At the end of June AMD announced a new addition to their range of Kaveri APUs. Today AMD are allowing reviews of that processor, so let’s take a look…
The A10 7800
The new A10-7800 sample arrived with us in a plain box however in retail you can expect to see something similar to the images above. These are from the 7850K and the cooler used along with bundled documentation should be pretty much the same.
There is no surprise that this new APU sticks with the exact same design as AMD have used for a while now. It features a large metal heatspreader on top with their branding and then on the base we get the Socket FM2+ layout and as we have come to expect from AMD these new models are compatible with many existing boards. Just flash to the latest BIOS to be safe, drop the APU in and go… it is that simple to upgrade from an older model (motherboard manufacturer permitting).
So what is Kaveri? Well here is a reminder of the key points…
Steamroller Cores: The Kaveri APU contains up to four Steamroller cores. A newer technology than is currently found in their high end FX CPUs. These are clocked at up to 4.0GHz in turbo (up from 3.7Ghz “stock”) and utilise 4MB of L2 cache on the A10-7850K. For the 7800 it is a 3.5GHz stock speed and 3.9GHz Turbo.
Hawaii GPU: Kaveri contains 8GPU cores from the GCN/Hawaii branch of GPUs which are found in their latest R9-290 GPUs. These cores are clocked at 720MHz and…
TrueAudio Support: With this product being Hawaii based we get the same TrueAudio technology found in those GPUs and so when games are released which support the tech (such as Thief) we will get advanced audio with the GPU taking processing away from the CPU. Then of course there is…
Mantle Support: With Mantle AMD are removing the “inefficient” DirectX layer from supported games. Battlefield 4 was the first title to get this tech via a free patch and any supported AMD GPU or APU should received a performance boost when playing.
HSA- hQ/HUMA: AMD are keen to state that the Kaveri APUs are all about Compute Cores. In the case of the A10-7800s that means 12 Compute Cores (4CPU plus 8GPU). The reason for going with this combined total (which gives the 7850K 95w TDP chip 856GFLOPS potential) is that these cores all share the system memory (that’s up to 32GB available to the GPU cores!) and the cores can all interact equally, being assigned appropriate tasks by applications and switching as and when needed. Going back to TDP for a moment the A10-7800 retains the configurable TDP found in the Kaveri range and as standard is 65w but for media/productivity use is optimised for 45w use.
Anything else? These APUs are of course 64bit compatible, the GPU portion supports DirectX11.2, we have PCIE Gen 3 support also (with Dual graphics using R7 cards) and 4K outputs are no issue for the new Kaveri Chips.
ASRock Fatal1ty FM2A88X+ Killer
The board we are basing our APU testing on today is ASRocks FM2A88X+ Killer which is part of their Fatal1ty range. The box gives us some key info on the product and bundle then inside we find documentation, a software disc, sticker, SATA cables, I/O shield and a voucher for XSplit (3-Months Premium use).
ASRock go with a black and red colour scheme on this board, common for their Fatal1ty series and we have the FM2+ socket here. The black, high density glass fabric PCB mixes with the Japanese gold colored solid (conductive polymer) capacitors well and that manufacturing process improves the short circuit protection. Elsewhere we have a “high density power connector” which reduces power loss and temperature. The main PCIe slot uses 15u gold pins for better anti-oxidisation protection and we have an additional molex at the base of the board for enhanced stability in Crossfire/SLI mode (assisting the 4+2 digi power phase design).
As we noted earlier the FM2+ socket is present and this board with its A88X chipset supports all CPUs on that socket, including todays new A10-7800. There are four memory slots in dual channel configuration with support for DDR3-2600+ and a maximum capacity of 64GB. Moving down the board we find eight SATA 3.0 ports with support on those 6GB/s connectors for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10.
Looking down on the bottom left corner of the board we find our PCIe/PCI slots which run through 1x, 16x, 1x, PCI, 4x and 2x PCI. The 16x slot is PCIe 3.0 spec to maximize the performance from recent graphics cards and also in this area we can see the Purity Sound branding on the EMI shield. This enhanced audio is based on the Realtek ALC1150 chipset and that chipset is mixed with TI NE5532 headset amplifier (600
ohm on the front port) and TI NE5532 differential Amp (115dB SNR DAC). Also present in this area, under a similar EMI shield is the Killer E2200 NIC which works with the software site to provide gaming opimised traffic (lower latency, prioritization).
Round at the back panel we find PS/2, 2x USB 2.0, VGA, DVI, HDMI(4K) and 4x USB 3.0 (fast charging). A further 4x USB 2.0 are also present as are 3.5mm and optical audio ports. Worth noting is that the 3 outputs here can be used together in Eyefinity and one of these connectors is a Fatal1ty port meaning we can tweak our polling rate. Added to that ASRock now offer Key master which allows us to switch the DPI on our mouse for more appropriate speed when in sniper mode. Finally we get some macro functionality in that app too.
ASRock have an intuitive BIOS with full mouse and keyboard functionality. Our key options for tweaking are found in the OC Tweaker screen and BIOS flashes from USB are supported too.
On the software front we get the main application from ASRock is F-Stream which allows us to monitor and tweak our system in Windows. ASRock APP shop keeps our system up to date and as mentioned earlier we also get X-Stream for free. Finally, ASRock have now added ASRock Cloud (powered by Orbweb ME) which offers file sharing, media streaming and remote desktop functionality.
Starting with the ASRock board we have a product which greatly impressed us. We have been using it on APUs for a while now for various projects with the features and stability never letting us down. It works as well with the APU’s GPU portion as it does a higher end R9 graphics card and with the new A10-7800 CPU we just dropped it in and it was good to go. Memory compatibility was also good, from random sticks we picked up during that time to the AMD R9 Gaming Series modules we used in this article.
ASRock do get bogged down a little in adding software which we feel is a bit OTT… such as the new cloud service or the Fatal1ty port and Macro functionality. There are better cloud solutions out there and any decent mouse/keyboard has its own tweaking software too. That said the X-Split addition is good, the Killer NIC software is always appreciated and the enhanced audio adds to a well-rounded hardware package.
Looking to the CPU and performance we had a pairing which competed ok with the i5/Z97 combo which AMD are targeting in more areas than past generations. Yes there are still areas where Intel do better including on the PCIe SSD peak speed, mem bandwith etc on Z97 or music conversion and Cinebench being two CPU specific examples but there are areas where AMD are moving ahead thanks to software optimisation. Photoshop CC with OpenCL being one ideal example. The new A10-7800 is priced reasonably close to some i3 CPUs though so that too needs taken into account and of course then there is the GPU which is significantly stronger on the AMD chip. So if you plan to game, it really does mean leaning towards the AMD part as the purchase.
That brings us to value where the ASRock board is £74/$95 and the APU has an RRP of around $150. The mix of features and performance from that combination offers excellent value for money, very hard to fault… and did we mention that the A10 APUs now come with a copy of Thief, Murdered Soul Suspect or Sniper Elite 3 for free? Nice.
Price: APU RRP $150-155
Price: ASRock Fatal1ty FM2A88X+ Killer Watercoolinguk.co.uk £74