AMD’s pricey new flagship FM2+ processor sports their new Wraith stock cooelr and pushes APU performance a little bit further.
April 15, 2016 by Lawrence Lee
AMD’s desktop CPU business has been neatly delineated into one high-end and one low-end platform for a few years now, with the AM3+ socket representing the former and FM2+ socket representing the latter since its launch two years ago. FM2+ accelerated processing units (APUs) offer a decent value proposition with integrated graphics that surpass many entry level discrete video cards, affordable quad core processors, and unlocked multipliers on many models to facilitate overclocking to stretch your dollar even further. Last month we examined two new chips, their fastest yet 65W APU, the A10-7860K, and the graphics-less 95W Athlon X4 880K, part of AMD’s refreshed lineup for 2016.
Our A10-7890K sample.
Quad Core AMD Kaveri APU Lineup
CPU Clock (Base/Turbo)
4.1 / 4.3 GHz
3.9 / 4.1 GHz
3.6 / 4.0 GHz
3.7 / 4.0 GHz
3.5 / 3.9 GHz
3.6 / 3.9 GHz
3.3 / 3.8 GHz
3.1 / 3.8 GHz
2 x 2MB
Max GPU Clock (MHz)
Street Price (USD)
Today, I’m going to take a look at their new flagship APU, the A10-7890K. With a higher TDP constraint, it sports CPU clock speeds of 4.1~4.3 GHz, 300~500 MHz faster than the 65W A10-7860K, and its integrated graphics is clocked 15% higher at a considerable 866 MHz to match the previous flagship A10-7870K. The most notable aspect of the A10-7890K isn’t actually under the hood; its US$160 price-tag is a considerable jump from the A10-7870K compared to the rest of the APU family. This is a concern for a so-called budget processor as an extra $15 can net you a much higher level of performance in the form of a a Haswell-based Intel Core i5.
Updated AMD 65W cooler (left) vs. Wraith cooler (right).
One aspect of the A10-7890K that may balance the scales somewhat is its stock cooling solution. It’s one of the new AMD chips shipping with the vastly improved Wraith cooler, a substantially larger and more formidable heatsink/fan than what ships with their 65W SKUs. Our testing has determined that the Wraith has at least a 21°C advantage at equivalent noise levels over the smaller cooler, putting it in the same league as a small tower heatsink or a sizable down-blowing model. With an unlocked CPU multiplier and strong cooling out-of-the-box, AMD not only enables overclocking for the A10-7890K, it actively endorses it.
Our testing procedures are used to determine the performance and energy efficiency of the CPU and its integrated graphics (if applicable). A series of CPU and GPU-centric benchmarks are used and system power consumption is measured in various states as well as during each CPU benchmark (an average of the first 5~15 seconds).
CPU testing is conducted with a discrete graphics card (a GeForce 9400 GT) to eliminate integrated graphics as a variable, most notably with regards to power consumption. This is necessary to fairly compare CPUs that do not have an onboard graphics chip such as AMD FX/Athlon and Intel “E” models. Default CPU core clock speeds/multipliers are used rather than those prescribed by the motherboard manufacturers.
Common Test Components:
CPU Only Test Components:
Test platform device listing (A10-7890K).
Measurement and Analysis Tools:
Video Test Suite:
H.264/MKV 1080p: A custom 1080p H.264 encoded clip inside an Matroska container with a 22 mbps bitrate.
GPU Benchmark Suite:
Gaming tests are conducted at two resolutions, 1366×768 and 1600×900 (or the closest allowable screen resolution) with differing levels of image quality. The results we report are for the highest resolution and detail level with which the product can deliver a reasonably good framerate (about 45 frames per second).
CPU Benchmark Suite:
As we will be making conclusions on the energy efficiency of the CPUs compared, some of the power consumption figures have been artificially adjusted to be more “average” to better represent typical energy efficiency. This particularly applies to the Intel Core i7/i5 processor results as they were tested on the Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 and Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5, two unusually energy efficient motherboards according to our extensive power consumption tests of LGA1151 and LGA1150 boards.
