Gaming without (or with) a discrete graphics card

Part 1 of Anand's Trinity review compared the integrated graphics of the A10-5800K and A8-5600K to multiple other graphics solutions (including Intel's integrated HD 4000 and a number of discrete cards). Succinctly, the A10-5800K's on-die Radeon HD 7660D GPU almost always outperforms AMD's Radeon HD 5570 and Nvidia's GeForce GT 440 discrete GPUs. The Radeon HD 7660D even pulls close to Nvidia's GeForce GT 640 in some cases. While these are certainly not enthusiast-grade discrete graphics cards, the GT 440 in particular typically costs about $50 on its own.

So what can you expect to play with an A10-5800K? That depends on your idea of "playable". You can get specific numbers from Anand's review, but to summarize, Crysis: Warhead, Metro 2033, DiRT 3, Total War: Shogun 2, Portal 2, Battlefield 3, Starcraft 2, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Civilization V, World of Warcraft, Left 4 Dead, Diablo 3, Aliens vs. Predator, and Minecraft are all very playable (at least 50-60fps) at 720p resolution and moderate details. It should be noted that Minecraft plays extraordinarily well even at 1080p resolution (i.e. almost 100fps)—I've built almost as many Minecraft boxes as World of Warcraft systems, and being able to use a $105 A8-5500 and no discrete GPU in the former is a welcome development.

Gaming at higher resolutions like 1680x1050 changes consideration of the A10-5800K as a "good enough" gaming processor. Metro 2033 and Aliens vs. Predator in particular start to struggle, and maintaining average frame rates higher than 40fps requires lowering quality settings in most of the remaining titles listed above.

All that said, Trinity, especially the top-end A10-5800K APU, is a viable gaming processor for many gamers that doesn't require a discrete graphics card. Of course, it can be paired with a discrete graphics card (Hybrid CrossFire, aka Dual Graphics, is even possible in certain APU-dGPU pairings). However, I see Trinity's main audience for gamers as the mainstream/budget segment. Essentially, the A10-5800K gives you CPU performance comparable to Intel's Core i3-2100/3220 with the GPU performance comparable to a $50 card from either AMD or Nvidia. Since the A10-5800K costs about the same as an Intel Core i3-2100/3220, you're getting the $50 GPU for free. To make this tradeoff, you limit your upgradeability.

Keep in mind that the A10-5800K is an unlocked APU. This means that overclocking it is as simple as changing the multiplier in the BIOS. While I've only overclocked a few A10-5800Ks, all of them easily hit a base clock of 4.1GHz. This is a modest overclock, but it is with all cores and features enabled at stock volts and with the stock cooler. The frequency of the Radeon HD 7660D cores can be overclocked as well; going from the stock 800MHz clock up to 880MHz (a modest 10% overclock) didn't require any extra voltage for any of the chips I've tested.

The Trinity gaming build

As mentioned in the budget general use build, I like the NZXT Source 210 case a lot for less expensive gaming builds. It's capacious and easy to work in, features a lot of potential for air cooling, and it's well-built for such a cheap case. It is not particularly quiet, but at $40, something has to be sacrificed. It's available in both black and white. Antec's Earthwatts line of power supplies has been venerable since its inception years ago. The 380W model is positioned to power this system efficiently; there's no real need to spend more on a higher wattage unit.

Though the AMD stock CPU cooler is sufficient for modest overclocking, we're including one of the best bang for the buck aftermarket coolers available—Cooler Master's Hyper 212 EVO. It's a few bucks more than the Hyper 212+, but comes with more effectively-spaced heatpipes and a better fan. It will facilitate much more aggressive clocks on the A10-5800K than the stock fan would, and it also runs quieter than the stock fan. That said, we recognize that overclocking isn't for everyone, so if you're not going to overclock, there's no need to buy this aftermarket cooler.

ASRocks' FM2A75 Pro4-M is a well laid out board with generous heatsinks on both the FCH and CPU VRMs, which helps with overclocking. It also supports overclocking RAM up to DDR3-2600 speeds, though we're not going that crazy here—the Patriot kit recommended is set at stock to 2133MHz. Given how dynamic prices are through the holidays, keep an eye out for sales, and when it comes to memory, watch how tall some of the modules' heatspreaders are—many are of questionable efficacy in terms of actually dissipating heat, and will not fit under larger aftermarket CPU coolers.

