Alongside the A10-7700K, the A10-7850K is a recent addition to AMD's A-Series line of APUs and uses the existing FM2+ socket. By using the new 28nm manufacturing process, these new APUs are able to run faster than the previous generation, even when running at a lower clock frequency. In addition, improvements in the graphical portion of the APU increases the capabilities of the integrated R7 graphics controller. Interestingly, the clock speed of these new APUs are actually lower than the models they are replacing.
While new computer hardware is almost always faster than the models they are replacing, it is often hard to get through all the marketing talk to find out exactly how much better they are. For that reason, we are going to be comparing the performance of the A10-7850K to multiple CPUs and video cards. In addition, since the ability to use high frequency RAM is often cited as an important feature of the A-Series APUs, we will also be looking how much performance gain you actually will see by using high frequency RAM.
To perform our comparison benchmarks, we used the following hardware:
|Test System Specs||AMD Test System||Intel Test System|
|Motherboard||Asus A88X-PRO||Asus Z87-A|
AMD A-Series A10-7850K 3.7GHz
AMD A-Series A10-6800K 4.0GHz
|Intel Core i5 4440 3.1GHz|
|CPU Cooler||Stock AMD CPU Fan (high quality)||Stock Intel CPU Fan|
|Used in both systems|
2x AMD RG Gamer DDR3-2133 4GB 10-11-11-30
2x Patriot Viper Xtreme DDR3-1866 4GB 9-11-9-27
2x Kingston HyperX LoVo DDR3-1600 4GG 9-9-9-27
|Hard Drive||Samsung 840 Pro 256GB|
|PSU||Seasonic X-560 560 Watt|
|OS||Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit|
*Shared memory set to 1GB. RAM model will be adjusted according to the testing performed.
The multiple models of RAM will be used to determine how much of a performance loss or gain there is by using RAM that has a higher frequency, but looser timings. The A10-7850K natively supports up to DDR3-2133, so that is the fastest RAM we will be testing with. Note that the shared memory will be set to 1GB to keep it consistant between the Intel and AMD systems. As we showed in our Optimizing AMD Trinity for Budget Gaming article, even 512MB of shared RAM would be more than enough RAM for the settings you would use with these onboard graphics - so 1GB of shared memory should ensure that the amount of shared RAM should never be an issue.
The A10-6800K and Intel test system will be used to compare the A10-7850K against both the previous generation APUs as well as against an equivelantly priced Intel system. The two motherboards we are using are almost the exact same price and the CPUs are within $10 of each other depending on where you purchase them.
Impact of RAM Speed on CPU Performance
Starting with how the RAM speed should affect programs that are primarily CPU-based, we started with PCMark08 and ran both the Creative suite and Microsoft Office suite of tests.
As you can see, there is a difference, but it is not very much. The DDR3-1866 RAM performed within 1% of the DDR3-2133 RAM, and the DDR3-1600 RAM was within 3%.
In Cinebench R15, we actually see the DDR3-1866 RAM outperforming the DDR3-2133 RAM. Once again, however, the difference is very, very small - only about 1% - so the actual real-world difference is negligible.
Geekbench is one of the few completely synthetic benchmarks we run, but it gives some very useful theoretical performance data. Interestingly, the results are similar to the Cinebench test as the DDR3-1866 RAM is again the fastest. Just like Cinebench and PCMark, however, the difference between DDR3-1866 and DDR3-2133 is only about 1%. DDR3-1600, on the other hand, shows a bit larger of a difference, especially in the Memory score which measures the bandwidth performance of the RAM.
Impact of RAM Speed on Gaming Performance
RAM speed plays a much bigger role on gaming performance when using integrated graphics, so we expect to see a much larger performance difference than we saw with the CPU-based applications.
While we tried to use video settings that would get us to around 60 FPS when using the DDR3-2133 RAM, some titles - like Hitman: Absolution - simply could not reach that 60 FPS target even running at minimal settings. While the exact difference in performance varies by the game, using DDR3-1600 RAM resulted in an average FPS drop of about 23.5%. The DDR3-1866 RAM was better, but still resulted in about a 5% drop in performance.
