Introducing the ASUS X72D/K72DR

The ASUS X72D is an interesting beast and a testament to just how far prices have fallen on Blu-ray capable hardware. It also gives us the opportunity to play with a triple-core mobile AMD chip, something we haven't yet enjoyed on the review bench. While a mobile Phenom II and Mobility Radeon HD 5470 may not be the most exciting pieces of kit in the world, they can be used to buttress an attractive and affordable build able to handle most computing tasks without breaking the bank.

Today we'll be figuring out just how well three AMD cores can compete with two hyper-threaded Intel cores at the entry level, and whether or not the X72D delivers the solid multimedia experience it was intended for. Note that our review model is labeled X72D, but it's the same design as the readily available K72DR--only with Blu-ray and a 7200RPM drive compared to the stock model available at Newegg. We'll refer to the notebook as the X72D throughout this review, but the two names are synonymous--the X72D is just the upgraded model. Here are the specs of our review sample.

ASUS X72D Specifications
Processor AMD Phenom II N830
(3x2.1GHz, 45nm, 1.5MB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD RS880 northbridge and SB850 southbridge
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 1GB DDR3
(80 Stream Processors, 750 MHz core clock, 1600 MHz effective memory clock, 64-bit memory bus)
Display 17.3" CCFL Glossy 16:9 900p (1600x900)
Chi Mei N173O6-L02
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200 RPM Seagate Momentus 7200.4 Hard Disk
Optical Drive Blu-ray Reader/DVD+/-RW Combo Drive
Networking Atheros AR8131 Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9285 Wireless 802.11n (150Mb capable)
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 4400mAh, 48Wh battery
Front Side Speakers
5-in-1 Flash reader
Left Side Exhaust vent
2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Right Side Headphone and microphone jacks
2x USB 2.0
HDMI
VGA
Ethernet jack
AC adaptor
Kensington lock
Back Side Nothing
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 16.7" x 11.2" x 1.5" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.9 lbs
Extras 0.3MP Webcam
Keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
Altec Lansing speakers
Blu-ray reader
Warranty 2-year standard warranty
Pricing Available online as K72Dr

Even if it isn't that exciting, the most interesting part in the X72D is the AMD Phenom II N830 at its heart. AMD processors have been somewhat rarefied around here since manufacturers are typically more interested in throwing flashier, more exciting Intel-based units our way, so it's nice to get our hands on one of AMD's faster tri-core mobile chips. The Phenom II N830 runs its three cores at 2.1 GHz and is basically a mobile, power-binned version of the L3 cache-less desktop Athlon II X3. While these cores aren't as fast clock-for-clock as competing Intel chips, they're fast enough, and a healthy jump over AMD's old K8-based mobile chips.

There's still a major stumbling block for AMD in terms of power consumption, though: an AMD-based notebook has to power both a northbridge and a southbridge, while most of this functionality is either handled by integrated hardware in Intel's mobile processors or by the single power friendly HM55/PM55 chip. It's not a case of just having more chips, but when you look at the manufacturing processes in use and the historical data, AMD hasn't done well on getting power use in check. Having to run three of their chips compared to two of Intel's chips is going to be a big hurdle.

The odd choice is the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 dedicated GPU. Given the 17" chassis we would've liked to see at least a Mobility Radeon HD 5650, but what makes the anemic 5470 even more puzzling is how aggressive of an implementation it is. While the chip itself is still the same dismal DX11 rehash of the old 4300/4500 series, plugging along with just 80 stream processors and a paltry 64-bit memory bus, ASUS has opted to clock it at a staggering 750MHz. As has become customary with low-end chips, the 5470 has also been outfitted with 1GB of DDR3—about 512MB more than it could ever use—clocked at a healthy 1.6 GHz effective. This is pretty much as good as the 5470 is going to get, but that isn't saying much. For comparison we have the Dell Studio 14 in our charts, which uses a 5470 at a lower 675MHz core clock.

