AMD A8-3870K Black Edition Review - Where to Buy

By on February 2, 2012

The fusion APU’s flagship flexes its muscles.

AMD A8-3870K Black Edition Review

Late last year I reviewed the AMD A8-3850 APU, which the first high-end Llano based offering from AMD, giving desktop users a taste of how successfully integrated graphics can work with a quad-core processor. And while the performance in multi-threaded applications was decent, as were the onboard graphics, the chip still felt somewhat lacking compared to the direct competition, which is the Intel Core i3-2100.

So today I’ll be looking at the new flagship APU from AMD, the Llano A8-3870K. Apart from having a 100MHz increase over the A8-3850, the ace up the A8-3870K is the fact that it has unlocked core multiplier. Of course, given that the Llano APUs aren’t being targeted towards the hardcore gamer, you won’t find high-end motherboards geared towards overclocking. As such, currently overclocking the A8-3870K is only possible on those motherboards who have an updated BIOS which supports switching the multiplier.

Outside of the unlocked multiplier, the A8-3870K has the same HD 6550D GPU with 400 Radeon cores running at 600MHz speed as the A8-3850. Now one of the coolest things about the Llano APUs is that they are targeted mostly towards HTPC users and the extremely budget conscious gamer who doesn’t want to play Battlefield 3 at Ultra high settings. As such, if the built-in HD 6550D GPU isn’t enough, you can pair it with an AMD Radeon HD 6670 graphics card for asymmetrical CrossFire where both the Llano APU’s integrated HD 6550D and the discrete HD 6670 work in tandem.

For testing the AMD A8-3870K I have decided to run some gaming benchmarks on the integrated HD 6550D GPU, and for testing the CPU itself, I have paired it up with a GTX 580 for a fair comparison with the Intel Core i3 processors.

While I have run the regular suite of tests for the majority of the benchmarks, the integrated GPU test was completely customized. Clearly the integrated GPU on the Llano processors, or any other CPU for that matter, aren’t meant for high-resolution gaming, as such I have used the below settings for the integrated graphics test.

While I did indeed have custom settings for Unigine and Team Fortress 2, but 3DMark 11 has preset ‘low’ settings running at a lower resolution than 720p. Meanwhile the Aliens vs Predator benchmark had everything set to fairly high levels, but at 720p.

The 3.0GHz clocked A8-3870K handily beats every CPU in the benchmark, even the rather powerful (for its class) Core i3-2100. The graphics tests show that as long as the GPU is not a bottleneck, the latest Llano APU can stand toe to toe with Intel’s Core i3 processors as well.

For overclocking the AMD A8-3870K I managed to push it up to a multiplier of 34 with a voltage increase of 30mV. I managed to bump the core clock speed of the HD 6550D to 600MHz. The resulting speeds were CPU running at 3.5GHz, up from 3.0GHz and GPU speeds to 600MHz, up from 400MHz. That’s a 17% increase in CPU clock speeds, while the GPU speeds were overclocked by 50%.

While the performance numbers from the overclock aren’t exactly mind blowing, they’re still decent.

Ultimately the AMD A8-3870K doesn’t exactly benefit much from the unlocked multiplier. Firstly you’ll just see marginal performance improvement, but more importantly, to get much higher speeds, you’ll need a performance based A75 motherboard. Sadly there’s hardly any such motherboard in the market, so at best you’ll be relegated to minor overclocks before the whole system gets too unstable for 24/7 usage.

For the purpose of pure computing, whether it office work, or HTPC or gaming, the AMD A8-3870K provides a much better platform than Intel’s Core i3 processors. The integrated GPU on its own will help a lot in video and photo processing applications, not just games. And clock for clock, the AMD A8-3870K just provides better performance in general than any Core i3.
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