AMD A6-3650 review
AMD's new A-series processors, codenamed 'Llano', have built-in DirectX 11 3D graphics and are a direct rival for Intel's latest 'Sandy Bridge' chips. The range-topping A8-3850's 3D power and reasonable price gained it a Best Buy award in June, so we were interested to see how the lower-end A6-3650 compares.
Like the A8-3850, the A6-3650 has four AMD 'Stars' cores, which are updated versions of the K10 cores found in AMD's Phenom II. The K10 core design is more than a couple of years old, but the Llano versions are based on a 32nm rather than 45nm process, so run cooler and use less power - the A6-3650 has a TDP of 100W, which compares favourably to a Sandy Bridge Core i5-2500K's 95W and is significantly less than the 125W of top-end Phenom IIs.
While the relatively low TDP means you can use standard socket AM2 processor coolers, Llano processors require a new socket type - FM1. We've reviewed the FM1-based Asrock A75 Pro4 and Asus F1A75-V Pro, both of which gained good ratings and are reasonably priced, so it's not a particularly onerous upgrade.
The A6-3650's processor cores run at 2.6GHz compared to the A8-3850's 2.9GHz. This makes some difference in our benchmarks - the image-editing test was almost identical, but the A6-3650 was significantly slower in our video-encoding and multitasking tests, and its overall score of 60 shows it to be around 12% slower than the top-end chip in 2D tasks. Considering the A6-3650 is about 22% cheaper than the A8-3850, it offers good 2D performance for its price.
However, the main difference between the processors is in their graphics chipsets. Instead of 400 stream processors running at 600MHz, the A6-3650 has 320 running at 443MHz. This made a significant difference in our Dirt 3 benchmark - where the A8-3850 managed a smooth 35fps at 1,280x720 with 4xAA and High detail, the A6-3650 could only produce a slightly jerky 28.6. Despite this, the chip's lower power didn’t make much difference when we added a Radeon HD 6450 in CrossFire mode - we saw a smooth 50.3fps in Dirt 3, which is only 2fps less than the A8-3850 / Radeon HD 6450 combination.
The A6-3650 may be slower than Intel's Sandy Bridge range of processors in 2D tasks, but it's far cheaper and significantly better in games. If you're after a budget gaming PC, the main choice is between this and the £102 A8-3850. There's not a great deal of difference between them in 2D performance, but the A6-3650's reduced graphics power is the difference between playable and jerky frame rates in less-demanding modern games. If you're planning on building a PC that uses the Llano on-processor graphics, we'd recommend the A8-3850, but if you're going to use a dedicated graphics card or a cheap AMD 6-series card in Crossfire with the processor, the cheaper A6-3650 is the chip to buy.
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