AMD Kaveri is HERE!
Last week I was supposed to have been in Las Vegas at CES, however old man winter decided that this was a bad idea and we got hit with the worst winter weather we have seen locally in almost 20 years. The result was my being stranded in St. Louis two days and coming home to be disappointed about what I was missing out on. However my week was salvaged when a large box arrived from AMD and inside was a fully built computer based on their new Kaveri chip.
The sleek little package they sent is making use of the Xigmtek Nebula case with an ASRock FM2+ ITX motherboard, 16 gigs of AMD RAM, a Samsung 840 Pro 250 Gig SSD and an A8 7600 Kaveri APU.
Now before we begin let me take a moment to give some perspective. A lot of sites are going to spend time comparing this chip to higher end chips and looking at high end gaming performance. They will be WRONG in their thinking. Kaveri is targeted at the mainstream, every day computer user. This chip is not meant for the enthusiast market or for high end professional rendering. This chip is targeted at the every day normal person that wants to get the most out of their PC at a reasonable price. It is with this target in mind that I began testing this chip. I ran a couple of benchmarks but did not set them at uber-detail levels instead I shot for the target of the chip. For comparison I put this chip against an Intel i5 and AMD’s own A10 6800K and set up the test systems into similar configurations. The systems all ran Windows 8.1 fully updated on a clean install with the latest available drivers.
The build AMD sent is actually a very nice build when you consider what it is. In a small form factor the build will sit easily on a desk or table and would even look at home in an entertainment center. For purposes of my testing and use I paired the system with an Auria 27” (1080) display along with a decent keyboard and mouse, making use of the onboard WiFi for my internet connection. The system came fully installed and setup but you know how much I hate that so the system was formatted clean to Windows 8.1 and the BIOS set to default and then I adjusted as I normally do.
Now adjusting the BIOS I noticed a really neat feature of this chip, you have the option to adjust the TDP target of the chip. The A8 by default is a 65 watt TDP chip, which is very nice. This means it uses less power and is easier to cool than the previous generation A10 and A8. The chip offers an option of dropping the target TDP to 45 watts and AMD actually suggested it in their reviewer guide.
With this information in hand I decided my first testing was to see how the 65 TPD and 45 TDP compared in performance. For this testing I used the latest version of PCMark and ran the Home test suite. I choice this suite as it will provide the best testing for the intended use of the chip and give me a good baseline. In my testing the 45TDP was slightly slower in the standard test coming in 3.5% slower and in the OpenCL accelerator at 6.1% slower.
Next up I wanted to compare these results to AMD’s A10 6800K and was happy to see the A8 7600 in 45 TDP mode was within a single percentage point of an A10 6800 at stock and with the 65 TDP was passing it. Not bad for a lower price point and half the TDP.
Oh wait what about an Intel chip? Using an i5 4670K the A8 was about 8% faster at the 45 TDP setting. So this chip is half the price and delivers as a complete package better performance in PCMark with a lower TDP, NICE!
Next up was some 3DMark and I ran these tests using the Cloudgate test suite. Again this is not the high end but is a more accurate target test for the intended chip use. Again at a 45 TDP the Kaveri was staying almost dead even with a 6800K and with a bump to 65 TDP we see it begin to pull away. Moving to the i5 we see the A8 begin to pull away with the improved onboard graphic solutions starting to shot wit’s stuff.
Now there are some additional tests a lot of sites will run but these tests are mostly trying to break down the CPU and GPU components of the APU. This to me is a dis-service as the APU is a single unit and breaking it apart takes away from the total package solution it is designed to be.
Over the last week I have been using the Kaveri system alongside an i5 system in every day use. This includes Skype, Netflix, Handbrake, decompressing files, music, photo editing even some light gaming. In ever aspect the Kaveri system was snappier and a just plain better computing experience than the i5. While it will not compete with a dedicated graphics gaming machine the Kaveri did okay allow for solid play experience at 720 resolutions in Anno 2070, Bioshock Infinite, Dishonored, Neverwinter and a certain beta that shall remain nameless, the Intel solution struggled with pretty much any gaming I threw at it.
Now if you came here hoping for a bunch of benchmark numbers I am sorry to disappoint. The numbers to me do not tell the story of this chip. There is a saying about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts and the Kaveri is a perfect example of this. Everyone keeps trying to break this chip down into various parts but forget that it is not a bunch of parts thrown together, it is one chip and THAT is how it should be looked at. When you look at in this manner and consider it in the context it is made for this chip is nothing short of amazing.
If it was just what I have seen this week I would be impressed but there is more. Kaveri will make full use of Mantle, HSA and True Audio. These technologies still have a bit before they become mainstream but the fact AMD is already out in front and making full use of this potential is nice to see. This chip has a lot of potential locked up in it, it could get better as it gets older.
If you are looking for a basic computer, one that is not meant for high end gaming or advanced video editing or rendering then Kaveri is the perfect choice for your computer. I will even go a step further, buy an i3 or i5 for such a system makes NO SENSE! The Kaveri is a ton more versatile and has greater potential. The performance and computing experience are outstanding and lower TDP means this chip is design with ITX building in mind. If you are building or buy that family PC then there is only one chip option worth your money.