Over the last two weeks, AMD officially launched their 7th Generation Bristol Ridge processors as well as the new AM4 socket and related chipsets. The launch was somewhat muted, as the target for the initial launch is purely to the big system OEMs and system integrators, such as Lenovo, HP, Dell and others – for users wanting to build their own systems, ‘Product-in-Box’ units (called PIBs) for self-build systems will come at the end of the year. We held off on the announcement because the launch and briefings left a number of questions unanswered as to the potential matrix of configurations, specifications of the hardware and how it all connects together. We got a number of answers, so let’s delve in.

The CPUs

The seven APUs and one CPU being launched for OEM systems spans from a high-frequency A12 part using the 7th Generation microarchitecture (we call it Excavator v2) to the A6, and they all build on the Bristol Ridge notebook parts that were launched earlier in the year but focused on the desktop this time around. AMD essentially skipped the 6th Gen, Carrizo, for desktop as the design was significantly mobile focused – we ended up with one CPU, the Athlon X4 845 (which we reviewed), with DDR3 support but no integrated graphics. Using the updated 28nm process from TSMC, AMD was able to tweak the microarchitecture and allow full on APUs for desktops using a similar design.

The full list of processors is as follows:

AMD 7th Generation Bristol Ridge Processors
  Modules/
Threads
CPU Base /
 Turbo (MHz)
GPU GPU Base / 
Turbo (MHz)
TDP
A12-9800 2M / 4T 3800 / 4200 Radeon R7 800 / 1108 65W
A12-9800E 2M / 4T 3100 / 3800 Radeon R7 655 / 900 35W
A10-9700 2M / 4T 3500 / 3800 Radeon R7 720 / 1029 65W
A10-9700E 2M / 4T 3000 / 3500 Radeon R7 600 / 847 35W
A8-9600 2M / 4T 3100 / 3400 Radeon R7 655 / 900 65W
A6-9500 1M / 2T 3500 / 3800 Radeon R5 720 / 1029 65W
A6-9500E 1M / 2T 3000 / 3400 Radeon R5 576 / 800 35W
Athlon X4 950 2M / 4T 3500 / 3800 - - 65W

AMD’s mainstream processors will now hit a maximum of 65W in their official thermal design power (TDP), with the launch offering a number of 65W and 35W parts. There is the potential to offer CPUs with a configurable TDP, however much like the older parts that supported 65W/45W modes, it was seldom used, and chances are we will see OEMs stick with the default design power windows here. Also, the naming scheme: any 35W part now has an ‘E’ at the end of the processor name, allowing for easier identification.

As part of this review, we were able to snag a few extra configuration specifications for each of the processors, including the number of streaming processors in each, base GPU frequencies, base Northbridge frequencies (more on the NB later), and confirmation that all the APUs launched will support DDR4-2400 at JEDEC sub-timings.

AMD 7th Generation 65W Bristol Ridge Processors
  Modules/
Threads
CPU Base /
 Turbo (MHz)
GPU
SPs
GPU Base / 
Turbo (MHz)
Northbridge 
Base (MHz)
A12-9800 2M / 4T 3800 / 4200 512 800 / 1108 1400
A10-9700 2M / 4T 3500 / 3800 384 720 / 1029 1400
A8-9600 2M / 4T 3100 / 3400 384 655 / 900 1300
A6-9500 1M / 2T 3500 / 3800 384 720 / 1029 1400
Athlon X4 950 2M / 4T 3500 / 3800 - - 1400

 

AMD 7th Generation 35W Bristol Ridge Processors
  Modules/
Threads
CPU Base /
 Turbo (MHz)
GPU
SPs
GPU Base / 
Turbo (MHz)
Northbridge 
Base (MHz)
A12-9800E 2M / 4T 3100 / 3800 512 655 / 900 1300
A10-9700E 2M / 4T 3000 / 3500 384 600 / 847 1300
A6-9500E 1M / 2T 3000 / 3400 256 576 / 800 1300

 

The A12-9800 at the top of the stack is an interesting part on paper. If we do a direct comparison with the previous high-end AMD APUs, the A10-7890K, A10-7870K and A10-7860K, a lot of positives end up on the side of the A12.

High-End AMD APU Comparison
  A12-9800   A10-7890K A10-7870K A10-7860K   A10-9700
MSRP -   $165 $137 $117   -
Platform Bristol Ridge   Kaveri Refresh   Bristol Ridge
uArch Excavator v2   Steamroller Steamroller Steamroller   Excavator v2
Threads 2M / 4T   2M / 4T 2M / 4T 2M / 4T   2M / 4T
CPU Base Freq 3800   4100 3900 3600   3500
CPU Turbo Freq 4200   4300 4100 4000   3800
IGP SPs 512   512 512 512   384
GPU Turbo Freq 1108   866 866 757   1029
TDP 65W   95W 95W 65W   65W
L1-I Cache 192 KB   192 KB 192 KB 192 KB   192 KB
L1-D Cache 128 KB   64 KB 64 KB 64 KB   128 KB
L2 Cache 2 MB   4 MB 4 MB 4 MB   2 MB
DDR Support DDR4-2400   DDR3-2133 DDR3-2133 DDR3-2133   DDR4-2400
PCIe 3.0 x8   x16 x16 x16   x8
Chipsets B350
A320
X/B/A300
  A88X
A78
A68H
A88X
A78
A68H
A88X
A78
A68H
  B350
A320
X/B/A300

The frequency of the A12-9800 gives it a greater dynamic range than the A10-7870K (having 3.8-4.2 GHz, rather than 3.9-4.1), but with the newer Excavator v2 microarchitecture, improved L1 cache, AVX 2.0 support and a much higher integrated graphics frequency (1108 MHz vs. 866 MHz) while also coming in at 30W less TDP. The 30W TDP jump is the most surprising – we’re essentially getting better than the previous A10-class performance at a lower power, which is most likely why they started naming the best APU in the stack an ‘A12’. Basically, the A12-9800 APU will be an extremely interesting one to review given the smaller L2 cache but faster graphics and DDR4 memory.

A Wild Overclocker Appears!

Given that technically the systems with the new APUs have been released for a couple of weeks, some vendors have their internal enthusiasts play around with the platform. Bearing in mind that AMD has not announced any formal overclocking support on these new APUs, NAMEGT, a South Korean overclocker with ties to ASUS, has pushed the A12-9800 APU to 4.8 GHz by adjusting the multiplier. To do this, he used an unreleased ASUS Octopus AM4 motherboard and AMD’s 125W Wraith air cooler (which will presumably be bundled with PIBs later in the product cycle).


Credit: NAMEGT and HWBot

NAMEGT ran this setup on multithreaded Cinebench 11.5 and Cinebench 15, scoring 4.77 and 380 respectively for a 4.8 GHz overclock. If we compare this to our Bench database results, we see the following

Cinebench 11.5 - Multi-Threaded

For Cinebench 15, this overclocked score puts the A12-9800 above the Haswell Core i3-4360 and the older AMD FX-4350, but below the newer Skylake i3-6100TE. The Athlon X4 845 at stock frequencies scored 314 while running at 3.5 GHz, which would suggest that a stock A12-9800 at 3.8 GHz would fall around the 340 mark.

Cinebench R15 - Multi-Threaded

(Since writing this, a preview by Korean website Bodnara, using the A12-9800 in a GIGABYTE motherboard, scored 334 for a stock Cinebench 15 multithreaded test and 96 for the single threaded test. We've added this result for perspective.)

Cinebench R15 - Single Threaded

When we previously tested the Excavator architecture for desktop on the 65W Athlon X4 845, overclocking was a nightmare, with stability being a large issue. At the time, we suspected that due to the core design being focused towards 15W, moving beyond 65W was perhaps a bit of a stretch for the design at hand. This time around, as we reported before, Bristol Ridge is using an updated 28nm process over Carrizo, which may have a hand in this.

