AMD has decided to close out 2011 with a refresh of their A-series APU line of processors. This update isn’t introducing new architecture for the chips or reducing manufacturing process sizes, but the company is squeezing out some extra performance and providing unlocked versions for overclocking.
The current front runner, the AMD A8-3850, is being replaced by the AMD A8-3870k. The 3870k will have a better clock, increasing the speed of the quad core processor from 2.9GHz up to 3.0GHz. Also included in the 3870k is an unlocked multiplier, so the overclocking community can push that chip even further. The chip design stays within the 100 Watt power envelope of the 3850 and contains the exact same GPU, namely the 600MHz 400-core HD 6550D.
The unlocked multiplier is what can really make the difference between the 3850 and the new 3870k. The GPU and CPU will be able to be tuned individually and AMD is claiming possible frequency increases of up to 500MHz on the CPU and 200MHz on the GPU. If those numbers are possible, the 3870k seems like a pretty good deal, especially with the strong possibility that these new chips will just replace the old ones at the same pricing levels.
The chips at the lower end of the A-series line are a little more confusing in terms of new specs versus old ones. One example is the new A4-3305, replacing the A4-3300. The 3305 actually runs at the same speed as the 3300. The new chip actually has half the cache and 80 fewer GPU cores but what it does have on board is clocked to run 149Hz faster. Those discrepancies make performance comparisons really difficult. One main benefit being reported is the possibility that the 3305 could run at a lower voltage than the 3300, meaning AMD has effectively reduced the cache and number of GPU cores to cut power. If the 3305 performs comparably to the 3300, the reduction in power is great, especially if the price is the same.
AMD has a full list of the new models and their respective features and speeds available in a press release. Overall it seems that these aren’t worth an upgrade from the previous A-series APUs which came out around six months ago, but they are compelling for users who are looking for a new processor to overclock. Let us know what you think about these new chips in the comments.