The AMD APU Explained

[Skill Level: We’ll keep it simple]

The APU also known as Advanced Processing Unit is a System on a Chip (SOC) that combines the CPU and the GPU onto a single die. By utilizing the power of the Radeon graphics cores and placing them into the exact same physical space as AMD’s CPU cores, the chip is provided with a wide range of features and technological abilities that would otherwise be absent on a traditional gaming PC which uses a discrete-GPU and standalone processor.

Those such as energy-efficiency, power-savings and improved heat dissipation are just a few of the many advantages the APU platform provides. Known as Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) the following features become available to AMD‘s APU platform: Low latency access to the GPU. Shared virtual memory is available to the CPU and GPU. Both the CPU and the GPU have access to memory with the same address space and can work together through Compute in order to support parallel workloads.

AMD APU

What does all of this actually mean? Unlike discrete graphics cards which communicate with the CPU through the PCIe slot, moving data through the slower system memory as well as the faster VRAM on the GPU itself, the Radeon graphics cores of the APU can work in peace and harmony alongside the processor, often doing much of the work commonly associated with the CPU in order to speed things up all the while having direct-access to system memory for faster access and transferring data.

Available from the AMD A4, A6, A8 and A10-Series, these APUs serves as great solutions for basic computing tasks with the Dual-Core variants, along with the Quad-Core designs being suited for gaming. Those such as the A10-7870K feature four CPU cores at 4.1GHz, combined with 512 Radeon graphics cores at 866MHz. Running at 7000MHz and upwards thanks to the likes of memory technology such as GDDR5, GDDR5X, and HBM being available on discrete graphics card solutions, those looking to purchase an APU should opt for the fastest system memory available that’s supported by the platform.

APU System

This is due to the fact that the APU is highly dependent upon memory speed for gaming performance and since the aforementioned technologies are not available as system memory choices, the fastest DDR3 and DDR4 will have a significant impact on gaming. Giving way for Multi-GPU configurations should gamers which to install a discrete graphics card, performance is combined for an enhanced experience, allowing those to choose an APU powered system as a great solution for potential upgrades.

Present within the PlayStation 4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One, as well as the upcoming Xbox Scorpio, AMD’s APU technology resides at the heart of both major game console platforms. Utilizing the Jaguar CPU architecture alongside the Bonaire and Pitcairn GPU architectures for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 respectively, AMD’s APU technology provides the exact same benefits to those on the PC platform to those on a console. Featuring CPU clock speeds of 1.6GHz to 2.1GHz with X2 Quad-Core modules for an 8-Core design, the major differences between each console primarily reside to the memory technology and GPU specifications for each system.

PlayStation 4 APU

Where the PlayStation 4 has a GPU consisting of 1152 Cores at 800MHz with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, bandwidth equates to 176 GB/s. The PS4 Pro on the other hand features 2304 Radeon cores at 911MHz – combined with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, bandwidth equates to 217GB/s. Present on the Xbox One the GPU packs 768 Radeon Cores at 853MHz. Where the physical makeup of memory drastically differs from the PlayStation 4 is down to the implementation of two types of memory being used simultaneously. Paired with 8GB of DDR3 the memory bandwidth falls short at just 68GB/s. Speeding things back up thanks to the inclusion of a smaller yet incredibly fast 32MB ESRAM, memory bandwidth reaches 204GB/s. While neither system is going to win any records for performance and the Jaguar architecture is ready for retirement, the technology itself is proves great on the PC for building low-cost gaming systems.

Confirmed to be using the modern Polaris GPU architecture from AMD, the upcoming Xbox Scorpio is said to feature around 2500 GPU cores paired with 12GB of GDDR5 memory for 326GB/s of bandwidth. Still based on the now aged Jaguar CPU cores, the Scorpio’s main performance resides within the potential of the GPU. Comparable within its performance to the current AMD graphics card solution the RX580, the upcoming console should [in-theory] turn in pleasing results for both 1440p and 4K gaming, with the potential for certain titles being able to run at 60 frames-per-second thanks to HSA and Compute technology.

Primal GEO

While the high-performing variants of the APU that’s inside the PS4 Pro and the Xbox Scorpio may not be available to PC gamers, the A10-7870K stands as a great starting point for those looking to build a low-power, low price, entry-level gaming PC that offers favourable performance to the original PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Allowing for upgrades later-on down the line thanks to AMD CrossFire technology giving way for discrete graphics card performance being combined with an APU, AMD’s innovative technology is great leap forward for console and PC gamers alike.

While enthusiast PC gamers will opt for a discrete graphics card solution – unwilling to settle for console-level performance, it’s clear the APU has a place for Entry-Level gaming. Built using the AMD APU platform, the Primal GEO Gaming PC features an A6-7400K APU, 8GB of DDR3 memory and a 1TB hard drive for plenty of space for the latest games. With its aggressive Red styling – colours calling back to the AMD platform, the Primal GEO is a great performer and a reliable system.

Available Here: Primal GEO

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