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Bristol Ridge still MiA, ASUS A320M-C A12-9800 preview

In this short A12-9800 preview we try to give a glimpse of what you can expect from AMD's 7th gen APU platform, purely focusing on an integrated graphics performance. With lots of issues and problems we are eagerly waiting for the official launch ...

The Bristol Ridge story so far & OEM rant

AMD "pre-announced" Bristol Ridge, the latest and final iteration of the Bulldozer line-up in April, 2016. Yes, that was nearly a year ago and the desktop variant is still not officially launched.

Mobile versions started to pop-up sometimes around autumn, but OEM systems equipped with A12 APUs are still rare and usually configured horribly. You simply can't find an A12 laptop with decent screen, high-speed memory, SSD and WITHOUT a dGPU. It's insane that OEMs pair a decent APU with ancient GPUs, these APUs are perfect for office and every day use - even you can play some well optimized games in 720p as our videos showcase it every now and then. In a laptop form-factor OEMs could save space, opt for a leaner cooling solution with omitting the dGPU from the system. The cost of the dGPU and a simpler cooling could be spent on high speed memory modules that are so essential for integrated graphics.

Nevertheless, we made a quick review of the HP Pavilion 510-p127c equipped with an A12-9800 as we just couldn't wait any longer. We removed the dGPU, an AMD Radeon R7 450 - first generation GCN card, I hope you feel the pain. The basic BIOS in the HP system didn't allow any fine tuning - video memory allocation was set to 512 MB without any option to change it. Our review showed some gains in CPU workloads over the A10-7860K and huge leap in pure shader based tests. But the overall gaming performance was lacklustre, hence we did not include any game performance analysis at that time.

A12-9800 spotted, troubled first encounter

Interestingly, CSL-Computer GmbH, a PC shop based in Germany, started to list the ASUS A320M-C motherboard bundled with an A12-9800 in late 2016. We pulled the trigger back in February and bought the system to see how a fully fledged Bristol Ridge performs.

It wasn't straightforward to get the PC up-and-running as some BIOS updates were necessary so the system could discover the M2 drive we intended to use. Additionally, the BIOS won't post with HyperX Savage Black 2400MHz DDR4 CL12 modules, still waiting a fix for that from CSL / ASUS. As you can imagine, we put the system through its paces and the results were not that stellar, so we put things on hold.

Computer says no, again

Fast forward to March, the AM4 platform officially launched and AMD released a new chipset driver for the new boards, so it was high time to give the ASUS A320M-C system a real test. We selected a number of recent and popular games to compare the A12 system to the A10-7860K and the i3-6100.

But things did not quite go as planned: we encountered game crashes, stuttering, heavy popping, insane long loading times and performance degradation using stress tests - we contacted AMD and the board distributor.

Because of the sheer amount of problems a gotchas, we decided to release just a short preview. The highlight of the benchmark session was DOOM with impressive gains in Vulkan mode, additionally, DX12 reduced the stuttering in The Division.

We are eager to revisit Bristol Ridge when ASUS releases new BIOSes for the board! The official Bristol Ridge launch can't come soon enough ...