We're recommending a larger, slower HDD for this gaming build rather than an SSD, solely because games eat up space quickly. Even a modest gaming library will quickly surpass the confines of a budget-friendly 120/128GB SSD. Watch for sales on hard drives; you should be able to find 1TB 7200rpm models for less than $60.

Component Product Price
Case NZXT Source 210 $40
Power supply Antec Earthwatts 380W $40
CPU AMD A10-5800K APU $120
CPU cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $30
Motherboard ASRock FM2A75 Pro4-M $75
RAM Patriot 8GB DDR3-2133 $43
HDD Seagate 1TB ST31000524AS $50
Optical drive ASUS 24x DVD burner $17
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit $92
  Total cost: $507

With the three builds outlined, we have a few final words on the final page.

HTPC Final Words
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  • Jovec - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I understand prices change regularly, but you should check the linked prices. The general use budget build is currently $70 than the chart price. (-$3 for CPU, +$5 for mobo, +$35 for HDD, +$30 for the SSD, +$3 for the DVD). The HTPC build is $68 higher and the DVD burner chosen is listed as discontinued. The gaming build is $59 higher than the chart. Reply
  • randinspace - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    As the author said, it's important to watch out for price changes during the holidays as 16GB of Ram was available at 8GB prices (outside of 4GB quad kits anyway...), and I personally got a 2TB HDD for less than what 1TB internal drives and 500+ GB external ones are going for "on sale" this week....

    That said, these guidelines might have done people more more good had they come out before some of the year's best sales rather than in the middle of some of its worst ones (I'm looking at you, Newegg "Cyber Week"), but such is life.
    Reply
  • Parhel - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I'm glad I'm not the only one to notice what Newegg's been doing. Most of their "deals" were old tech they're trying to clear out of inventory, even on Black Friday. Reply
  • MrRez - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I just built a system around the A10 5800k circa $600 all up, and I am really enjoying it! I paired it up with a 6670 1gig DDR5 cost me 80bucks and has given me a huge boost in some games.

    The main reason I went with the Trinity was that I had a small budget and needed something that I could do my work on, encode some video and play the odd game. I did alot of research and couldn't get an Intel system for the same money that would even come close to what the trinity could do.

    Anyway I would recommend this type of system to anyone on a budget.
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Conversely, I came from an "old" Phenom 2 x6 1090T @ 4ghz to a Core i7 3930K @ 4.8ghz and in games I noticed zero difference when gaming at 5760x1080 as I'm always going to be GPU limited.

    However, encoding saw *massive* increases, but that's not a task I do very often and I usually do it during the night whilst I am asleep anyway.

    Hardware today is still going to be more than ample for games of tomorrow, heck I know a few gamers still kicking around old Core 2 Quads that are heavily overclocked and game happily without a single issue, which says something about the state of games today not pushing the limits anymore.
    Reply
  • dishayu - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    Heavily overclocked Core 2 Quad user here and i approve of this message. Reply
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I know "LOTS" of gamers still on Quad 6600s.. C2D 8400s.. and Amd PIIs all happily playing along with decent video cards..

    The thing "today" is we really haven't hit the new big cpu yet. That was the Core2 and before the the Athlon64. Are cpu's better? Absolutely but they've been going in a sideways arc... with power+features rather then noticable brute power. I can go from my 2700K to a Q6600 to a E8400 to a PII920 to a 5800K all with enjoyable experiences provided the gpu power is there with 4Gigs of ram.

    Overclocking adds more umph on top of that but it's not neccessary.
    Reply
  • just4U - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    As a aside.. anyone on a C2D E6400 or under... time to move on. Every last cpu on the market today will give very noticable boosts right straight from the $60 cpu on up to the latest and greatest. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    I finally upgraded from an Opteron 185 system (which I'm using to type this) to an i5 Ivy system. I also found an E8400 in the garbage and it works. It just needed a power supply a video card, and a hard drive. I have all of the above "just laying around" here so my girlfriend is getting a new system for Xmas too. :) Windows 7 is on sale at the Egg for $80. Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA - Thursday, November 29, 2012 - link

    I agree. I'm gaming, programming and encoding on a Core2Duo E6750 and an AMD 6670 on Windows 8.

    I can run *ALL* my games on their maximum resolution and detail settings seeing as my monitor is a 19" and runs at 1280 x 1024... and that I really dig my old games :-) However, my point is that the equipment I am using right now is "good enough" for my particular needs. Would I consider an upgrade? Definitely - but for something that runs much (much!) cooler and quieter. Is that a high priority in my life? Not right now.
    Reply

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