Our timed benchmark results have also been adjusted but proportionally (such that relative differences remain the same) to facilitate better chart scaling.
TEST RESULTS: INTEGRATED GRAPHICS
Running on integrated graphics, the A10-7860K’s light load energy efficiency is similar to that of previous 7000/6000 series APUs. It’s close to Intel’s offerings at idle but is significantly more power intensive when playing video. Earlier APUs draw considerably more during HTML5 playback in particular, and the A10-7890K is worse still, gobbling up an additional 13W compared to the A10-7860K.
With its higher CPU clock speeds, the A10-7890K also eclipses the A10-7860K under heavy load, though its power consumption in the real world tests stays under the older 100W A10-6800K’s level. Unhampered by the low 65W TDP limit imposed on low-end APUs, the A10-7890K draws a considerably more power than current and last generation Core i5/i7 processors. It should be noted that the Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 and Z97MX-Gaming 5 boards are unusually energy efficient Skylake and Haswell boards respectively but under these conditions, the advantage is only about 5~7W compared to average, certainly not enough to account for such a sizable difference.
The Prime95 stress test apparently takes the A10-7860K right to its power limit, and in fact, adding FurMark to the mix actually causes the power draw to 27W. There seems to be a quirk with this chip’s power management as the CPU clock speed throttles far more than is necessary to stay within its thermal envelope. Downclocking the CPU frequency manually to the minimum level (1.7 GHz) results in a difference of 41W which works out to about 38W after AC to DC conversion, a considerable chunk of the 95W TDP limit.
Note: Integrated graphics from Intel and AMD are depicted in blue and red respectively while discrete graphics has been assigned purple.
The A10-7890K’s integrated graphics chip boasts a 15% higher clock speed than the A10-7860K which translates to a slight framerate increase in games like Lost Planet 2 and Just Cause 2. Performance improves significantly more in our other tests though, especially Crysis, where there’s a massive 47% bump.
We arrived at our overall gaming performance rating by giving each GPU a proportional
score in each gaming benchmark with each test having an equal weighting.
The scale has been adjusted so that the A10-7890K’s R7 graphics is the reference point with
a score of 100.
Overall, there’s a nice 10% boost over the A10-7860K, making it the fastest APU we’ve tested. As far as integrated solutions go, its gaming capabilities are only surpassed by Intel’s Iris Pro, which on the desktop, is only available on expensive specialty parts.
System RAM speed is considered a performance bottleneck for integrated graphics without dedicated VRAM, and that’s somewhat true for the A10-7890K. Boosting the memory frequency from 1600 MHz to the maximum allowed 2133 MHz results in a hefty 12% boost. The difference in price between a 8GB kit of DDR3-1600 vs. DDR3-2166 is a mere US$5, so it’s certainly worth investment if gaming is on the menu.
TEST RESULTS: DISCRETE GRAPHICS
Given their similar CPU clock speeds, the A10-7890K offers performance on par with the graphics-free flagship Athlon X4 880K with the two going neck-and-neck all out tests, though the A10 can boast slightly superior energy efficiency. Interestingly, these two chips also hold their own or even beat the FX-8350 in tests where the FX’s extra cores don’t come into play.
Our relative performance figures are calculated by giving each CPU a proportional
score in each benchmark with each test having an equal weighting.
The scale has been adjusted so that the A10-7890K is the reference point with
a score of 100.
The A10-7890K’s overall performance is virtually the same as the X4 880K.
When paired with the same discrete graphics card, the new A10-7890K uses 1W more than the A10-7860K under light load. Both the A10-7890K and X4 880K have a higher minimum default CPU clock speed than previous APUs, 1.7 GHz rather than the (previously) usual 1.4 GHz, yet the 7890K’s power draw is reigned in somewhat.
Again, the AMD chips use a considerable amount of energy playing HTML5 4K content versus Intel’s offerings. This task is so demanding, the power figures for the APUs are close to that of the average power consumption during our CPU benchmarks.
