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Review: AMD A10-4600M 'Trinity' APU

by Parm Mann on 15 May 2012, 05:00 3.5

Tags: AMD (NYSE:AMD)

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Guts of the APU: the new GPU

Integrated graphics processors typically don't have much to shout about - they've reached the stage where they're more than sufficient for high-def. video playback and general multimedia needs, but they don't tend to go beyond that and, if we're blunt, offer severely-limited gaming potential when compared to any reasonable mid-level discrete graphics card.

AMD's out to change that trend by including a GPU that's based on the Northern Islands architecture featured in Radeon HD 6000-series products.

The integrated graphics component, productised somewhat confusingly as a Radeon HD 7000-series GPU, features up to 384 stream processors, 24 texture units and eight ROPs. The total processor count is actually 16 fewer than the 400 stream processors available to Llano, but that small disadvantage should be negated by a more efficient architecture and, like the CPU, higher operating frequencies. On mobile Llano parts the GPU was limited to a maximum speed of 444MHz, but Trinity allows the graphics processor to 'Turbo' up to a more impressive 686MHz.

Dynamically-scaling clock frequencies are all the rage in modern-day processors, and in Trinity AMD is branding the tech as Turbo Core 3.0. This latest iteration of AMD's clock-boosting technology offers bi-directional power management, enabling either CPU or GPU frequencies to be ramped up accordingly, depending on the application in use.

The added speed is always helpful, and the Trinity GPU also doles out a comprehensive set of multimedia features. These include an up-to-date UVD video-processing block for hardware acceleration and decode of various video formats, CrossFire support that allows a discrete graphics card to be paired with the IGP, and integrated Eyefinity technology - allowing Trinity to power up to four displays from a single APU. Yes, that's one more than what's available from Intel's Ivy Bridge. What's more, just like the latest discrete graphics cards, the Trinity GPUs also carry the Video Codec Engine (VCE), a fixed-function H.264 encoder, though VCE-supporting software has been rather slow to get off the mark.

The make-up of Trinity, then, is familiar - like Llano, it contains up to four x86 cores and a Radeon GPU outfitted onto a single slice of silicon alongside a memory controller, a video-processing block and all the necessary inputs and outputs to hook up to the Fusion Controller Hub on the associated chipset. It's very familiar, but the progress has been made by updating the CPU and GPU components, and the new Bulldozer+Northern Islands formula will first arrive in mobile form with the launch of five laptop APUs.