Lab Tested: AMD’s “Lynx” Brings Superior Graphics For Budget Desktops

AMD's recently launched Fusion A-Series processors are finally making their way into the Desktops, and shoppers looking for an inexpensive machine that's still capable of tackling their media and even a bit of gaming are in for a treat.

A quick look at the Desktops category's numerous Top 10 charts reveals a rather stark preference from manufacturers for Intel processors. This isn't entirely surprising -- while rival AMD has long offered strong, competitively priced CPUs, Intel wares have consistently proven to be more powerful, negating AMD's cost-advantage in all but a few categories.

For higher-end machines (specifically, our Mainstream and Performance desktop categories) that isn't about to change. But AMD's new A-Series APUs are positioned to make a very sweet deal for budget-minded consumers who want to save a bit of cash, but don't want a subpar experience.

Let's get some of the jargon out of the way. AMD's A-series APUs -- previously codenamed "Llano" -- signal AMD's shift down to the 32 nanometer process, chipping away at power consumption while boosting performance. "Lynx" is the codename for Llano's desktop iteration; in notebooks, it was codenamed "Sabine." An "APU" is a new termed coined by AMD, meaning "Accelerated Processing Unit." It means that the CPU and GPU are combined onto a single chip -- akin to Intel's Sandy Bridge CPUs.

Both Intel and AMD have implemented a form of automated overclocking -- Intel calls it Turbo Boost, AMD calls it Turbo Core. Both technololgies work similarly: when the processor has some spare thermal headroom, it overclocks a few notches, delivering an extra bit of speed when circumstances allow. Neither of the two processors I looked at offer these technologies however. AMD will be reelasing a model later on -- the 2.4 GHZ A8-3800 -- that will offer Turbo Core, but no pricing or availability has been announced yet.

For the full technical breakdown on the A-series APUs, be sure to check out Jason Cross' detailed analysis. I've put the hardware through its paces, and the results are impressive, if not especially surprising.

Testing: The Hardware

For my tests, AMD provided an A8-3850 APU, along with an ASRock A75 Pro 4 motherboard. The A8-3850 is quad-core, 2.9GHz chip, with Radeon HD 6550D "discrete class graphics" integrated onto the die. In layman's terms, that means the power of a lower end graphics card is baked right onto the chip, ostensibly eliminating the need for a graphics card entirely. For comparison, I tested a dual-core 3.1GHz Core i3-2100. This Intel Sandy Bridge processor was paired with an Intel motherboard based on the H67 chipset.

With the exception of the aforementioned motherboard and processors, the testbeds were identical -- a 1TB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and a DVD-RW drive for loading drivers and the like. All tests were run on the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. As this review was primarily focused on the processors and integrated graphics performance of the competing platforms, I didn't include a graphics card until testing AMD's new Dual Graphics tech.

Shop ▾
arrow up Amazon Shop buttons are programmatically attached to all reviews, regardless of products' final review scores. Our parent company, IDG, receives advertisement revenue for shopping activity generated by the links. Because the buttons are attached programmatically, they should not be interpreted as editorial endorsements.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter