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The Trinity-based A10-4600M APU is an improvement on virtually all fronts versus its predecessor, the Llano-derived A8-3500M, purely on the strength of architectural updates. Although the Bulldozer CPU microarchitecture has been something of a disappointment on the desktop, its updated "Piledriver" module has delivered unambiguous benefits in this new mobile chip, in part because of a big boost in clock speeds. We even saw a nice gain in the lightly threaded SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, a fact that warms our cold, calculating hearts, since weak single-threaded performance has been one of our major concerns about recent AMD processors. The refreshed IGP in Trinity offers somewhat higher performance, as well, which is enough to make it the undisputed champ of this segment. And yes, Trinity manages to combine these performance gains with substantially better battery life than Llano within the same power envelope.

In pitching Trinity to the press, AMD repeatedly emphasized the subjective user experience and downplayed the importance of benchmarks. Take a look at our CPU performance results—even keeping in mind the 10W handicap the A10 had to deal with—and you'll understand why they might not want to see that comparison emphasized too much. Still, it is a fair point to note that one can't always perceive differences in CPU performance these days. During our time with the Trinity laptop, we found its snappiness for everyday web browsing and such to be virtually indistinguishable from our two Intel quad-core laptops. Of course, running heavier-duty applications is where our CPU tests and perception collide; there's little arguing with a photo stitching result where the A10 takes 12 seconds longer than Sandy Bridge to complete the same task. Whether one will regularly notice the difference between the two will depend on how one uses the system.

AMD is doing some good work in helping to push heavy-duty desktop applications like the GIMP and WinZip toward GPU acceleration via OpenCL. Many others, including the x264 video encoder, are purportedly slated to get OpenCL support soon. Further adoption of OpenCL and GPU acceleration could transform some of the stickiest parts of the desktop usage model by making key applications more GPU-dependent than CPU-dependent. That's huge. Presumably, AMD and its APUs would benefit from this change. However, the early returns from WinZip and LuxMark have shown four of Intel's x86 CPU cores to be even faster than Trinity's CPU-and-IGP tag team. AMD still has a lot of work to before it can credibly claim to be fulfilling its vision of a better user experience via converged computing.

For now, the choice between AMD's Trinity and the Intel competition is very much about priorities. If you value desktop application performance above all else, then Trinity probably isn't for you. If you care about graphics and gaming, well, then Trinity may hold some interest. We don't think that's a minor point in the grand scheme of things. Laptops are rapidly becoming the most popular consumer PCs, and a great many consumers will want to play games on them at least some of the time. We've noted that one can't always tell CPUs apart from the seat-of-the-pants experience. The results of our latency-focused gaming tests will tell you IGP performance deltas are much easier to perceive, at least in graphically intensive titles like the ones we tested. All of these IGPs are relatively wimpy graphics solutions, so you really want the best one possible. That's one of the reasons we liked Llano, and Trinity gives us no reason to change our tune. Yes, Ivy Bridge's IGP is much improved, but Trinity's is enough better to erase any questions of supremacy on that front.

What we want, now, is to get our hands on an ultra-thin laptop with a 17W Trinity inside. If that setup proves to be reasonably competent for both all-around use and occasional gaming, then AMD may have set a new high-water mark of sorts in ultraportable computing. That would really be something. TR

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