When we asked AMD about overclocking details on the new APUs, the return reply was along the lines of ‘No OEM systems at this time will be unlocked, and no official comment on the individual units. More details will be released closer to the platform launch for DIY users’. 

An Unusual Launch Cycle: OEMs now, Individual Units Later
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  • patrickjp93 - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    Those are cheaper nodes due to maturity, jsyk. Reply
  • starlightmica - Friday, September 23, 2016 - link

    HP Canada's 510-p127c spec page:

    http://support.hp.com/ca-en/document/c05281246

    AMD A12-9000
    16GB DDR4
    R7 450 2Gb GDDR5, 4K over DP1.2, HDMI 1.4
    180W uATX PSU :(
    Reply
  • jardows2 - Friday, September 23, 2016 - link

    Really looking forward to some actual benchmarks. I really am itching to build a new office computer, and right now, the i3-6100 is the only realistic chip, since I won't be doing much gaming on the system. If the new A12 and A10 can even come close to matching the i3 in CPU tasks, I'd be more than happy to snag that up, as the graphics will be nice, and the upgradability to Zen later if that processor pans out. Reply
  • Danvelopment - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    I'm writing an article on that at the moment (different site built around the economics of modern tech). Conclusion is unless you need specific Skylake tech on a desktop (m.2, DDR4, ECC, IGP, SGX, MPX or AVX2), get an Ivy Bridge i5/i7. Ex-lease Ivy machines are pretty much being sold for pennies these days (less than a new Pentium machine) and a quad Ivy i5/i7 will almost always demolish a Skylake i3 on the CPU side.

    Use the leftover cash for a couple SSDs and beer.
    Reply
  • serendip - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    And so comes the end of the desktop computer, as people refurbish old computers and use them for years instead of buying new ones every year. That Ivy i5 system paired with lots of cheap RAM and a cheap SATA SSD would be more than fast enough for office tasks for years to come.

    Could be good for AMD though. They could make good-enough APUs for mainstream usage at a price point Intel can't touch. It's a race to the bottom and AMD could conceivably win.
    Reply
  • LordanSS - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    Still rocking my 3770k.

    Skylake wasn't a good enough performance bump for my use cases, considering platform price. Kaby Lake has no IPC boost, and who knows when Cannonlake will arrive.

    Waiting on Zen to arrive so I can take a look at benchmarks. Even if it's "slower" than Skylake, if the platform cost is right it would be a quite viable option.
    Reply
  • Danvelopment - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - link

    Precisely, I just overclocked my 2500K to 4.5GHz the other day and it will definitely last me until Intel gets its act together and puts a focus on performance improvements again.

    If AMD were competitive, Intel would probably be pushing a lot more performance on successive generations. Instead they're cashing in by shrinking dies and moving more components on die, while only incrementally improving performance.

    So really it's a good thing, suddenly competing with the secondhand market will hopefully see a large performance boost in future generations.
    Reply
  • patrickjp93 - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    @Danvelopment Please take a look at Agner Fog's x86 instruction latency tables. Intel can't squeeze blood from a rock and make instructions take less than 1 cycle. No one can. Reply
  • patrickjp93 - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    Continuing from the above, that's why SIMD and MIMD instructions were created. Reply
  • Danvelopment - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    So you're saying we've hit the limit for processor performance and there's nothing new anyone can do?

    I find that hard to believe, especially as innovation is not required to increase performance, hell if they were desperate they could bring i3 to a quad minimum and flop four more cores into 5 and 7 and call it a day. It's not innovation but it's a significant increase in performance potential.

    Instead we've gone from a 216mm2 die to a 122mm2 die.

    If it were neck and neck, Intel wouldn't look at AMD and go, "whelp, nothing we can do".
    Reply

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