Last week we posted an article comparing battery life using two different Gateway laptops - laptops that were essentially identical, with the exception of the motherboard, chipset, integrated graphics, and processor. This was a subject that we wanted to investigate closely for a long time, but acquiring laptops that are anywhere near "identical" when you are looking at two completely different platforms can be extremely difficult. Moreover, even companies that had very similar laptops didn't seem to have any desire to have us review their AMD models. Conspiracy theory, were they trying to avoid cannibalizing sales of more expensive laptops, or some other explanation… regardless of the cause, it took us many requests to finally have a mobile showdown between AMD and Intel.


After the initial article went up dissecting battery life under a variety of situations, we have received numerous emails questioning our test methodology, complaining of bias for or against AMD/Intel, and offering other suggestions for how to improve the tests. The battery life article was always intended to be a short preview, and we are well aware of many of the differences between AMD and Intel platforms. This, then, is the rest of the story where we look at general application performance, graphics performance, and provide a full review of both laptops. First, let's start with a recap of the test systems - this time with full specifications.

Gateway NV5214u Specifications
Processor AMD Athlon 64 X2 QL-64
(Dual-core, 2.1GHz, 2x512KB L2, 65nm, 35W, 667MHz FSB)
Chipset AMD RS780MN + SB700
Memory 2x2048MB DDR2-667
Graphics Integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200
Display 15.6" Glossy LED-Backlit 16:9 WXGA (1366x768)
Hard Drive 320GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive 8x DVDR SuperMulti
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n WiFi
56K Modem
Audio 2-Channel HD Audio (2.0 Speakers with headphone/microphone jacks)
Battery 6-Cell 10.8V, 4400mAhr, 47.5Whr
Front Side None
Left Side SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro/xD reader
Microphone/Headphone Jacks (2.0 audio with S/PDIF support)
2 x USB 2.0
HDMI
VGA
Gigabit Ethernet
AC Power Connection
Kensington Lock
Right Side DVDRW Optical Drive
2 x USB 2.0
56K Modem
Power Button
Back Side Heat Exhaust Port
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.6" x 9.8" x 1.0"-1.5" (WxDxH)
Weight 5.8 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
Alternate colors/models available
Blue: NV5213u
Black: NV5215u
Red: NV5216u
Warranty 1-year standard Gateway warranty
Extended warranties available
Price NV5214u available at Best Buy for $500

Gateway NV5807u Specifications
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo T6500
(Dual-core, 2.1GHz, 2MB shared L2, 45nm, 35W, 800MHz FSB)
Chipset Intel GM45 + ICH9M
Memory 2x2048MB DDR2-667
Graphics Integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD
Display 15.6" Glossy LED-Backlit 16:9 WXGA (1366x768)
Hard Drive 320GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive 8x DVDR SuperMulti
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n WiFi
56K Modem
Audio 2-Channel HD Audio (2.0 Speakers with headphone/microphone jacks)
Battery 6-Cell 10.8V, 4400mAhr, 47.5Whr
Front Side None
Left Side SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro/xD reader
Microphone/Headphone Jacks (2.0 audio with S/PDIF support)
2 x USB 2.0
HDMI
VGA
Gigabit Ethernet
AC Power Connection
Kensington Lock
Right Side DVDRW Optical Drive
2 x USB 2.0
56K Modem
Power Button
Back Side Heat Exhaust Port
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.6" x 9.8" x 1.0"-1.5" (WxDxH)
Weight 5.8 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
Alternate colors/models available
Black: NV5814u
Red: NV5815u
Warranty 1-year standard Gateway warranty
Extended warranties available
Price NV5814u available online starting at $580

In terms of core paper specifications, the systems really are as close to identical as we can get. There are no AMD chipsets for current Intel processors, and likewise Intel doesn't make chipsets for AMD processors. We could try to go the discrete graphics route, but virtually all current AMD-based laptops include integrated graphics and that's part of the features equation. We're looking not just at the difference in processors but what the mobile platform as a whole offers from each company. Those familiar with current trends should have an idea of what to expect: Intel has the better processor (faster and lower power), overall chipset features are similar, and AMD (courtesy of ATI) has the better integrated graphics. The question isn't so much who will be faster in various tests, but rather how much faster. That's what we're here to find out.

