Test Setup

We'll be comparing the CULV laptops against other inexpensive mobile solutions, like Atom N280 and N450 netbooks, the ASUS 1201N, and a few entry-level laptops from Dell and Gateway that don't focus as much on battery life or size. We've highlighted a few of the laptops to help clarify the charts (per reader request).

The ASUS 1201N represents the fastest Atom-based netbook/laptop, as it's armed with a dual-core Atom 330, and its results are shown in orange. The gold bars are for the ASUS UL80Vt with G210M active and a 33% overclock; combined with the discrete graphics this represents the high water mark for CULV performance - and the super sized battery doesn't hurt either. (Note that the Alienware M11x takes a similar approach but bumps the GPU up to a GT335M for even better graphics performance.) ASUS' Eee PC 1005HA is representative of the best Atom N280 netbooks, with results in black. Likewise, the ASUS 1005PE is the best (well, only) Pine Trail Atom N450 we've tested, with results in dark green. Finally, the MSI X610 is a single core Athlon MV-40 with HD 4330 graphics - an odd combination, as we pointed out in our review - with results in red.

Below you can find the specs of the laptops we're testing today; other laptops can be found in our previous mobile reviews if you're interested.

Acer Aspire Timeline AS1810T Test System
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300
(2x1.3GHz, 45nm, 3MB L2, 800FSB, 10W)
Memory 2x2GB DDR2-667
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD IGP
Display 11.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 320GB 5400RPM HDD
Optical Drive N/A
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 5600mAh, 63Wh
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Pricing Available Online starting at $680
(Black version available for $600)

Dell Inspiron 11z Test System
Processor Intel Pentium SU4100
(2x1.3GHz, 45nm, 2MB L2, 800FSB, 10W)
Memory 1x2GB DDR2-667
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD IGP
Display 11.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 250GB 5400RPM HDD
Optical Drive N/A
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 4840mAh, 56Wh
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Pricing Available Online starting at $400
Test System: $564 (with current $173 savings)

Gateway EC5409u Test System
Processor Intel Pentium SU4100
(2x1.3GHz, 45nm, 2MB L2, 800FSB, 10W)
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD IGP
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 320GB 5400RPM HDD
Optical Drive 8x DVDR SuperMulti
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 5600mAh, 63Wh
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Pricing Available Online starting at $600

We'll include the usual assortment of application benchmarks, battery tests, and LCD tests. If you're interested in gaming performance, we suggest you look at our ASUS 1201N review, where we show gaming performance of the EC5409u at minimum detail settings. In a word, it's painful, but we'll include the 3DMark results later just to make things clear. If you want games and CULV, we highly recommend something like the ASUS UL series; check back next week for some new information in that area.

Okay, it's time for the test results. We'll spoil the charts a bit by once again stating that nearly all of the tests show complete parity among the tested laptops. If we had something with an SU9600, sure, it would be measurably faster. Similarly, an SSD can improve tests that are limited by hard drive performance. Both of those items would add at least $100 each to the cost of a laptop, so you quickly approach the $800+ laptop range, which is currently the domain of the ASUS UL30/50/80Vt laptops. If you're after a $600 CULV, the components you can get into such a design are pretty much set, leading to virtually identical performance. Outside of comparisons to other laptop categories (e.g. netbooks and non-CULV laptops), the previous pages on the design and features are going to be more meaningful than looking at how much faster the 1810T is relative to the 11z. The only areas where we see any real separation are the battery life results and the LCD testing.

Gateway EC5409u General Performance: Atom Gets Dusted
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  • yyrkoon - Thursday, February 04, 2010 - link

    Jarred. Without even having to read the article/comparison here, I could have told you this would have been a no brainer.

    Last year I purchased a Toshiba Laptop with a T3400 CPU in it for less than $400( barely ) with free shipping. Now technically, this CPU is labeled as a "Pentium dual core. What that means exactly, I am not sure. But what I can tell you about this complete system is that at max load, it draws less than 40W( 17W light duty / idle ), and will play all but the most intense games reasonably well.

    Now what really surprised me about this laptop, after the fact that I did not think it could even play Hellgate: london( and it does, well, mostly ). Was that it encodes h264 video at close to the same speed as my desktop. Granted, my desktop is somewhat aged, but is no slouch. A P35 based system running an E6550 with 4GB of ram. Over Clocked to run 1:1 with the memory( 2.8Ghz ). Now perhaps I am missing something here, like perhaps Handbrake is not the best app to use to encode h264 ( x264 ), or maybe I am missing something else. Either way, I am fairly impressed. Which as I get older is something that is not as easy as it once was to do.

    So my point here, is that if an older system based off older technology can do well in this arena. I can see why newer technology can put the Atom to shame for a slightly higher price, and slight higher power consumption.

