While Intel is busy revamping its laptop processors, AMD is focused on the desktop side of personal computing. The chip designer has started shipping its 7th-generation A-series processors in desktop PCs, starting with machines from HP and Lenovo. The CPUs are based around as many as four Excavator cores, rather than the coveted Zen cores you've heard about lately, but that should still get you a lot of performance per watt. If you believe AMD, its 35- and 65-watt processors deliver the kind of speed that previously took over 90 watts -- the A12-9800 is about as fast in a general computing benchmark (PCMark) as Intel's Core i5-6500, and roughly twice as fast in graphics (3DMark) if you're relying on integrated video.
As you might guess from the testing, visual performance plays a big role. On top of a newer DirectX 12-friendly graphics architecture, the new processors tout native video decoding for 4K video in both H.264 and H.265 formats, taking a large load off of your system while you're watching Ultra HD movies.
The efficiency angle is a familiar one for AMD, and not surprising given that it's the company's main advantage. You're still looking at higher-end Intel Core i5 and i7 chips if you're focused on raw performance in a desktop. With that said, this may be worthwhile if you want a glimpse at AMD's future. The 7th-gen A-series is the first processor line based on AMD's new AM4 platform and the interfaces that come with it, including support for USB 3.1 and NVMe solid-state drives. At least some of the technology you see here will carry on for multiple hardware generations.