Gateway NV5214u - AMD
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  • RandomUsername3245 - Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - link

    Now that would be an interesting technical analysis article -- compare the different idle power states of something like the Studio 16 and the Macbook Pro & see exactly where the differences are. Reply
  • balancedthinking - Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - link

    I do not agree with the conclusion.

    Everything you can do with the Intel system, you can do with the AMD system too and i highly doubt anybody would notice a difference with normal applications.

    That subjective "snappier" of yours sounds like marketing bullshit. Browsing and loading apps is limited by the harddrive, not the cpu.

    On the other hand, Intel can not do blueray via HDMI and accelerate HD content and encoding. You totally missed that one in the whole article.

    WORLD OF WARCFRAFT is playable with the AMD system but it is not with the Intel system.

    Why do you recommend spending an extra 80$ to artifically limit the capability to do different tasks?

    You are constantly downplaying the advantage of a good igp and overestimate the importance of the cpu.

    You will not notice the difference in cpu performance but you will notice the missing capability to play accelerated HD content via HDMI and to play games on the intel system.
    Reply
  • Wellsoul2 - Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - link

    I feel the same way...the intel graphics aren't good enough.

    Another test I'd like to see...can it play a 1280x720 video in Itunes? If you like to play music vids this is a big deal.

    For what I do better video at a cheaper price beats Intel.

    Your conclusion isn't right. If I want super cheap best hardware
    I'd go for the AMD with better video.
    I'd rather be able to play a Youtube HD video and MMO game.

    To me..future internet leans toward better video not cpu.
    Seriously..can I play back an episode of NCIS in HD on the Intel?
    (I'm pretty sure I can on the AMD..just by the numbers)






    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - link

    See, you people are making assumptions here - assumptions that aren't entirely correct. Besides the fact that Blu-ray support isn't a real concern on a $500 notebook (are you really going to spend $150 more to get that feature on a budget offering?), video playback is a big can of worms.

    Notice the x264 720p battery life test... I couldn't tell a difference between the two in terms of image quality. x264 1080p on the other hand showed some real problems on the the Intel setup (periodic dropped frames and loss of A/V sync). So AMD wins, right? Well, that's using a 1080p movie on a 768p panel, so I'm not sure it's really that important. However, Hulu (in 480p) was better on the Intel setup than the AMD, typically running 24FPS compared to 18FPS. So chalk up a win for Intel as well.

    The real problem is that you people are reading my opinion on the platforms as a 100% statement, and then you're giving your opinion and saying I'm wrong. Read what I wrote and you'll see I'm more than willing to admit there are benefits to the AMD platform.

    After personally using both of these laptops for the better part of a month (three weeks of intense testing), given the choice I wouldn't hesitate to take the Intel NV58 over the AMD NV52 (and spend the extra $80). That's because I don't care about WoW or a few specific tests where I can make sure AMD comes out on top. Again, what percentage of laptop users actually play 3D games on a regular basis - or at all?

    If you really care about such things, then of course there are far better options than an Intel IGP laptop. There are also FAR BETTER choices than an ATI HD 3200 IGP laptop. I mentioned one in the gaming section, the http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">Acer Aspire AS6920-6898. At $650 it will beat the pants off of either laptop in gaming, probably offer slightly worse battery life than the NV52, and have overall performance that's equal to or slightly better than the NV58 elsewhere - and it will handle all the video stuff at least as well as the NV52.

    I figure most people will go into a budget laptop purchase with a set of requirements. Unless gaming and 1080p video playback are in the list of requirements, the Intel platform will offer a better overall experience. If gaming and 1080p video are desired, you can choose between barely adequate gaming performance at $500, or you can more than triple your gaming performance for $650. And frankly, the gaming experience on a GeForce 9500M GS still leaves a lot to be desired.
    Reply
  • balancedthinking - Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - link

    Did I miss something? Is not the conclusion of a review meant to be neutral and objektive? Instead you are advertising your completely biased opinion which reads like an Intel commercial!

    These low cost notebooks are often bought by families (mums) or students. Both groups like to play casual games and use their notebooks for entertainment.

    On the other hand you have professionals like writers or business guys, (YOU!!!). These guys do not need capable graphics and often do not care about cost so you will find 1000$ subnotebooks in this range. Battery life and mobility are the key factors for this group.

    You are really telling us NOBODY plays 3D games at all on their laptop? What a shame you are writing for anand!