    One thing that does have me confused. Is why vendors/ OEM's have not implemented low power / performance parts for the common desktop. There certainly is an interest, all one has to do is search the web for a while and find 1000's of people out there trying to do different various things along these lines.

    For instance. Many of us possibly know that getting a low power desktop is not much of a challenge(read: ~50W full load, including an LCD ). However, popping in a discrete video card that has any sort of decent performance will more than likely triple your load at the wall. Why nVIdia/ATI insist on bleeding us dry with costs on the cards, and then insult us further by requiring us to buy an even bigger power supply. Not to mention the first born children we're obligated to give our local power companies for powering such beasts. Is it too much of a stretch of imagination to put a mobile graphics processor on a PCI-E 16x PCB ? I think not.

    With the above said. No, this does not imply gaming. Discrete graphics vs. integrated / onboard is a huge performance gain on its own. There are many different application out there that could benefit from this, and gaming is just a minor part of that.
    Reply
  • Souka - Thursday, February 04, 2010 - link

    My brother bought a HPmini netbook for our Mom, she hated how slow and unresponsive it was.

    All she did on it was read her hotmail, look at some gardening sites, and read the news... She was quite disappointed how slow it was compared to her 8 year old Pentium4 thinkpad laptop.

    I tweaked it best I could for performance, cpu typically wasn't very busy, 200mb+ free ram, hard drive not too busy... just plain sluggish.

    I even removed the Antivirus and all unecssary runtime apps... no noticible difference


    Ended up getting her a cute little used Sony Vaio ULV book... she loves it...and I paid just a bit more than the netbook.
    Oh yeah...the Vaio gets 5-8hrs run time on used battery... nice

    Reply
  • Mumrik - Thursday, February 04, 2010 - link

    The display is "11.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)" in the box for the Gateway. It should be 15.x... Reply
  • aglennon - Thursday, February 04, 2010 - link

    I always wondered, Would battery life when playing videos be longer if you played the videos off of a flash drive rather than the hard drive?

    You could put the hard drive to sleep to save on the battery draw. Or would you?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, February 05, 2010 - link

    My experience is that powering of the hard drives may not occur as frequently as you would expect. Even when idle for over an hour, if you look at a running laptop you will often see the HDD activity light blinking periodically. I can try to test this, but I'd be surprised if the results change much. They could even become worse because of all the USB activity.... Hmmm, this could be interesting. Would USB flash drive model make a difference? Most of my flash drives are pretty old/slow, but they should handle movies fine. Reply
  • aglennon - Friday, February 05, 2010 - link

    It seems it may. I think it would depend if you could truly put the HD into standby mode. In the specs I've been able to find, USB flash drives pull about 60-80mA compared to WD 2.5" Hard Drives which pull about 500mA when running, 400Ma when idle, but only 50mA when in standby.
    I would think it would expand battery life considerably for those long airplane flights.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, February 05, 2010 - link

    Testing is underway. I had to use DivX, since my largest USB device is only 4GB and my x264 video is larger than that. Either way, it should be enough to tell if things have changed at all. (I also need to verify the result with the HDD, since I think I have a different DivX codec doing the work now. I used Win7's native support initially, since it's lower CPU use and better battery life than ffdshow.) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, February 07, 2010 - link

    So here are the results (bearing in mind that I am not using the built-in Win7 codec because the ffdshow codec has taken priority and I didn't want to take the time to figure out how to fix the problem):

    DivX from USB: 268 minutes
    DivX from HDD: 291 minutes

    So, by my testing using a USB flash stick reduced battery life by around 8%. Ouch. Or put another way, it looks like USB increased average power use from around 12.8W for the HDD to 13.9W (based on battery capacity).

    My best guess is that the HDD isn't powering down, and/or the USB traffic is creating a lot more CPU usage than SATA HDD accesses. It's also entirely possible that the USB device I used is less than optimal - read/write speeds are nowhere near what you could get with a modern USB 2.0 stick, let alone USB 3.0. I think it can read/write at 13MB/s at best.
    Reply
  • crimson117 - Thursday, February 04, 2010 - link

    How does the recently released Alienware m11x stack up? Reply
  • synaesthetic - Friday, February 05, 2010 - link

    Hardware Heaven has a review of the M11x already up. They're claiming that it's the best Alienware system yet.

    I'm on the fence. I don't like the design much and I think the screen's too small for the weird form factor. Really I think they should have bumped the chassis size up slightly and tossed in a 13.3" display.

    The price is very tempting though... entry-level configs starting at $800 and directly competing with systems like Asus's UL30Vt, but with a LOT more graphics muscle.
    Reply

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