The remainder of the X72D is fairly healthy. 4GB of DDR3 is clocked at 1333MHz instead of the usual 1066MHz, and ASUS saw fit to equip the unit with a 500GB, 7200 RPM Seagate hard disk. 5400 RPM drives are starting to phase out of the ASUS lineup, and that's a good thing. There's also a combination Blu-ray reader, DVD writer, suggesting the X72D's intended market, but that Blu-ray drive is only going to be pushing a 1600x900 screen—no 1080p for us. What's puzzling is the lack of eSATA, USB 3.0, FireWire, or ExpressCard. Any one of these would be excellent for external storage, but apparently we're stuck with USB 2.0 still. This is even more bizarre when you recall the concerted push ASUS was making to add USB 3.0 to all of their hardware.

Kicking the Tires of the ASUS X72D
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  • lammers42 - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Would you guys at Anandtech stop screwing around with 6-cell 48Whr battery laptops that have larger than 14 inch screens. No matter what CPU and GPU combination are used, these laptops are crap and typically don't have over 2.5 hrs of battery life. I think the 6 cell 48Whr batteries have there place in <15.6 in laptops. In 15.6-16 inch laptops a minimum 6-cell 60Whr battery should be used and the jump to 17.3 inch should grant the use of a 9-cell battery.

    Batteries have battery curves and have different runtimes depending on the load put on the battery. Batteries from different manufactures with the same spec aren't the same, period. Maybe it would help to use a general purpose battery with special connector to connect to the laptops for the battery test life. I don't feel I can trust the relative battery life performance table as it is in its present state. Or just show the power consumed from the wall for the different idle, internet and multimedia testing. I think I would much rather see that and then I would know what battery to order when I purchase the laptop.

    I wish the manufacturers wouldn't put the crappy 48Whr batteries in these > 15.6 inch laptops, but you can request them to only send those sizes to you.
    Reply
  • lammers42 - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Sorry, I meant to say that you can request the manufacturers to not send you those laptops that exceed 14 inch screens but still have a a 6-cell 48Whr battery or equivalent. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Many of the laptops we receive don't even have an option for a larger battery. Personally, I'm with you: 6-cell batteries should all be "extended capacity" 63Wh or so models. But we do check wear levels with HWmonitor and our "relative battery life" is at least something more to consider. The fact is, even if you have two laptops with the same specs and the same battery, BIOS tweaks and other power saving utilities can enable one manufacturer to offer superior battery life. ASUS' Power4Gear actually does quite well in that regards, but obviously pairing it up with a discrete-only GPU and a tri-core AMD CPU is far more than a 48Wh battery can handle. Reply
  • lammers42 - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Seriously! I only know of one option out there to buy an AMD laptop with a decent battery (I'm not talking the extended runtime batteries that look like the laptop has a tumor growing out the back). Certain configurations of the DV7 comes with the 9-cell 93Whr battery that supposedly gives 5-7 hours of battery life but details are sketchy at best for the configuration tested. If you guys have a chance request the DV7-4060US and/or DV7-4170US. I'm sure there are a few of us here that would love to see the relative battery life of those laptops! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    The HP Envy has been on request for months, so don't hold your breath for a DV7 to come our way! LOL. Funny thing is, we can get HP to send us their business laptops, but getting consumer laptops from them is like pulling teeth from a grizzly bear. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    That's not true. At least the grizzly bear responds. ;) Reply
  • shady28 - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    I have a hard time seeing why this laptop is being used to represent the AMD price / performance line.

    The K72DR is indeed an $850 laptop at NewEgg.

    However, for $679 you can get an Acer with a phenom II x3 850 that's slightly faster, and with a Radeon 5650 GPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    And, for $750, you can get an Acer 17.3" laptop with a quad core Phenom II 2.1Ghz with a Radeon 5650 : http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    Clearly the K72DR is just not up to snuff compared to competition within Acer's own line.

    I'd say either of the 2 laptops I listed above are a much better representative of what you can get for 650-750 $ using AMD, especially the Quad core AS7552G-6061,
    Reply

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