    So if you do not care about graphics, HDMI and HD content, it is up to you but articles are meant to be neutral and not biased towards a company. This one reads like an Intel commercial. "We have better battery life and the faster cpu, nobody needs graphics"

    Also very funny telling your readers: "Intel IGP sucks but HD 3200 still sucks to so it makes no difference" that is a real bad excuse and is in fact untrue. But that is the typical marketing reaction, just downplay where the competition is good.

    The HD 3200 is perfect for casual gaming like spore, world of warcraft, the sims 2/3 and a lot of older games that are real fun to play at lan party like warcraft 3, counterstrike, call of duty, battlefield or flatout.

    All these games are playable quite well on the AMD system but NOT on the Intel system. "barely adequate" is just marketing bullshit by Intel and a really sad excuse to downplay the huge advantage of ATI and Nvidia IGPs vs. Intel IGPs

    Of course 1080p matters. Never thought of pluging your notebook in your big flatscreen via HDMI and playing the latest blockbuster?
    Reply
  • tempestor - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    Great article Jarred!

    As opposed to "balancedthinking" i think your conclusion was even too neutral!

    It is great for me because i know a lot about computers and know what i want from my notebook but an average Joe would have a problem choosing a notebook.

    Average Joe would prefer a straight recommendation at the end and not something like: model A is good, but model B is good too. As if you don`t want to say anything bad about either of them?
    But then again: average Joe doesn`t read your website i guess.

    Sorry for my bad english, i am a bit rusty, but i wanted to reply because of this "balancedthinking" guy who is completely unbalanced.

    Guess you`ll never satisfy everyone :)

    Best regards, M.
    Reply
  • balancedthinking - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    Interesting you said exactly nothing about the stuff i critizised. I also do not get what you want to tell us.

    Instead you told us "I know a lot about computers". Well, good for you :-)

    It is like comparing a SUV with a Prius -> if there is no clear answer the reviewer should not force a clear answer on personal habits and bias.

    Reply
  • tempestor - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    I disagree with your implication that Jarred is biased.

    Jarred could as well give us raw numbers only and everyone can make it`s own conclusion. Why bother with whole article then?!

    Since i wrote that i think Jarred`s article is great, you can assume my conclusions based on his raw numbers are very similar to his. That is why i didn`t write them down.

    Quote: "Intel has much better battery life, but that's only one aspect of the overall equation and there are definitely areas where AMD has the advantage over Intel." - biased? I don`t think so. Clear answer? I don`t think so.

    Quote: "When it comes to 3D graphics, however, the AMD solution is clearly superior to Intel's anemic IGP." - biased? Sure! but only because it is cut from the context of the paragraph. Clear answer? Yep! and the one favouring AMD-based solution.

    Quote: "... so ultimately YOU need to decide whether YOU want to have better battery life or if YOU would prefer improved graphics." - biased? No. Clear answer? No.

    I could quote most of his "the final word" here to show you.

    What Jarred did in his conclusion is: he wrote it grey! Not black and white. And now you complain it is black... or white (i.e. favoring one side)??

    M.
    Reply
  • balancedthinking - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    typical case of quoting out of context....

    If those qoutes would have been everything Jarred wrote, I would not be complaining.

    but he also wrote:

    "Intel also wins in application performance, with noticeably snappier CPU performance."

    snappier? Loading Apps and browsing is limited by the harddrive, not the cpu -> marketing nonsense

    "ATI's HD 3200 may be over twice as fast on average compared to Intel's GMA 4500MHD, but that's a lot like beating a Kia Spectra with a Hyundai on the racetrack."

    Clearly downplayig the huge advantages of a ATI or Nvidia IGP over an inferior Intel IGP. He is basically saying that the AMD IGP is a lot faster than the Intel IGP but still useless and that is just untrue, period.

    "As far as we're concerned, laptops - especially entry-level laptops - need to function as a mobile computer first and foremost. By that criterion, Intel has the clearly better mobile platform. Faster CPUs that draw less power and provide better battery life rate a lot higher in our book than barely adequate gaming performance"

    That is his biased opinion as a professional writer that does not play games. 500$ full featured 15.4 notebooks are no mobility tipewriters with a focuss on battery live for professional journalists. They are bought by families and students and often replace desktops.

    "That's because I don't care about WoW or a few specific tests where I can make sure AMD comes out on top. Again, what percentage of laptop users actually play 3D games on a regular basis - or at all?"

