The Good The new AMD A8-3850 desktop chip offers strong budget gaming and multicore performance at a reasonable price.
The Bad AMD's new chip doesn't outperform its Intel equivalent on many standard programs.
The Bottom Line We recommend the AMD A8-3850 to mainstream desktop PC users in search of capable gaming power and multithreaded application performance.
The new A-Series desktop processors round out, and make AMD the second processor manufacturer this year to combine a standard desktop chip with an embedded graphics processor on a single piece of silicon. , with its second-generation Core series (formerly known as Sandy Bridge) that debuted in January. While AMD's approach is generally not as fast as Intel's in terms of traditional processing power, it has drawn on the resources of its Radeon graphics business to provide the A8-3850 chip with impressive 3D performance for its price of $135. We can recommend AMD's new chip as a low-cost gaming platform and for multithreaded applications, but many users will still get faster general performance from an equivalent Intel chip.
AMD has not competed well with Intel in recent years, in part due to Intel's relentless pursuit of ever-more-efficient CPU manufacturing processes. In combination with the fact that Intel owns its own manufacturing facilities, compared with AMD which has to use other companies' plants, the result has been that Intel's CPUs have maintained a dollar-for-dollar performance lead over AMD's since Intel first introduced its Core 2 Duo chip family in mid-2007.
Aside from that manufacturing competition, this latest generation of CPUs represents a major step in what's been a slow shift in the way we think about computing. Traditionally, CPUs handle application processing duties, and GPUs (graphics processing units) were meant for gaming and dedicated video processing programs. Since Intel's Core CPUs launched earlier this year, and really as early as the 2008 debut of Nvidia's CUDA technology, those lines have blurred. Now, applications ranging from Adobe Creative Suite 5 and Flash 10.1 to Windows 7, Internet Explorer 9, and Firefox 4.0 can use the graphics processor to speed up performance, particularly when it comes to rendering visual elements. Windows' translucent Aero visual theme, for example, supports GPU acceleration.