Battle At £105: Can An APU Beat An Intel CPU And Add-In Graphics?

Test System And Benchmarks

Intel LGA 1155 motherboards start at £35 on Dabs, while AMD Socket FM1 boards start at about £40. Because of this, we think the comparison is quite fair, despite the fact that both of our test boards cost closer to £100. Spending more money on a motherboard doesn’t get you more performance; it gets you additional features and, potentially, more overclocking headroom. This is something we’ve proven many times in our motherboard round-ups, though sometimes we're surprised by low-cost boards that serve up impressive scalability.

We’re using Gigabyte’s Radeon HD 6670 for our exploration. It features an 800 MHz core and 1600 MT/s DDR3 clocks. This particular model currently sells for £60 online.

The A8-3870 is tested at its shipping clocks, of course. But because it's also equipped with an unlocked multiplier, we also pushed the processor to its highest stable overclock, with voltage set to 1.515 V, yielding a 3.6 GHz CPU frequency and 960 MHz GPU.

Socket FM1
LGA 1155

AMD A8-3870K (Llano), Stock: 3.0 GHz,
Overclocked to 3.6 GHz @ 1.515 V

Intel Pentium G620 (Sandy Bridge), 2.60 GHz

Asus F1A75-V Pro, Socket FM1, Chipset: AMD A75

Asus P8P67 Pro, LGA 1155, Chipset: Intel P67
GraphicsIntegrated Radeon HD 6550D, Stock: 600 MHz,
Overclocked to 960 MHz @ 1.515 V
AMD Radeon HD 6670 DDR3, 800 MHz GPU, 1 GB DDR3 at 800 MHz
On-board Gigabit LAN controller

Corsair Vengeance LP PC3-16000, 2 x 4 GB, 1600 MT/s, CL 8-8-8-24-2T

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache, SATA 3Gb/s


ePower EP-1200E10-T2 1200 W, ATX12V, EPS12V

Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 x64
DirectX 11
Graphics Drivers

Catalyst 12.1

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Metro 2033
Version, Built-In Benchmark
Battlefield 3
Version, Operation Swordbreaker, FRAPS runs
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Version, FRAPS runs
DiRT 3
Version, Built-In Benchmark
Just Cause 2
Version, Concrete Jungle Benchmark
StarCraft 2
Version:, Tom's Hardware Guide Benchmark
Audio/Video Encoding
Version x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
Lame MP3
Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLI
Version 0.94: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept Reference
Version: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.0 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version 12.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 14.0 Pro: THG-Workload (464 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.0 Beta 4: THG-Workload (464 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.2: THG-Workload (464 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReader
Version Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark 11Version:, Benchmark Only
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.1.17.15, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Create a new thread in the UK Article comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • HEXiT
    as an all in 1 solution its a stunning effort. its an almost prefect cpu for a laptop or child's first pc or even a schools pc which is likely where they will end up on oem builds that cost 2-300. which is probably there market. not enthusiast gamers... i can see this apu being a very decent solution in 2nd and 3rd world countries where the cost per dollar of living is so much less. now we see why amd have given up on desktop cpu's in favor of there apu.

    a fairly powerful solution at a very budget price...
  • Anonymous
    No mention of the fact that the Llano can Crossfire with a discrete GPU (infact, the very one you're using on the Intel benchmarks)? That would give customers a good upgrade path.
  • aje21
    Would be more interested in winding the budget back a bit further - for example have the A6-3670K for £88 which would limit you to G530 and 6570 (£36+£54), or the A6-3500 for £64 which would give you the G530 with a 6450 (£36+£30). In fact, for the latter I wonder if we reach the point where the APU would actually start to make more sense even for games (assuming you didn't mind the 720p limit).
  • wild9
    Great article. I'm impressed with how close the gap is between APU and CPU+GPU. It may only be a 'Pentium' and have only two cores vs. AMD's 4, but it's still based on Sandy Bridge..

    All in all I can't really see a bad bad product here; all of them would fulfill most of my gaming needs. As HEXiT mentioned, the cost of hardware can be prohibitive in some regions. I agree that an all-in-one solution would ideally suit those on a tight budget (and those who prefer quieter PC's). The productivity advantage of the AMD chip would probably win me over.

    Note: Shouldn't the Lame 3.98.3 test say "to MP3" rather than "to MPEG4"?
  • jakjawagon
    You need to sort your graphs out. I understand that anything above 60fps makes little to no difference to gameplay, but if we're trying to compare performance at one price point, the more data we have, the better. Cutting your graphs off at 60fps doesn't help anyone.
  • Anonymous
    These kind of things will be good for laptops and school pc's where graphics is not as important and processor speed is more sought after :)
  • fadingfool
    Whatever happened to hybrid crossfire?
  • joedastudd
    I a bit disappointed you OC the A8-3870K, but don't both OC'ing the G620. It seems a little unfair and bias.
  • goozaymunanos
    BF3 figures @ 1024x768 AHAHAHAH!
  • EricLegge
    An AMD APU with inbuilt graphics chip can be run with a low-end AMD Radeon graphics card in CrossFire mode to increase gaming performance very significantly, so why didn't Tom's Hardware add one and analyse the results?
  • Tab54o
    EricLeggeAn AMD APU with inbuilt graphics chip can be run with a low-end AMD Radeon graphics card in CrossFire mode to increase gaming performance very significantly, so why didn't Tom's Hardware add one and analyse the results?

    That's what I want to know and the results are pretty non surprising I mean you have a discreet card vs built in. Stupid comparison. Is still going to cost more for the solution with the external card.