    He does not care about casual gaming, he does not care about 3D games on laptops and he even dares to state that everyone is like him. I call that arrogant.

    "If you really care about such things, then of course there are far better options than an Intel IGP laptop. There are also FAR BETTER choices than an ATI HD 3200 IGP laptop."

    Again completely downplaying the advantages of ATI and Nvidia IGPs to convince the reader, even though they are a lot better than Intel IGP do not cut it, which is untrue and biased.

    He also completely ignores the HD content features AMD can provide and Intel can not. Why is ION such a big thing for Nvidia? HD is important for the average joe and Jarred completely ignores the fact and does not even mention it.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    Application load times and browsing are NOT limited by the hard drive unless you have extremely fast systems or are loading multiple items at once. I have tested this, and the NV58 boots Vista 25% faster than the NV52, and various other applications also load faster (though 25% when you're talking 10 seconds isn't as noticeable as 55 vs. 69 seconds). SSDs would help here, sure, but you don't put a $200+ SSD in a $500 laptop. You pretend to be unbiased, but you don't know what you're talking about. Have YOU used and tested two essentially identical laptops from AMD and Intel, side by side? NO! But we're supposed to take your word over a published writer that has. Makes me wonder if you're working at an AMD facility... or perhaps working for a competitor. After all, AMD has some facilities in Germany.

    I am not downplaying ATI's superior IGP, but rather putting it into context. It's much better than something that doesn't even try to play games. However, it's only a "huge advantage" IF YOU PLAY GAMES. If you never load up a 3D game (like my wife, brothers, sisters, parents, friends, etc.) then having the "huge advantage" really means that you're using more power, getting less battery life, and gaining NO BENEFIT WHATSOEVER!

    "That is his biased opinion as a professional writer that does not play games."

    Way to be a tool. I've played and beaten Fallout 3, Oblivion, Assassin's Creed, all the Half-Life games, Bioshock, The Witcher, Mass Effect, the two Penny Arcade Adventures, and others just in the past year or two. There are tons of other games I have not yet completed but I have spent numerous hours playing them (GRID, FEAR/FEAR2, Riddick: Dark Athena, Far Cry 2, STALKER: Clear Sky, Empire: Total War, Gears of War, Company of Heroes, all of the Call of Duty titles, World of Goo....) I started playing games on a Magnavox when I was six (back in 1980) and moved to a C-64 when I was 10. I've been playing PC games since the 286 era and the original Wing Commander, X-Wing, and Sierra adventures. I've played every Warcraft game, Starcraft, Command and Conquer, Age of Empires, and too many other titles to list. BUT I'm a "writer that does not play games." Way to make an assumption that is not only blatantly false, but it's not even backed up by the article. Do you think someone that doesn't play games would test EIGHTEEN recent titles on two laptops that are clearly not targeted at the gamer?

    The fact is that I play enough games that I'm willing to tell the truth and let people know that playing games on a slow, underpowered IGP is a lousy experience. If all you have for gaming is a $500 laptop, I doubt that: A) You're a gamer, and B) You'll like playing games on that laptop. Go buy a Nintendo DS and you'll have more fun, or else read a book and don't worry about gaming - just like millions of people.

    The only thing that might be "non-gamer" about me is that I don't play World of Warcraft (or any other MMO). Considering there are hundreds of millions of "gamers" in the world and yet only 15 million (give or take) that play WoW and other MMOs, again I think it's safe to say plenty of people don't play such games. I'm not interested in getting started in the MMO scene either, as I have a life I'm quite happy with. If I could test an MMO performance without an account, I would do so, but I'm not going to spend $15 per month per MMO when I don't enjoy that style of game.

    Who are you to say what a $500 laptop is supposed to be? I've given a list of what it CAN be. It can be everything a student or businessman needs, and in that case it would be substantially better without an AMD CPU (right now). It can do everything a family needs as well. Can it do everything a family *wants* though? That depends on the family, and clearly it can't be a one-size-fits-all gaming solution. 25% of games that I tested can't run acceptably on the AMD setup. But that doesn't matter; what matters is that it can run games better than Intel's IGP. You know who really cares about that? AMD marketing, because they can tell people their platform is actually "better" in certain areas.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">Here's a $600 alternative (using ATI graphics)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">Here's a $500 alternative (using an NVIDIA IGP)

    Both should more or less equal the AMD NV52 in gaming while still offering better CPU performance -- and probably battery life. Case closed.
    Reply

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