Our “average” power consumption numbers are derived by assuming each CPU/system spends its time performing three activities in equal proportion: sitting idle, playing video (average of H.264/MKV and HTML5 playback), and working (average of all our benchmarks). For this usage case, the A10-7890K is on the high side, drawing 8W more than the A10-7860K.
To determine performance per watt, we took our relative CPU performance figures and divided it by the “average” power consumption and adjusted the scale again with the A10-7890K as our reference point.
The A10-7890K’s power consumption is proportionally high relative to its CPU performance, so its less efficient than the slower A10-7860K and A8-7600.
When considering the cost of a system, the CPU is only part of the equation
as the price of motherboards and RAM must be added to find the true platform price. In the
chart below we included the prices of the chips compared today and an average compatible motherboard from Newegg
that fulfill this basic barebones set of criteria:
According to our parameters, the average motherboard pricing is US$63 for FM2+, US$100 for AM3+, US$96 for LGA1150 and US$121 for LGA1151.
To calculate CPU performance per dollar, we divided the relative performance scores by the platform costs and re-scaled it, again with the A10-7890K as our reference point.
AMD’s APUs/Athlons’ best selling point is arguably the superior level of value they generally offer compared to Intel processors, but this unfortunately is not true for the A10-7890K when only CPU performance is taken into account. Its US$160 price-tag places it a stone’s throw away from Intel’s least expensive quad core Core i5’s which are substantially faster. Thus, even the flagship Core i7-6700K, which is overkill/overpriced for most users, offers more bang-for-your-buck.
To adjust for integrated GPU performance as well, the approximate cost of an equivalent discrete graphics solution has been deducted from each chip (US$55 for the A10-7890K, US$50 for the A10-7860K/A10-6800K, US$45 for the A8-7600/i7-6700/i7-6700K, US$40 for the i5-4690K, and nothing for the X4 880K/FX-8350) and everything has been re-scaled once more.
The A10-7890K is more or less equivalent to an Athlon X4 880K with integrated graphics, but its US$160 price still makes it a poorer value even when this is taken into account. Slower/older chips are typically better buys than new flagships and this is true for the refreshed Kaveri lineup as well. From a pure dollars and cents perspective, taking a moderate deduction in CPU/GPU horsepower is the smarter choice.
The A10-7890K is currently the fastest FM2+ processor on the market, though it’s barely an improvement over the previous flagship. Compared to the best 65W model, the A10-7860K, the integrated graphics component is considerably stronger, especially when paired with high speed memory. This combination is best in class for integrated graphics outside of Intel’s extravagantly priced specialty chips featuring Iris Pro. Like the other new 95W+ SKUs in AMD’s lineup, it ships with an excellent stock cooling solution that makes the purchase of a third party heatsink unnecessary for some users. It may also come in handy as the A10-7890K is not particularly energy efficient and features an unlocked multiplier for easier overclocking.
Despite all these selling points, the US$160 price-tag makes the A10-7890K a difficult purchase to justify. It’s hard to conjure up a set of circumstances where such a chip would be most suitable. If CPU performance is a priority, a slightly more expensive Intel Core i5 would be a huge upgrade. On the other side of the scale, cheaper AMD SKUs like the A10-7860K and Athlon X4 880K perform fairly similarly and can be overclocked as well to make up any difference. If graphics are more important, an Athlon X4 paired with a dedicated video card is both more affordable and more flexible. And for a compact budget all-in-one solution where CPU/GPU horsepower is secondary, the various 65W APUs with their superior energy efficiency are a much better fit.
Every processor line needs a flagship, but at this price, the A10-7890K isn’t just a flagship APU, it’s a premium APU. The FM2+ platform’s greatest strength is its value proposition but AMD has priced the A10-7890K out of the conversation.
Our thanks to AMD for the A10-7890K processor sample.
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Articles of Related Interest
Stock AMD & Intel Coolers
AMD A10-7860K & Athlon 880K: Kaveri Refresh
AMD Wraith: Upgraded Stock Cooler
Intel Core i7-6700: Skylake i7 at 65W
Skylake: Intel Core i7-6700K
AMD A8-7600 Kaveri APU
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