Intel has long held a strong advantage over its chip rival AMD when it comes to powerful consumer processors. AMD’s top-end FX chips, notably the AMD FX-9590 and AMD FX-8370, are better suited to taking on their Intel Core i5 counterparts, but not any recent chip with an “i7” its name.
Down toward the other end of the spectrum, though, where value matters more than absolute performance, things are a lot more promising for AMD—especially if gaming is important. Due largely to the fact that modern consoles have multiple addressable cores, we’re seeing a growing number of AAA game titles that prefer, or in some cases even require, four cores (or four addressable threads) to run.
The lowest-price current-generation Intel chip that meets this four-thread requirement is the $125 Core i3-6100Athlon X4-880KAMD Wraith Cooler we reviewed a few weeks back.)
But the Athlon chip requires the use of a dedicated graphics card. Unlike the Core i3, it lacks on-chip graphics, which many users will prefer for the sake of simplicity, but thus isn’t ideal for building or upgrading a slim, compact system. For those types of users, AMD has a whole line of chips (the company calls them “APUs,” for its combined CPU/GPU), as well, including the new-in-2016, $115 AMD A10-7860K that we’re looking at here, and the flagship A10-7890K. (The latter is roughly $180; we’re in the process of reviewing that one.)
While the A10-7890K delivers better CPU and graphics performance if you’re after the best of what’s available from an APU, the lesser A10-7860K sticks surprisingly close to it, given the $65 price difference, and the fact that the A10-7860K is rated to sip substantially less power than the 95-watt A10-7890K. For most users, we think the A10-7860K is the better value of the two, by no small measure. By which we mean: $65 worth of “measure.”
The A10-7860K comes clocked out of the box at an even 3.6GHz, with the ability to jump as high as 4GHz under ideal thermal conditions. It’s another chip in the company’s refresh of the “Kaveri” line, which AMD calls “Godavari.” But there’s nothing new here in the way of architecture or other hardware features versus earlier chips in the line.
Rather than rattle off a full list of the chip’s specs, here’s a summary, direct from AMD.
And here’s how the A10-7860K’s specs stack up against several of the company’s recent APUs, including the flagship A10-7890K. As you can see, the A10-7860K sits comfortably in the middle.
While the architecture and FM2+ socket here aren’t new, the A10-7860K is an interesting chip, in that it has specifications that are very similar to those of the previous A10-7850K, but with a slightly slower base clock speed on the CPU, while the frequency of the eight graphics cores gets amped up a bit, to 757MHz. Twiddling the knobs on CPU and GPU speeds wouldn’t be all that exciting on its own, but AMD has managed to do so here while dropping the A10-7860K down to 65 watts, rather than the 95-watt rating of many of the other chips in the A Series.
That puts this chip quite close to the Intel Core i3-6100 in terms of efficiency. (The Intel chip is a 61-watt part.) AMD is careful, though, to point out that the new chip is in a 65-watt “TDP Class,” so it’s probably safe to say there is some thermal wiggle room in there. If you overclock the chip, especially, it’s entirely possible that the A10-7860K will consume more than 65 watts under load. But then, the Intel chip isn’t unlocked for overclocking, so at least with AMD, you have that option.
AMD has the overclocking angle covered, as well. The company is boxing the A10-7860K with a newly designed stock cooler that’s rated to handle 95 watts of heat dissipation, so there’s lots of cooling overhead. We used this new cooler to test the A10 chip and didn’t have any complaints. It’s not as large as, nor quite as quiet as, the AMD Wraith Cooler that’s now bundled with the FX-8370. But the red fan adds some visual flair (though it did clash with the gold heat sinks on our Asus test motherboard), while remaining reasonably quiet at stock settings.