Clockspeed Jump and More!

AMD has refreshed their FM2+ lineup with new APUs, CPUs, and Coolers

On March 1st AMD announced the availability of two new processors as well as more information on the A10 7860 APU.

The two new units are the A10-7890K and the Athlon X4 880K.  These are both Kaveri based parts, but of course the Athlon has the GPU portion disabled.  Product refreshes for the past several years have followed a far different schedule than the days of yore.  Remember back in time when the Phenom II series and the competing Core 2 series would have clockspeed updates that were expected yearly, if not every half year with a slightly faster top end performer to garner top dollar from consumers?

Things have changed, for better or worse.  We have so far seen two clockspeed bumps for the Kaveri /Godavari based APU.  Kaveri was first introduced over two years ago with the A10-7850K and the lower end derivatives.  The 7850K has a clockspeed that ranges from 3.7 GHz to the max 4 GHz with boost.  The GPU portion is clocked at 720 MHz.  This is a 95 watt TDP part that is one of the introductory units from GLOBALFOUNDRIES 28 nm HKMG process.

Today the new top end A10-7890K is clocked at 4.1 GHz to 4.3 GHz max.  The GPU receives a significant boost in performance with a clockspeed of 866 MHz.  The combination of CPU and GPU clockspeed increases push the total performance of the part exceeding 1 TFLOPs.  It features the same dual module/quad core Godavari design as well as the 8 GCN Units.  The interesting part here is that the APU does not exceed the 95 watt TDP that it shares with the older and slower 7850K.  It is also a boost in performance from last year’s refresh of the A10-7870K which is clocked 200 MHz slower on the CPU portion but retains the 866 MHz speed of the GPU.  This APU is fully unlocked so a user can easily overclock both the CPU and GPU cores.

The Athlon X4 880K is still based on the Godavari family rather than the Carizzo update that the X4 845 uses.  This part is clocked from 4.0 to 4.2 GHz.  It again retains the 95 watt TDP rating of the previous Athlon X4 CPUs.  Previously the X4 860K was the highest clocked unit at 3.7 GHz to 4.0, but the 880K raises that to 4 to 4.2 GHz.  A 300 MHz gain in base clock is pretty significant as well as stretching that ceiling to 4.2 GHz.  The Godavari modules retain their full amount of L2 cache so the 880K has 4 MB available to it.  These parts are very popular with budget enthusiasts and gaming builds as they are extremely inexpensive and perform at an acceptable level with free overclocking thrown in.

The Godavari parts are derivatives of the previous Kaveri models but with some tweaking done to power distribution, firmware optimizations, and improvements in GLOBALFOUNDRIES 28 nm HKMG process.  These changes have expanded the top end clockspeeds of these products as well as given rise to another interesting member that was introduced some weeks ago.  The A10 7860K is clocked very closely on the CPU side to the 7850K, raises the GPU clock to the 866 MHz level, and lowers the overall TDP of the part down to 65 watts.  Consider back in 2009 AMD released their new 45 nm Phenom II X4 940 at 3.0 GHz when the previous 65 nm Phenom topped out at 2.6 GHz.  AMD achieved a 400 MHz improvement by going a full node down as well as redesigning the chip.  Certainly that 400 MHz was a larger percentage in those older parts as compared to what we are seeing with these latest APUs, but it does put this clockspeed jump into perspective.

While we were expecting more information about the upcoming AM4 platform and accompanying APUs and CPUs, this is a good taste as to what can be expected.  AMD will not leverage the Samsung/GLOBALFOUNDRIES 14nm LPP process until Zen and its derivatives, so we can expect these upcoming parts to be 28 nm as well.  With the further redesign for the new socket as well as significant power tweaks , I would imagine we will see these new parts ramp up in performance above that of these newly released APUs.  What we don’t know is the timing for that particular launch.  For those looking to invest in a new, low priced gaming and productivity system, the new 7890K and 880K parts are good values.  The 7890K retails for $165 while the 880K is down at $95.

The faster GPU clockspeed translates directly into better 3D performance.  Many popular games such as League of Legends, CS:GO, DOTA 2, and others do not require the very highest performing graphics solution to run at fast framerates.  The latest APUs with the 866 MHz clock can handle many of these titles at 1080P as well as some selected titles at 1440P.

The boxed 7890K will also feature the new Wraith cooler that has been talked about quite a bit lately.  In fact, it is a little amazing that we have covered an upgrade to stock coolers so extensively.  The Wraith only adds about $10 in cost as compared to the older unit, but it is far more competent in its job.  The 7890K is a 95W part while the Wraith is rated for over 125 watts.  The LED shroud is a nice addition and overall the unit stays very cool and quiet.  The 880K features a nearly identical 125 watt cooler, but without the LED shroud.  This obviously takes off a few dollars, but performs identically to the Wraith.  AMD is also offering updated 95 watt and 65 watt coolers for their other APUs and CPUs.  These will not have a shroud or fancy LEDs, but they will improve the cooling efficiency of the included stock cooler in boxed units.

Finally AMD wants to remind us that they continue to work with their motherboard partners to improve upon those products.  The very latest motherboards feature fun things like USB 3.1, RGB lightning, M.2 support, and other gamer-centric features.  The A88X is still a relatively new chipset while the 970 and 990 were first introduced as the 800 series back in 2009.

It is good that AMD does continue to iterate and refresh their lineup through what looks to be a rough year in the CPU business.  Things do look brighter when we look at the graphics portion of their portfolio, but for now AMD is leveraging the Piledriver, Godavari, and Carrizo units for their top to bottom lineup on desktop and mobile.  AM4 will bring improvements as well as set the stage for the Zen release in late 2016.  It will be nice for consumers to not have to look at two different socket types when choosing an AMD processor.  Until that time, we have a fairly decent refresh of the APU product stack from AMD for very competitive prices.