Skip to main content

AMD A4-5000 APU review

A Kabini laptop with AMD's Jaguar CPU cores, as found in the new Xbox One and PS4...

AMD A4-5000 APU "Kabini"
Meow: Our first taste of AMD's Jaguar cores, as found in the latest games consoles

AMD's new A4-5000 is an intriguingly little chip in its own right. But the knowledge that it shares much of its architecture with the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony Playstation 4 really ramps up the intrigue. So what have we learned?

We liked

2D HD video playback is strong. That's a critical metric for a modern mobile chip and arguably more important than gaming, even if the latter is what marketing suits prefer to talk about.

We're encouraged by the A4-5000's battery performance too. Whitebook's such as these are rarely the last work in finely honed power management, so our good experience with this laptop will likely only get even better with final retail systems based on AMD's new APU.

We disliked

Perhaps unsurprisingly, AMD hasn't worked miracles with the new Jaguar CPU core design. Clocked here at 1.5GHz, you're looking at cores with less than one fifth the performance of the best current desktop CPU cores.

For the A4-5000 itself, that's not a major issue. It's not a full-one desktop chip and with four cores, it makes up for modest single-threaded throughput with a decent amount of multi-threading. But make no mistake, this is a low-power processor architecture. It's a long way off the pace of AMD's own full-power laptop processors, much less Intel's.

More generally, the fact that AMD specified this test whitebook with a 5,200rpm magnetic drive rather than a solid state drive obscured the APU's ability as a proper Windows 8 chip. Put another way, we're not completely sure how responsive it will feel configured with an SSD. Our guess is that it will make for a pretty nice Windows 8 chip. It's just a shame AMD didn't see fit to show it in its best light.

The graphics performance of the A4-5000 is similarly non-whelming. Based on AMD's successful and familiar GCN architecture, the limitations are down to the number of functional units AMD has squeezed in.

By today's standards, 128 graphics shaders is a modest count in a gaming context and there's no getting round that.

Final verdict

Despite those limitations, we're generally upbeat about the prospects of the AMD A4-5000 as a laptop and tablet processor. Battery life looks good, 2D video is strong and the CPU cores are likely just good enough.

What this chip reveals about the new games consoles, which share much of its technology, is much more worrying.

Put simply, games developers will desperately need to get to grips with multi-threading if they're to have any hope of getting good performance out of these new Jaguar cores. And even with threading fully optimised, we guestimate based on this chip that the PS4 and Xbox will have roughly half the CPU performance of a good Intel desktop processor. And that's assuming all cores are available to a given application or game. Yikes.