMD and NVIDIA. From an HTPC perspective, mainstream consumers have started feeling the need for good, flexible video post processing capabilities also. Discrete AMD GPUs are well respected in the HTPC community, and the Redwood class GPUs have been used to override the Clarkdale's IGP in many a setup. Can the Sumo wrestle the spot away from Intel HD3000 Graphics in HTPCs?
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Targon - Friday, July 1, 2011 - linkNew vs. open box....it's like comparing the price of a used car vs. a new car, it's not in the same market.
Yes, a car that is three years old drops in value by 45-55 percent, so you can get a used car that is better in most respects for the same money, but who knows how the original owner treated the car, if there are problems, etc. Buying new vs. used....
You will be able to get an open box AMD motherboard for super-cheap too, so where's your advantage once THAT happens?
maroon1 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - link
Obviously, 4GB DDR3 1600MHz for $38 is going to have poor timing, and it is not going to performs as good as the one that anandtech tested
rockrr - Saturday, July 2, 2011 - linkI’m not a technowiz like many of the AT readers are, (I read AR to learn.) I am a gamer and build my own machines. I agree that the ability to upgrade CPU and GPU separately is cost effective and allows for customizing for the best performance to suit your needs. Also it allows for recycling of components to upgrade other systems.
Anato - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - linkCouldn't agree more. There is feeling that no way AT could let AMD to be good at something. In mobile market there was this magical performance metric i7-2630QM+GTX460M (which obviously is not a competitor to Llano) on top of the char.
And yes AMD is not as good as Intel at x86 but the whole point of Llano is different. AMD clearly chose to set more area for the GPU and make it affordable as a platform.
In general would be better to compare what user can get with given price range. CPU-price is only 1/2 of the story, then there is motherboard and Intel chipped motherboards are generally more expensive.
prdola0 - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - linkThat is entirely untrue now. It used to be the case but that time is now gone (it has been for a while, but you obviously missed it). It gets even better with H61.
maroon1 - Friday, July 1, 2011 - linkNo one would buy a P67 unless you want to use discrete GPU
A good quality H67 can be found as cheap as $75
And H61 cost only $60
ganeshts - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - linkduploxxx, I agree wtih you on almost all the points.
But, AMD has a good discrete GPU background now and taken in that context, the HTPC performance is not up to the mark.
People don't care about post processing if they can't even play their camcorder videos. With a proper dGPU (targeted towards HTPCs), they can play and also get post processing done on the same clip. Why is the ESVP feature enabled by default when it doesn't work as intended?
When I heard about the high end Llano, I expected it to fully replace the discrete HTPC GPU. Unfortunately, that is not happening (pending some magical driver updates?)
kev18 - Thursday, July 7, 2011 - linki second the comment made.....I have an AMD based HTPC already......i was excited to hear the new integrated CPU/GPU and may be it is time to upgrade..... but after hearing the problem playing files on hard drive, I think i willl wait for this to be more mature before buying........may be i should consider buying a 6xxx GPU card so that i can get HD-DTS
Gigantopithecus - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - linkThanks for the review, Ganesh. I have a quick question: though the Antec Skeleton is a far less than ideal testbed for an HTPC, do you have any numbers or subjective impressions of the noisiness of the stock HSF?
Also, from your reported power consumption numbers, your setup should run on an external power brick or picoPSU. The Antec PSU you used is a bottom-barrel model that's not even 80+, and during local HD file playback, is pulling ~10% of the PSU's rated output. That is, you're at the bottom end of the efficiency curve of a non-efficient PSU. It would be nice to see idealized or even more accurate power consumption numbers. Furthermore, I understand that you can only benchmark what you're actually sent, but as an HTPC builder, I'm having trouble thinking of a scenario when I would use the A8-3850 for HTPC duties...
Finally, when you say "our expectations from the desktop Llano were much higher," well, what were you expecting? The issues with BRD and HD video file playback all sound like software, not hardware problems. Llano's not for sale on Newegg, so hopefully AMD will work out the kinks with its partners before or shortly after retail availability. I personally am extremely impressed by the power consumption numbers. Depending on the cost of the lower-end Llano SKUs and assuming they provide good enough computing (I can't wait for an HD 6410D APU to be tested), I'll likely cease building i3-based HTPCs.
ganeshts - Thursday, June 30, 2011 - linkWe were provided an ATX motherboard for review with the 100W TDP processor. Our benchmarking setup was chosen with future reviews in mind too. We had no idea is mind how the power consumption numbers would play out before choosing the PSU.
Today is the launch date for the processor. So, this review is just an inkling of how the 6550D (which is also there in the A8-3800 with 65W TDP) will perform currently for HTPC duties. It is targeted towards DIYers who want to build a HTPC right away (and our conclusion is, wait and watch for a few driver releases).