AMD Mobility from Past to Present

It's been a long time in coming, but today we can finally provide a look at an up-to-date AMD mobile platform that doesn't disappoint. My first encounter with AMD's Turion processors came back in 2006 with the MSI S271 whitebook. Unfortunately, that laptop came out shortly after the Core 2 Duo tour de force, and various flaws left us wanting more. Battery life checked in at a then-respectable 3 to 3.5 hours, and pricing started at around $1000 for a fully-equipped system. My, how things have changed!

Since the first Turion parts, most of AMD's mobile processor advances have been relatively tame. Four years ago we looked at AMD's mobile dual-core parts running at 1.6GHz and 2.0GHz, built on a 90nm SOI process technology and running in socket S1 (S1G1). Today, the fastest AMD parts are built on a 45nm process and we're now on socket S1G4. We've changed from DDR to DDR2 and now DDR3, performance per clock has gone up, and performance per watt has increased significantly. We've also gone from X1200 series IGPs to HD 3200 and HD 4200, with the latter two adding DX10 and DX10.1 respectively. Many of these changes have had the overall goal of reducing power requirements and increasing battery life—an area where AMD has been trailing for the past four years.

In short, we need to see better performance and better battery life from AMD's mobile division (and their OEM partners), with a price that's appropriate to the features and performance provided. Let's start with a look at the specs of the laptop behind AMD's latest ultraportable (a.k.a. 2010 Ultrathin) platform, the Toshiba T235D.

Toshiba T235D-S1345RD Specifications
Processor AMD Turion II Neo K625
(2x1.50GHz, 45nm, 2x1024KB L2, 3200MHz HT, 15W)
Chipset AMD M880G
Memory 2x2GB DDR3 (Max 2x4GB)
(DDR3-1066 @ DDR3-800 6-6-6-15 1T)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225
(40 Stream Processors, 380MHz core clock)
Display 13.3" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
LG LP133WH1-T
Hard Drive(s) Toshiba MK3265GSX 320GB 5400RPM 8MB
Optical Drive None
Networking Fast Ethernet (Realtek RTL8139/810x)
802.11b/g/n (Atheros AR9285)
Audio HD Audio
Stereo speakers with headphone/mic jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 5300mAh, ~61Wh battery
(Note: 57Wh calculated)
Front Side N/A
Left Side Flash Reader
1 x Combo USB 2.0/eSATA
HDMI
Exhaust vent
AC Power
Right Side Headphone and Mic jacks
2 x USB 2.0
VGA
Ethernet
Kensington
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 12.7" x 8.8" x 0.70"-1.03" (WxDxH)
Weight 3.9 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD/SD-HC/xD)
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing $600 MSRP
Starting at $580 Online
(Sale this week: $500 at Office Depot)

Unlike the higher performance AMD parts, the Nile platform (and Geneva CPUs) compete in the ultraportable market. We've looked at a few laptops from the previous generation AMD Congo family, the Acer Ferrari One and the MSI Wind U230, but to date we haven't found anything that can seriously challenge the Intel ultraportable market. On the performance side, both Intel's CULV and AMD's ultraportables have easily pounded Atom netbooks into the ground, but where CULV laptops are able to hit 8+ hours of battery life we've yet to break the five hour mark with an AMD laptop (while using a moderately sized 6-cell battery). The Toshiba T235D changes that, and finally we have an AMD platform—and a Toshiba laptop—that we can recommend without a whole bunch of caveats.

The Turion II K625 processor comes clocked at a relatively tame 1.5GHz, but keep in mind that the Intel competition has typically been clocked at 1.3GHz (CULV) or even 1.2GHz (Arrandale ULV). The K665 bumps the clock up to 1.7GHz while the K325 drops to 1.3GHz, making the K625 a good middle-of-the-road choice. What's more, while CULV laptops like the Acer Timeline AS1810T were saddled with Intel's anemic GMA 4500MHD, the newer Timeline X series moves up to Core i3/i5 processors, with faster graphics…and a higher price and apparently worse battery life! The only Arrandale CULV we've tested so far is the Alienware M11x R2, which came with Intel's fastest ULV in the i7-620UM. We'll at least be able to see how the K625 rates in comparison, and we'll also be able to look at graphics performance (with the M11x's GT335M disabled). It's shaping up to be an interesting battle at least, rather than the previous results where Intel easily won in CPU and battery life, with lackluster IGP results. Going forward, we do have some additional Arrandale ULV laptops coming in, with some of the lower spec CPUs, so consider this a first volley in the comparisons that are coming.

