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AMD’s newest APUs boost performance by 17 percent, go toe-to-toe with Intel Core i5

amd am4 desktop platform bristol ridge apu a series hp lenovo at gdc 2016
Image used with permission by copyright holder
In 2011, AMD introduced the APU, a single chip that crams CPU cores and GPU cores into a single-chip solution. Since then, the company has evolved that design each year, moving from the “Trinity” APU in 2012 to the most recent “Carrizo” chip launched in May 2015. Now the company is officially launching it’s seventh-generation APU, codenamed “Bristol Ridge,” which is now appearing in desktop solutions provided by HP and Lenovo.

The new Bristol Ridge family arrives in eight flavors: the A12-9800, the A12-9800E, the A10-9700, the A10-9700E, the A8-9600, the A6-9500, the A6-9500E, and a non-APU variant called the Athlon X4 950. In a nutshell, the A12, A10, and A8 APUs feature Radeon R7 graphics, whereas the A6 APUs rely on Radeon R5 graphics. Additionally, these latter two chips have only two cores while the other new APUs (along with the Athlon chip) sport four cores.

A12-
9800
A12-
9800E
A10-
9700
A10-
9700E
A8-
9600
A6-
9500
A6-
9500E
Athlon
X4 950
Cores 4 4 4 4 4 2 2 4
Base
Clock
3.8GHz 3.1GHz 3.5GHz 3.GHz 3.1GHz 3.5GHz 3GHz 3.5GHz
Max
Clock
4.2GHz 3.8GHz 3.8GHz 3.5GHz 3.4GHz 3.8GHz 3.4GHz 3.8GHz
GPU Radeon
R7
Radeon
R7
Radeon
R7
Radeon
R7
Radeon
R7
Radeon
R5
Radeon
R5
N/A
GPU
CUs
8 8 6 6 6 6 4 N/A
Max
Clock
1,108MHz 900MHz 1,029MHz 847MHz 900MHz 1,029MHz 800MHz N/A
TDP 65W 35W 65W 35W 65W 65W 35W 65W
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Notice that the thermal envelopes of these products are either 35 watts or 65 watts, including the Athlon X4 960 desktop processor. All eight will fit into the company’s new AM4 socket, the same socket that will be used for AMD’s highly-anticipated “Summit Ridge” enthusiast desktop processors packed with AMD’s new “Zen” x86 CPU core technology in 2017.

The new chips promise 17 percent better performance per thread than the previous generation, and support for DDR4 memory clocked up to a rather speedy 2,400MHz. The seventh-generation APUs also provides 27 percent better performance in the graphics department thanks to Radeon GCN 3.0 cores. Those cores also support VP9 and HEVC video streaming standards.

According to AMD, the new lineup was designed to deliver more performance at a lower power draw. For instance, a 7th-gen chip with a 65-watt thermal envelope provides better performance than a 6th-gen chip with a thermal envelope of 95 watts. This all fits in with the company’s overall goal to provide more performance per watt with each generation, whether it’s a graphics chip, a desktop processor, or an all-in-one APU solution.

In one of the briefing’s slides, the company showed that in a PCMark 8 Home test, the A12-9800 APU with a 65-watt thermal envelope performed equal to Intel’s Core i5-6500 with the same thermal envelope. In the same test, the A12-9800E at 35 watts showed 17 percent better performance than the Intel Core i5-6500T at 35 watts.

In another test using 3DMark 11, AMD showed that its AMD A12-9800 APU at 65 watts had a huge 99 percent performance leap in the graphics department compared to Intel’s Core i5-6500 processor at 65 watts. Even more, the A12-9800E APU at 35 watts had 88 percent better performance than Intel’s Core i5-6500T processor at 35 watts, in the same test.

AMD said that the 7th-gen is “future ready,” as it supports all the current 1080p standards, as well as the new 4K standards like H.264 and H.265. It even supports 1080p VP9 for high-compression video.

The new APUs will be the first to use AMD’s new scalable, single-socket AM4 desktop platform. This platform supports “cutting edge” technology like DDR4 system memory, USB 3.1 Gen 2 slots, NVMe storage, and SATA Express. It also supports a wide variety of AMD processors from entry level chips to high-performance “enthusiast” processors. AMD is committed to supporting this platform “for years to come.”

That all said, the 7th-gen APU not only provides better performance and better power efficiency over the previous generation, but it’s backed by a new platform that provides 22 percent more memory bandwidth than the older Socket FM2+ platform.

Right now AMD has three different chipsets for the AM4 desktop platform: the AMD B350 set for the mainstream market, the AMD A320 set for the “essential” market, and the X/B/A300 sets for small form factor devices. Currently there’s no dedicated AM4 chipset for the enthusiast segment, though AMD says that is underway. It should be arriving within the new few months, as the undecided “enthusiast” chipset is not targeted for release alongside the highly anticipated Zen processors in 2017.

Here’s a look at what the two available chipsets will support in addition to the APU’s own capabilities:

AMD Bristol Ridge AM4
Image used with permission by copyright holder

For the moment, AMD is only announcing the availability of the AM4 platform in general and the 7th-gen A-Series APUs for desktops provided by OEMs. The “channel” parts will be announced at a later date, so stay tuned to Team Red!

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Kevin Parrish
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then…
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