Pros: Integrated True 3D Graphics Cores
Cons: 600Mhz graphics core clock barely plays 3D games, only a dual core
On April 2012, I was given an AMD A4-3400 FM1 processor and began researching which computer components on the market today could fully utilize the peak capabilities of this new integrated graphics technology. In this review, we will examine the latest A75 motherboard technology and see how cutting edge high speed DDR3 can now be utilized to bring out hidden speed capabilities of these new cpus.
What Can An Accelerated Processing Unit Do For You?
An APU combines traditional CPU cores with several graphics processing units into one package. The advantage to this is that you have to buy one less part when quickly building a solid 3D gaming or home theater personal computer. Since the 3D graphics card is now built into the processor, there are also fewer parts pulling power. The power consumption of my fully built computer complete with hard drives is less than 100 watts.
The problem with this particular AMD APU is that it barely does an average job in all categories. For this reason, many people are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the A10-5800K quad core APU. Until then, we are stuck reviewing and using these slower processors. The wait should be worthwhile but delaying the release date of the A10 from June 2012 to August 2012 only makes us seething with negative AMD opinions.
The Hardware Used To Build A Computer Around The AMD A4-3400 APU
Recently, my participation with the BOINC computing community and specifically team SETI.USA has escalated to a higher level. SETI.USA has been competing in the BOINC Pentathlon and we needed another AMD processor that was capable of running the large YoYo ECM workunits which take over 2Gb of memory and over 12 hours to complete per cpu core. Around these requirements, I put together the following components which on the whole pulled less than 80 watts of power when measured using a Kill A Watt P4400 meter:
ASRock A75 Extreme6 Socket FM1 Motherboard with UEFI BIOS
4x Kingston HyperX 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) (KHX1600C9D3K28GX)
Corsair Force Series 3 CSSD-F60GB3A-BK 2.5" 60GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus RR-B10-212P-G1 "Heatpipe Direct Contact" 120mm CPU Cooler
TP-LINK TL-WN722N Wireless Adapter High Gain
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit OEM GFC-02050
Understanding The Differences In Motherboards Available For The AMD APU Processors
You need to keep an eye on two important factors when purchasing a motherboard and memory for your new AMD A4-3400 FM1 processor. First, the motherboard needs to have the A75 chipset to maximize data transfers between your USB devices and SATA hard drives. Second, the memory must be the fastest speed supported by the processor to feed the data hungry graphics cores inside.
The AMD A4 3400 processor is not multiplier unlocked so overclocking can only really be done by increasing the Front Side Bus speed. Taking the 100Mhz FSB up by a factor of 5Mhz on the 27x multiplier of this processor results in a blistering 2.97 Ghz. The FM1 processor also responds well to higher speed memory, over the stock speed of 1333Mhz. They are impressive gains but not this does not directly translate into any real solid performance improvement because it is just two cpu cores. The benchmarks below will illustrate this point for you.
AMD A4-3400 Benchmarks
Without a question the AMD A4-3400 AD3400OJHXBIX is one notch above the bottom of the barrel for the Socket FM1 motherboard line. To offer a healthy comparison for your evaluation, benchmark results for the AMD A8-3850 have been provided in this review.
SuperPi Processor Benchmark
SuperPi is an application that extrapolates the specified digits of PI into a text file. The calculation is single threaded in this version so you only see the performance of one cpu core. In this test, I analyzed the performance of the processor using the 1,000,000 digits of Pi calculation.
AMD A4-3400 2.700 Ghz, stock speed 1333Mhz memory: 29 seconds
AMD A4-3400 2.700 Ghz, BIOS set to 1600Mhz memory: 27 seconds
An AMD A8-3850 managed to completed the SuperPi benchmark in just 26 seconds at its stock speed.
The 512Kb of Level 2 cache for each core plays a large role in the slower benchmark for this processor. Even though the AMD A4-3400 runs at 2.7Ghz, it cannot keep up with the 2.9Ghz AMD A8-3850 because of this. To add even more insult to this dual core processor, the much older 3.4Ghz AMD x4 965 processor could complete SuperPi 1,000,000 benchmark in just 20 seconds! As a computer geek, it upsets me when a hardware company pushes out new products that are slower than their previous generation of cpus.
POV-Ray Benchmark 3.7 RC5 64Bit
POV-Ray A new version of the freeware 3D animation utility has been released that offers SSE2 enhanced processing extensions. POV -Ray stresses the floating point unit and memory bandwidth of the processor to render stunning 2D images. The raytracing software package also makes use of all available logical cpu cores in your computer system to render images. For this reason, POV is my processor benchmarking package of choice!
For this test, I am using the benchmark.pov file with QuickRes.ini value of 512x384 NO AA since it is provided with all new installations of POV.
