When it comes to computer processors, there are few options out there that aren’t AMD or Intel. That’s because together they own nearly the entire CPU market for desktops and servers. Both companies offer a wide range of models, from inexpensive desktop chips to higher end multi-core workstation and server processors. Both companies feature loyal fans of their products that will tell you which one is the absolute best in the AMD verses Intel war. Those close to me know I’ve been an Intel user since the late 90s and I don’t have a long history of AMD time on the desktop, however; I think that’s going to change.
My First AMD Computer
One of my last store bought computers was also my first AMD. This was back in the early 2000s and it was a step above my aging Intel computer. It didn’t see much abuse, only surfing Yahoo and some light gaming from the old MS-DOS days. Years later, the next AMD computer that would land in my lap was my parents’ old Acer, fitted with an AMD Phenom II X3 tri-core processor. It was a bit funky, kind of loud, and I had never seen a triple core anything before. If I recall correctly from reading about the X3’s, it was essentially a quad-core processor with one core disabled. Don’t quote me on that. I’ve only ever had a brief history with AMD on the desktop until recently.
Now, servers are another story. I’ve been a huge fan of the AMD Opteron series ever since its inception. In fact, to this day I’m still overseeing a web server farm on a group of AMD Opteron 4334 Seouls (hexa-core) and I couldn’t be happier with the performance.
The Budget PC Gamer
I’ve been primarily a Mac guy ever since Apple released the Intel Developer Transition Kit back in 2005 as they did away with the older G processors. When I needed to build an ultra budget computer for some light gaming (low 1080p), I immediately thought about buying an older server processor and fitting it with an entry-level dedicated graphics card for maximum money savings since I know how well the older Opterons perform.
I was debating between an older Opteron or Xeon (those more expensive LGA 1366 motherboards…) when a good friend of mine and avid PC builder Jeremy Kelley from Kelleytech (@kelleytech) suggested I try AMD’s integrated graphics offerings from a more recent lineup. Keep in mind, my budget is very budget-ey. I’m not only considering cheaper technology at this point, but used/refurbished parts to bring the cost down even further.
AMD or Bust
As we discussed more recent AMD options in depth, I started leaning towards picking up an AMD A4-7300 for roughly $50.00 and later getting a nice dedicated graphics card for it. My previous budget gamer was an Intel Core i3 3.5 GHz with a barebones EVGA GeForce 210 1GB low profile NVIDIA desktop graphics card that would tackle most games released in the past couple of years in 720p low/medium settings with a few 1080p low surprises.
I learned more from @kelleytech about how far AMD has come not only in multi-core processors, but also their gaming performance and traditionally lower price point compared to Intel’s offerings. Who doesn’t love fast and low cost in the same sentence? Right when I was getting ready to order that A4 APU, he sent me a photo his desk including a number of AMD and Intel chips that he has collected.
Since I was originally in the market for a refurbished processor to really drive home the budget part of this build, no sooner after I mentioned wanting to purchase a tested processor from his geeky cache did he offer to mail his test chip on the house — I was shocked. He wouldn’t accept a dollar for it and what arrived to my door a week later was a beautiful AMD A10-7870k Godavari Quad-Core 3.9 GHz APU.
This processor features 4 CPU cores (4.1 GHz turbo) and 8 graphics cores (running at 866 MHz with 384 Radeon Cores) to fully support DirectX 12, HSA, FreeSync, and it’s unlocked! This AMD chip is a great value with a lot of room to upgrade without crossing over to an FX series where dedicated graphics would be required. I paired it with a cheaper motherboard that doesn’t give me as many options as a more expensive board, but it does the trick for now.
I definitely plan on keeping up the AMD tradition on my desktop computers from now on, as I am more than pleased with the performance. As I mentioned before, I do plan on adding some type of dedicated graphics to this system, but long down the road. For now, we’re taking full advantage of the AMD iGPU and it’s working great.
- AMD A10-7870k Godavari Quad-Core 3.9 GHz APU
- G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 2400 OC RAM
- ADATA Premier SP550 2.5″ 120GB SATA Hard Drive (SSD)
- Seagate 3.5″ 500GB SATA Hard Drive (Spinner)
- Gigabyte GA-F2A68HM-H FM2+ AMD Motherboard
- XION Gaming Series XON-310BK Blue LED Mid Tower
- Corsair CX600 600W Power Supply
Once Windows 10 Professional 64-bit finished installing, I rushed to find all of my game discs and usernames to re-install software on my new AMD build. I’m running on a 120GB SSD boot drive attached to a 500GB spinning data drive with a 25″ HP IPS LED monitor running at 1920 x 1080 resolution. I have 8GB of DDR3 RAM and some of that is used by the integrated graphics, so I made sure to get it up to 2400(OC) for a slightly better experience with the iGPU. The motherboard has some room to grow if I plan on keeping it.
Here are some quick benchmarks from a few of my favorite games. Some of these games I either ran in 720p low/medium, 1080p low, or not at all on my older Intel setup with its dedicated (albeit small) graphics card. This AMD setup is a huge upgrade even before adding a graphics card to the case. All of these games are running in 1080p on a single monitor.
- World of Warcraft (40-60 FPS Medium/High)
- Tomb Raider (25-35 FPS Medium)
- BioShock Infinite (30-35 FPS Medium)
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (45-50 FPS High)
- Grand Theft Auto V (30-50 FPS Low/Medium)
The noise while under heavy load was a little more than I expected from the built-in LED case fan, but it looks great and for $20 something bucks, you can’t go wrong. As much as I want to throw in a water cooling system at some point, I feel like these processors run just fine on air and I would hate to risk a part failing and soaking my computer for a little extra speed. 3.9/4.1 GHz is fast enough for anything I’ll need to do in the future, and dedicated graphics are always an option when the built-in graphics age over time.
I’m definitely impressed with AMD’s recent processors, performance, and cost. With that said, they’ve gained a fan on the desktop. Now that my significant other is getting more into online gaming, I think my next build will be another AMD APU. It’s hard to argue with integrated graphics that can still make games playable and enjoyable for the masses.