AMD's A-Series processor is official, gets put to the test

Summary:AMD has officially announced its A-Series Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), which combines up to four CPU cores with "discrete-level graphics," providing the first real competition to Intel in mainstream laptops and desktops.

AMD has officially announced its A-Series Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), which combines up to four x86 CPU cores with "discrete-level graphics," providing the first real competition to Intel's second-generation Core processors in mainstream laptops and desktops. The company said the A-Series, code-named Llano, will be available in more than 150 notebooks and desktops starting this quarter. HP wasted no time announcing 11 systems that will offer the A-Series.

The A-Series mobile processors include the A4 dual-core with Radeon HD 6480G graphics (240 Radeon cores) and the A6 and A8 quad-cores, which have twice the cache and more powerful graphics. The A6 has 6520G graphics with 320 Radeon cores and the A8 has 6620G with 400 Radeon cores. AMD has not posted details on the desktop versions yet.

The A-Series is not AMD's first APU-the low-power C-Series (Ontario) and E-Series (Zacate) on foundry TSMC's 40nm process came out earlier this year. But it is AMD's first APU manufactured on 32nm with high-k and metal gates and the first that really lives up to the promise of merging a capable multi-core CPU with powerful graphics, a concept the company any has been working on since the acquisition of ATI in 2006.

Whether the on-die DirectX 11 graphics will be sufficient depends on your needs, but it is almost certainly the most powerful solution available short of a discrete GPU. It supports HD graphics, has dedicated HD video processing, can drive multiple monitors and has a Steady Video feature that stabilizes your videos during playback. Most users will not need discrete graphics, but the A-Series is also designed to work with a discrete GPU with switchable graphics to optimize the system for maximum performance or battery life. Perhaps the biggest area of improvement for AMD's mainstream laptop platform, the A-Series will deliver up to 10.5 hours of battery life, according to AMD.

Because it combines an enhanced version of the old "Stars" CPU core with a relatively powerful DX11 GPU, the A-Series has been widely expected to fall short of Intel's latest and greatest on CPU-intensive tasks but to offer better graphics performance. AnandTech has posted some early benchmark results on both a mobile processor, the 1.5GHz A8-3500M, and a desktop chip, the 2.9GHz A8-3850 quad core, which seem to confirm that. Reviews of real-world systems shouldn't be far behind.

Topics: Processors, Hardware


John Morris is a former executive editor at CNET Networks and senior editor at PC Magazine. He now works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made. No investment advice is offered in this blog. All duties are... Full Bio

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