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And in the Green Corner...

Meanwhile, from the green team (red team?), Puget Systems offers a system based on AMD's Llano. On paper it's definitely not as compelling as its Intel-based counterpart, but looks can be deceiving. Here's the test configuration:

Puget Systems Echo I (AMD Edition) Specifications
Chassis Antec ISK-110 VESA
Processor AMD A6-3500
(3x2.1GHz, Turbo to 2.4GHz, 32nm, 3MB L2, 65W)
Motherboard ASUS F1A75-I Deluxe
Memory 2x8GB Patriot DDR3-1333
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6530D
(320 stream processors, 443MHz core clock)
Hard Drive(s) Intel 520 240GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 1TB 5200 RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) -
Power Supply 80W external
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9002WB-1NG b/g/n Mini-PCIe Wireless LAN
Bluetooth v2.1+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC892
Speaker, mic, and line-in jacks, optical S/PDIF
Front Side 2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top -
Back Side 4x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
PS/2
DVI-D
DisplayPort
HDMI
Optical out
eSATA
Ethernet
Speaker, mic, and line-in jacks
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Extras SSD
Wireless-N
Bluetooth
Warranty 1-year parts, lifetime labor and support
Pricing Starts at $747
Priced as configured: $1,408

It's very easy to be underwhelmed by the AMD A6-3500 processor at the center of the Puget Systems Echo I (AMD Edition); the processor aspect is lackluster. Technically if you look online you'll even find that it's theoretically not the fastest 65W Llano-based processor AMD produces, but in practice the faster ones are much harder to come by. In talking to our Puget Systems rep, we found that they were having a hard time sourcing the faster ones, while the A6-3500 is still relatively plentiful. A visit to NewEgg corroborates their story: the fastest Llano chip available in a 65W envelope is the A6-3500.

So just how underwhelming is the A6-3500? The CPU half is three cores running at just 2.1GHz, able to turbo up only to 2.4GHz. These are reworked Stars cores from the Athlon II series now dubbed Husky cores, but they're still substantially slower than Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture clock-for-clock. Worse still, in this comparison the A6-3500 has to do battle with four of Sandy Bridge's cores, and they all run at least 700MHz faster. The CPU side of this equation isn't remotely evenly matched, but where availability is concerned, this is the best AMD has to offer.

Thankfully, the other side of the A6-3500 is much more promising. The Radeon HD 6530D at the heart of the system enjoys 320 stream processors clocked at 443MHz, and while that's not too exciting in terms of raw GPU hardware, it's miles ahead of what Intel is offering in the i7-2600S. The 6530D is essentially the half of the bargain that AMD is banking on; when they talk about a balanced platform, they're talking about a CPU that's "good enough" with a GPU that can hold its own.

The rest of the build is more or less identical to the Intel build on the previous page, featuring the same SSD, same hard drive, and even the same brand and speed of memory. The only difference here is that the ASUS board used in the AMD edition supports full-length DIMMs instead of SO-DIMMs, helping to bring overall system costs down slightly—and of course, that's ignoring the fact that the A6-3500 retails for $79 while the i7-2600S is up at $309. Even connectivity on the back of the system is borderline identical, although the AMD system also enjoys DisplayPort where the Intel version has to make do with VGA; this DisplayPort connectivity also means this system can handle three monitors on its own.

In the Blue Corner... System Performance
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  • Spunjji - Friday, March 23, 2012 - link

    This is addressed very well in the article, particularly in the conclusions. The editorial is nicely balanced if you took the time to read it.

    Yes, it stinks that people will look at the graphs in this and nothing else, but that's people for you and it's AMD's responsibility to combat that.
    Reply
  • trane - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Since you have brought up video editing and gaming as the two usage scenarios, I would like to contest that Llano would do the former much slower than SNB. The GPU is not just for gaming, but GPGPU as well. Quite a few editing software today are starting to be heavily OpenCL GPU accelerated - including Sony Vegas and Cyberlink Powerdirector. I would have also mentioned Premiere Pro but it is CUDA only for now, should be OpenCL in the near future. Perhaps you should add a Sony Vegas Pro benchmark to your suite, Sony already have a standard benchmark project available (http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/vegaspro/gpuac... and GPUs bring massive gains over CPU-only.

    Just a suggestion, as Llano's GPGPU capabilities almost always goes unnoticed, and unfairly so. Yes, not many applications are heavily GPU accelerated today, but video editing is certainly one of them.

    It's a pity the A8-3800 isn't available, that would have been pretty great, and much faster than A6-3500 for a small price.
    Reply
  • trane - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Here's a link to the benchmark project: www.sonycreativesoftware.com/vegaspro/gpuacceleration Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    The problem is that GPGPU and dedicated hardware encoding still, to my knowledge, have issues with end quality. If you're just transcoding for the internet or for yourself, they're probably fine, but CPU-only encoding remains the gold standard.

    That said, Premiere CS5.5 benefits tremendously from CUDA, but not entirely on the encoding side. Mercury Playback Engine still produces reference quality video, but CUDA accelerates decoding and effects layering on the timeline by a substantial degree, in some cases meaning the difference between editing in realtime and not.

    GPGPU has promise but that promise is, presently, nascent on the desktop.
    Reply
  • trane - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Do note that I am not referring to encoding! On Vegas Pro the entire video processing pipeline is heavily GPU accelerated. Right from decoding to colour space transforms to scaling to transitions/motion graphics to nearly all video effects - nearly everything is GPU accelerated - even before we hit the encoding stage. Much more extensive than Premiere Pro. Do give the benchmark project a try, you might be surprised how far GPGPU has come. Reply
  • silverblue - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - link

    The i7-2600S sports QuickSync, so if the software supports it, it may not actually be a victory for AMD on this one. Reply
  • hypercube33 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    This is bull. As posted by sabot they have plenty of higher powered APU's available up to the newer A8-3800.

    This is like cutting off the arms of your opponent and then saying he didnt even throw a punch. I am not saying AMD is better, but this review is skewed so badly that its not even close to worth publishing.
    Reply
  • weiran - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Yes AMD have a higher power CPU in the A8-3800. But available?

    I'm in the UK so the availability is probably even worse than the US, but I've been unable to find any stock of the A8-3800. The only place you can get one seems to be in pre-built HP desktops.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - link

    Not to mention the significantly higher power consumption of a quad core CPU at 2.9GHz with much more powerful graphics. Sure, the 38xx series would be preferable, if only you could actually grab hold of them.

    The 3870K is available on CCL for £103, but the A6-3500 is a mere £55 from the same site. The only available models available on that site are the A4-3300, A4-3400, A6-3500, A6-3670K and A8-3870K - there is no sign of the 3800 or 3820.
    Reply
  • djfourmoney - Thursday, April 12, 2012 - link

    Its not just you, all the major e-tailers don't carry the A8-3800 in North America. The B&M's don't either (Micro Center and Fry's). That's why I got the A6-3500 and called it a day.

    An A4-3400 is plenty for HTPC use, does 29/59 and 3D without issues. When you start using 3rd party stuff like MadVR, you may have a few problems with interlaced content as found in Rene's testing on AVS forums.

    The Triple Core is the best case scenario of price and performance. It will do what my current system does, only faster (current rig is 5000+ BE) and that's plenty for me.

    MB, APU, SSD and Memory all for under $200

    Reply

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