One thing that's nice to see for a change is that Toshiba's contestant isn't saddled with a smaller battery this time around. We've seen a lot of 48Wh 6-cell batteries in inexpensive notebooks and laptops, but thankfully the T235D comes with a 6-cell 61Wh battery. [Note: the spec pages on Toshiba and elsewhere list a battery capacity of 48Wh, but it appears that's just an error as the battery in our test unit is definitely a higher capacity 6-cell.] It has the now-standard 1366x768 (768p) LCD found in so many ultraportables, but the chassis lacks an optical drive as Toshiba goes for the thin crowd. With a 13.3" chassis this is still more of a thin and light laptop as opposed to being an 10" to 12" ultraportable, but it tips the scales at just under four pounds so it's definitely easy to carry around, particularly for students. As usual, we'll start with a closer look at the T235D before we get to the performance metrics.

Toshiba T235D – Glitzy or Glamorous?
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  • stmok - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    From page 2: "Unfortunately, if you're looking for a more potent IGP from either company, you'll want to wait for Intel's Sandy Bridge and AMD's Bulldozer architectures."

    => While the mainstream version of "Sandy Bridge" will have an IGP (coming in early 2011); AMD's Bulldozer won't.

    The one's with IGP are AMD's "Ontario" processor (Bobcat cores), and "Llano" processor (K10.5 based, Athlon II-like configuration + Radeon HD 55xx/56xx-based IGP)...These will be the Fusion processors that AMD will bring to the table in late-2010 and early-2011.

    Bulldozer-based Fusion processors are expected to come in 2012.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    Corrected. I said Bobcat in the other places (AFAIK), but I did mistakenly put Bulldozer in there.

    Also worth note is that Bobcat isn't just mobile Bulldozer for a change... it's a real reworking for mobility. In fact, not only is it not like Bulldozer, but it's a pretty major change even from K10.5 and K10. More on this in the near future....
    Reply
  • Roland00 - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    There are currently some leaked slides saying NDA until tommorrow, furthermore AMD is one of the participants of Stanford Hot Chips Conference. In the program material for the conference there is this detail for Tuesday August 24

    5:00 - 6:30
    Session 7: New Processor Architectures (Session Chair: Bevan Baas, UC Davis)
    ...
    # AMD "Bulldozer" Core - a new approach to multithreaded compute performance for maximum efficiency and throughput
    Authors: Mike Butler
    Affiliations: AMD
    # AMD's "Bobcat" x86 Core - Small, Efficient and Strong
    Authors: Brad Burgess
    Affiliations: AMD
    http://www.hotchips.org/printableprogram.php
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    You can get our HotChips write-up here, now:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3863/amd-discloses-b...
    Reply
  • zshift - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    "The Turion II K625 processor comes clocked at a relatively tame 1.5GHz.... The K625 bumps the clock up to 1.7GHz while the K325 drops to 1.3GHz, making the K625 a good middle-of-the-road choice."

    I believe the second mention of the K625 was supposed to be referring to a different model.
    Reply
  • Roland00 - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    K665, 1700 mhz
    K625 , 1500 mhz
    Reply
  • matt b - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    I've been asking for a Nile platform review and Anandtech delievered! I'm glad that your reviewed the k625 too - it seems like the best Nile option, though the K325 1.3 is not much different. It was a good, balanced review. I've seen this one at Office Depot - it's been at $500.00 more than once now. If only Office Depot carried any color other than red.
    Thanks!
    Reply
  • maniac5999 - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    The link from graphics to conclusion didn't appear for me, not sure if it was just a firefox hiccup or if it's missing.

    Anyway, good article. What is really interesting is the difference in graphics performance between the HD 3200 and HD 4225. Is there any underlying architectural difference, because with the same number of shaders I'd assume that the 3200 at 500mhz would beat the 4225 at 380mhz.

    While the platform looks nice, i still think 12" is the magical size for an ultraportable. Oh, and if you sent back your U230 and want to get some numbers for it, please message me and I'll be glad to run numbers for you. (I think I run low 40s on average in SC2 with my 3200 turned up to 3300 speeds)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    I missed the page title for the LCD, which messed up the links. That's corrected now.

    As for the HD 3200 and HD 4225, they're very similar but 4200 series uses UVD2 while 3200 is UVD1. 4000 series is also DX10.1 versus DX10 on the 3200. Per clock performance of the 4200 appears to be higher as well, but I don' t know exactly what changed in that area.

    For U230 SC2 numbers, we'd need to send you our test file as well, if we're to keep things apples-to-apples. We did send that one back to MSI, sadly, but I'm not sure if there's much need to retest all the old laptops. We'll be dropping the older stuff from the charts as we move forward and focusing on the newer laptops. Given the pricing and availability, there's not much reason to buy a U230 over the T235D now. I suppose if you want 12", but in that case what you really want is a U230 update with Nile.
    Reply
  • maniac5999 - Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - link

    well, it'd probably be nice to have a better datapoint for the last generation AMD Ultrathin platform than that turd 'Ferrari One' It would also help us determine if the 4225 is really more powerful than the 3200 or if all those games are just handicapped by the slow Ferarri One processor.

    It's completely up to you, If you send the file I'll take out my extra 2gb of RAM and run the benchmark.
    Reply

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