Update — Faulty memory appears to be behind the crashing we experienced with the A8-7600T. The AMD-branded DIMMs provided with the Kaveri test system produce errors when running Prime95 alongside the Unigine Valley graphics benchmark. These errors occur with the memory clocked at 2133MHz, the maximum speed officially supported by both the DIMMs and the processor. Dialing back the modules to 1866MHz eliminates the errors, and so does swapping in a pair of Corsair Vengeance DIMMs. The Corsair modules passed a 12-hour stress test at 2133MHz without so much as a single error.
Kaveri is AMD's first APU to feature integrated graphics based on the latest generation of Radeon graphics cards. As we learned in our review of the A8-7600, even a cut-down version of this DirectX 11-class GPU can keep up with the latest blockbuster games. Battlefield 4, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Tomb Raider are all playable at a 1080p resolution. The frame rates aren't great—around 25-30 FPS—and the in-game detail settings need to be turned down to get the games running that well. But the action is smooth enough and the graphics are good enough to deliver an enjoyable experience, especially for so-called casual gamers with less refined tastes. Not bad for a $120 processor that can fit inside small-form-factor and all-in-one systems.
Our deadline for the Kaveri review was extremely tight, so there was no time to test the A8-7600 in additional games. However, I wanted to see how the chip handled a broader collection of titles, specifically the older, less demanding games so frequently discounted on Steam. These games may not be the latest and greatest, but they're still a lot of fun, and they're very cheap to buy. Perhaps the A8-7600 could run them with fewer compromises.
Since I was pretty much zombified the day after the review went up, I decided to find out. Installing and playing games was my only real hope of productivity in that state. The following are my subjective impressions and some accompanying screenshots. Clicking the screenshots will bring up a larger, full-resolution image that provides a better sense of how things look.
First, here are some shots from the games we tested in the review. (Our full, inside-the-second analysis begins here.)
I didn't include the full-sized images in the initial article, but they're worth perusing. All three games look better than one might expect from integrated graphics, especially given the display resolution. That said, Batman and Tomb Raider both crashed to the desktop multiple times during testing, and they weren't the only games to have issues.
Speaking of other games, let's look at batch of first-person shooters.
Borderlands 2 ran reasonably smoothly with only depth of field, ambient occlusion, and antialiasing disabled. The frame rate stuck to around 30 FPS, and I didn't perceive any obvious stuttering. This game is definitely playable, though it did crash to the desktop twice.
Serious Sam also crashed a couple of times. Otherwise, the game ran pretty well with high details and only ambient occlusion and antialiasing disabled. Frame rates bounced around within the 25-50 FPS range depending on how many baddies there were on the screen. The occasional slowdown was noticeable during the heaviest action, but it didn't really affect my enjoyment of the game.
Fraps' frame rate counter showed 30-45 FPS during my Dishonored session. The action felt smooth, with no apparent interruptions to fluid frame delivery. And the game looked decent, too. All the graphical settings were maxed with the exception of the model detail, which was set to normal rather than high, and antialiasing, which was disabled.
Next on the shooter front: Mirror's Edge and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Both of these games ran well on the A8-7600. Counter-Strike regularly hit 60 FPS with the details maxed and FXAA turned on. It felt noticeably silkier than the other shooters, which is exactly what you want in a game that relies on quick reactions.
Mirror's Edge had slightly lower frame rates than Counter-Strike, and I had to disable antialiasing and PhysX effects to make the action stutter-free. After those adjustments, Fraps' FPS counter never dropped below 35 FPS, and Faith's free running felt fluid. Or it did until the game crashed. Twice. Noticing a pattern yet?
Dirt: Showdown crashed to the desktop multiple times, too. It was actually part of the original test suite for the A8-7600 review, but I switched to Tomb Raider after encountering a couple of early crashes on the Kaveri setup. After getting another shot, Dirt: Showdown ran pretty well, at least between subsequent crashes. With high details and antialiasing disabled, the frame rate hovered around 30-35 FPS. There were no obvious stutters or slowdowns.
The only crashing problem in Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed was hitting other cars, and I can't blame the game or the APU for that. With high in-game detail settings, the A8-7600 cranked out 25-30 FPS. The frame rate dipped to the lower end of that range when there were more cars in front of me, but that didn't make the gameplay feel sluggish.
More game crashes hit when I tackled Sleeping Dogs. One of them even hosed part of the Windows install, forcing me to re-image the system. Ugh.
When it wasn't crashing, Sleeping Dogs was too choppy with high details. The game ran at 30-45 FPS with medium details, though. Scaling back the eye candy sacrificed the slickness of the environment, but it was necessary to even out the frame delivery and eliminate stuttering. And the graphics still looked all right.
Just Cause 2 is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance thanks to a free multiplayer mod. The mod crashed on me several times, but the standard, single-player version of the game ran without issue. And it ran very well, too. With high details and everything but antialiasing and ambient occlusion disabled, there were no noticeable slowdowns in the frame rate. Fraps reported 30-45 FPS for the duration of my test session.
A couple of more casual games, Dyad and Trials Evolution Gold, performed impeccably with all their in-game detail settings turned up. Not that we should be surprised. These titles are much simpler than the other games we've looked at so far.
Dyad and Trials Evolution Gold were immune to crashes, and the Kaveri system was perfectly stable in all our non-gaming tests, including those that tapped the integrated Radeon via OpenCL. The A8-7600 still had problems with exactly half of the games we played, though. That's a lot, especially since these aren't overly obscure titles. (I'm not counting Just Cause 2 multiplayer, which could probably use more polish.)
AMD's OverDrive utility showed no evidence that the APU was overheating. Also, there were no problems with Richland-based APUs running in the same test system and with the same drivers. Those chips have an older integrated graphics architecture that may use a separate driver code path, so perhaps this is just a software issue that can be ironed out with a future Catalyst driver release. Fingers crossed.
In between crashes, the A8-7600's gaming chops impressed me. This APU is fast enough to run lots of really good titles at 1080p resolution, and it can handle older games without too much sacrifice. That said, there are still some compromises involved. Even in older games, it's rare to be able to turn the detail settings all the way up, and antialiasing often causes slowdowns. Some visual fidelity is inevitably lost versus what can be achieved with a more powerful GPU.
Some smoothness is lost, as well. Although the A8-7600 was largely stutter-free in the games we tested, the lower frame rates we experienced in more recent titles didn't feel as fluid as the 60 FPS we got in Counter-Strike. The APU was fast enough to run the games we played at the settings we used, but the performance definitely wasn't ideal for most of those titles.
For casual audiences with less refined appetites, the A8-7600 is probably fast enough. Connoisseurs are unlikely to be satisfied, though, and I question how well future titles will run on the chip. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have a lot more GPU grunt than Kaveri's integrated Radeon, and developers are likely to target those platforms as their new baseline. Perhaps Kaveri can serve as a sort of gateway drug by giving people a taste of PC gaming without all the trimmings.