We do want to throw one little caveat in here, which is that while DDR3-2133 RAM did perform the best in our testing, it is only going to do so if you are using the integrated graphics. Once you use a discrete video card, our testing has shown that the speed of the RAM makes almost no difference in games. Also, we know from experience that higher frequency RAM is more prone to failure than lower frequency RAM. So if you do not need those last couple of FPS, we would recommend using DDR3-1866 or even DDR3-1600 RAM whenever possible.
APU/CPU CPU Performance Comparison
To get an idea of how the A10-7850K compares to both the previous generation A10-6800K and the Intel Core i5-4440, we performed benchmarks on each APU/CPU to see how they compare. For these benchmarks, we will be using DDR3-2133 RAM on the AMD APUs and DDR3-1600 RAM on the Intel CPU. We decided to use those speeds of RAM as they are what the CPU is natively rated to be able to use.
The A-series APUs from AMD have never really been able to compete with Intel CPUs on CPU-based tasks, which is pretty clearly shown in the PCMark 08 benchmark. What we didn't expect was how much better the A10-7850K performs compared to the A10-6800K. Even though the A10-7850K runs at a lower clock speed than the A10-6800K, the newer architecture allows it to be faster even at that lower clock speed.
Oddly, in CineBench R15 the A10-7850K is slower than the A10-6800K. This pretty much directly counters the PCMark 08 results, although we would consider PCMark 08 to be the better measure of normal system performance.
In Geekbench, the A10-6800K is actually faster than the A10-7850K in the single-core tests, but the A10-7850K is faster in the multi-core portion of the benchmark. This is interesting and indicates that the A10-7850K is not as good as the previous generation APUs when it comes to single-core applications. For anything that is multi-core capable, however, the A10-7850K should outperform the previous generation APUs.
One thing that is clear across all of these benchmarks is that the Intel Core i5-4440 greatly outperforms the AMD APUs in CPU-based applications. So to show the advantage of the AMD A-Series APUs, let's next look at gaming performance using the integrated graphics.
APU/CPU Gaming Performance Comparison
With these benchmarks, we get a good look at the main strength of the A10-7850K. AMD APUs have pretty much always out-performed the Intel integrated graphics, and the A10-7850K simply increases the difference. On average, the A10-7850K is about 40% faster than the Intel Core i5-4440 and about 10% faster than the A10-6800K.
In fact, this performance bump means that the A10-7850K is actually able to match some low-end discrete graphics cards. In our testing, we found that it performs almost exactly between the AMD Radeon R7 240 and the NVIDIA Geforce GT 640.
Overall, the AMD A10-7850K is a great improvement over the previous generation APUs in AMD's A-series line. Especially in terms of gaming performance when using the integrated graphics, it is about 10% faster than the previous generation APUs. If you compare the gaming performance to an Intel CPU, the graphical capability is so much better that it really is not even in the same league.
In terms of CPU performance, the A10-7850K is overall an improvement over the A10-6800K. Especially in PCMark 08, the A10-7850K was about 10% faster than the A10-6800K. Our GeekBench benchmark indicated lower single-core performance, but as more and more programs use multi-core technology, that is really not even much of an issue.
However, there are a few issues we have with the A-series line in general. First, while the gaming performance is better than Intel, it is only better if you are using integrated graphics. As soon as you add a discrete video card, an equivalently priced Intel-based system is going to give you overall better performance in most games. And while the gaming performance is very good for integrated graphics, if you consider yourself even a moderate gamer you likely would want to invest in a discrete video card.
Similarly, if you are mainly concerned about performance in programs that do not use the GPU, an Intel-based system is going to give you much better performance for your dollar. Finally, in terms of future upgrade potential, the A-series APUs hit a wall much, much sooner than their Intel equivalents. The A10-7850K is the fastest A-series APU currently available, yet the CPU performance is much lower than even the Intel Core i5-4440 which is only a mid-range Intel CPU.
All that being said, there are a number of applications in which the new AMD APUs are uniquely suited for. In particular, Media center PCs that either don't need or have space for a discrete video card would be perfect for the A-series APUs. They have plenty of graphical power for most tasks a media center PC would be needed for, and can even cover light gaming duty when needed.