AMD A12-9800 Bristol Ridge APU (socket AM4) review

Sneak peek at new APU series



We want to start with a disclaimer: the tested hardware has not yet been released officially and therefore we ran into some stability issues. For this reason we're not drawing any conclusions yet about the Bristol Ridge series, however this test has given us a pretty good idea of what we can expect.

Let's get the elephant out of the room: of course the most important development this year for AMD's CPU division is Zen. This new architecture on a much smaller production process has to close the huge gaps in terms of CPU performance and efficiency at once. Bristol Ridge is still based on Bulldozer under the hood and the downsides to that architecture are clearly still here, evidenced by some of the test results.

The Excavator cores in this series of APUs are a bit faster in terms of performance per clock compared to last generation, however because these chips are mainly aimed at notebooks, the clock speeds aren't that high. We see a light improvement in single-threaded benchmarks compared to the A10-7870K due to the higher turbo-speed, however due to the lower base clock frequency we barely see any progress in multi-threaded applications.

We had higher expectations for graphical performance due to the upgrade to the third generation GCN architecture and the much higher clock speeds. In specific tests, such as 3DMark Fire Strike, we can clearly see the potential of this chip, however the results fall flat in actual games. Immature drivers are probably the cause - there is a lot of potential gain in this area before launch. Decoding H.265-videos on a hardware-level is definitely an improvement, however the competition has been supporting it since the Kaby Lake generation. Therefore there already are cheaper options for HTPCs.

Last generation's models all had a freely adjustable multiplier, however the new A-series of APUs can no longer be overclocked. This could be part of the reason why it's not possible to run DDR4 memory at speeds faster than 2400 MHz, even though faster memory is very useful for an APU that uses it as video memory.

After spending nearly two weeks with the new AMD platform, we more or less understand why AMD isn't making any haste to release these processors for the retail market. We expect these processors to launch sometimes after the launch of Zen. AMD is planning to use the same socket for the cheapest APU up to the most expensive octa-core, which should make their offerings more unambiguous. 

Luckily the successor to Bristol Ridge, Raven Ridge, is already coming very close: the Zen-core is expected to come to the APUs in the second half of this year. Rumors say that we can expect much faster integrated GPUs with up to twice the amount of cores. AMD has set a modern base with Bristol Ridge and the socket AM4-platform, however we probably won't see anything that will excite us until the Raven Ridge APUs.

AMD A12-9800 Tray

Product discussed in this review

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AMD A12-9800 Tray

Socket AM4, 3.8 GHz, 4 cores, 65 W, 28 nm, Integrated graphics

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