AMD A4-3400 2.700 Ghz, 100 Mhz FSB, stock speed: 3 minutes 45 seconds
AMD A4-3400 2.970 Ghz, 110 Mhz FSB, overclocked: 3 minutes 23 seconds
AMD A4-3400 3.104 Ghz, 115 Mhz FSB, overclocked: 3 minutes 15 seconds
AMD A4-3400 3.240 Ghz, 120 Mhz FSB, overclocked: 3 minutes 09 seconds
The ancient Intel Celeron Dual-Core E3300, 2.5 GHz (BX80571E3300) Processor completed this same benchmark in 4 minutes 0 seconds. Yes, the AMD A4 3400 can be overclocked and in fact I have yet to push it to a point where it would not boot.
PassMark - G3D Mark Version 7.0 Benchmark
The video card inside the AMD A4-3400 is an ATI Radeon HD 6410D. The older benchmark called Passmark G3D version 7.0. 64bit was run in Microsoft Windows 7 Home Edition on this system. The benchmark was only run twice with the default installation settings to look at the performance difference between 1333Mhz and 1600Mhz memory speeds. This video benchmark was only choose because the results can be compared to my previous review of the AMD A8-3850 FM1.
Among all these results, higher scores are better:
AMD A4-3400; 2.70 Ghz, 100 Mhz FSB, 667 Mhz DRAM Frequency, stock speed: 499.2
AMD A4-3400; 2.70 Ghz, 100 Mhz FSB, 800 Mhz DRAM Frequency, overclocked: 564.4
Here are the benchmark results for the fastest available AMD FM1 APU, but using a different motherboard:
AMD A8-3850; 2.900 Ghz, 100 Mhz FSB, 667 Mhz DRAM Frequency, stock speed: 857.9
AMD A8-3850; 3.045 Ghz, 105 Mhz FSB, 700 Mhz DRAM Frequency, overclocked: 877.1
AMD A8-3850; 3.190 Ghz, 110 Mhz FSB, 733 Mhz DRAM Frequency, overclocked: 931.8
I was shocked at the difference increasing the memory speed made with this AMD APU. If you actually buy the AMD A4-3400 then you should spend the extra cash and buy at least a set of DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) memory sticks. Still, this AMD APU is slow and not worthy of any further comparisons.
Heat Or Thermal Output Of The AMD A4 3400 Accelerated Processing Unit
Your choice of a heatsink for this processor is very important because it can have a direct effect on the amount of sound the computer makes and how responsive it will be while playing video games. A poor heatsink that overheats will cause the cpu fan to make excessive noise inside the computer case. AMD provides an approximately 1.75” tall aluminum heatsink with a fan that pushes air down onto the processor and out through the fins. The design is fraught with issues because it traps hot air onto the motherboard which will complicate your the stability of the motherboard and frustrate any attempt to overclock the APU. To solve this problem, I recommend buying an aftermarket heatsink like the COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus.
To reinforce my claims that the AMD heatsink should not be used I took a series of readings using a program called Hardware Monitor and a standalone temperature probe mounted on the metal of these products. The tests were conducted in an IT server room that is cooled by 38,000 BTU of air conditioners set to 70F. Both sets of readings were taken while the AMD A4-3400 was 100 percent utilized crunching BOINC projects for at least an hour.
Here are the temperature differences between the stock heatsink and the Hyper 212 Plus:
Stock AMD 1.75” Tall Heatsink; 85F processor, 91F metal fins
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Heatpipe; 78F processor, 80F metal fins
Obviously the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Heatpipe won this test. The reason it did was because the heatpipe design stands over 6.25” tall and pushes the hot air out the rear of the case. The heatpipe also comes with a 120MM cooling fan that spins at low RPM making very little sound while running so you can concentrate on your gaming and not the buzzing sound of your computer.
The 2.7Ghz Dual Core AMD APU helped me produce an additional 5,000 BOINC work done credits during the three days that it was in operation. For comparison, another computer with a 3.4Ghz AMD x4 965 processor produced over 20,000 BOINC work done credits during the same time frame. Just with this one example, you can see my frustration with this AMD product and why it is only worth 2 stars in my humble opinion. AMD can put all the lipstick on this pig it wants, but in the end it is still a runt that deserves little recognition.
Unless you are given the AMD A4-3400 FM1 processor, there is little reason to buy one due to it only having two cpu cores which only have 512Kb of Level 2 cache each. Today, you can buy the faster AMD A8-3850 FM1 and get a much better processor for your hard earned dollar. In the near future, the AMD A10-5800K FM1 unlocked processor is going to be available which will bring a whole new generation of computing power to your desktop 3D gaming or HTPC applications.