Update: Be sure to read our full review of AMD's E-350 here.

Last week I mentioned that I had recently spent some time with AMD down in Austin, TX, benchmarking its upcoming Brazos platform. The Brazos platform is composed of an AMD Zacate or Ontario APU and the Fusion Controller Hub (a South Bridge based on the SB800 series). Brazos systems will run the gamut of mainstream notebook, netbook and nettop segments ranging from $299 to around $500. While AMD let us reveal the fact that we tested Brazos, we weren't allowed to publish numbers last week. Today, we can.

I didn’t have much time with Brazos. The AMD briefing started at 9AM, but AMD wanted to go through some marketing slides and answer questions before letting us at Brazos. Going into this whole thing I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to run everything I wanted to run. You see, the system I had access to wasn’t pre-configured. It had Windows 7 x64 loaded on it, drivers installed and PCMark Vantage - but everything else was up to me. Despite having a 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300, installing a dozen applications and games still took hours on the system. I asked AMD if I could at least begin copying/installing some applications before we started the briefing, they gladly entertained my request.

I brought an SSD full of applications, games and benchmarks that I wanted to run on the Brazos platform. I purposefully avoided any large test suites (PCMark Vantage, SYSMark) because they would eat up a lot of time and I had no idea how long the rest of the benchmarking would take.


The Brazos test platform

I also didn’t run any of our media streaming suite. The Zacate/Ontario APUs feature AMD’s UVD3 engine and should, in theory, have similar media playback features to the Radeon HD 6000 series. Of course once we have final systems it’ll be easier to put this to the test. I was mainly interested in characterizing the CPU and GPU performance of Brazos, the two major unknowns.

I didn’t get into the full swing of testing until just before 11AM, and we had a hard stop at 5PM. That didn’t leave a ton of time, but I believe it left enough to get a good idea for what Brazos will perform like in the real world.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of our coverage, the system felt snappy. I had the 11-inch MacBook Air on hand (it served as my Excel-runner while I benchmarked) and interacting with the OS felt no different between the Brazos system and the 1.6GHz MBA. That being said, the MBA is technically much quicker (and more expensive).

AMD Brazos Lineup
APU Model Number of Bobcat Cores CPU Clock Speed GPU Number of GPU Cores GPU Clock Speed TDP
AMD E-350 2 1.6GHz Radeon HD 6310 80 500MHz 18W
AMD E-240 1 1.5GHz Radeon HD 6310 80 500MHz 18W
AMD C-50 2 1.0GHz Radeon HD 6250 80 280MHz 9W
AMD C-30 1 1.2GHz Radeon HD 6250 80 280MHz 9W

The system I tested had AMD’s E-350 processor, the highest end APU you’ll find on a Brazos. This is the chip you’ll find in $400 nettops and notebooks in the $400 - $500 range. This puts its direct competition as really expensive Atom based netbooks, Pentium dual-core notebooks and low end Core i3 notebooks. While the latter two should easily outperform the E-350 in CPU intensive tasks, the GPU comparison is another story entirely. It’s also worth noting that the E-350 carries an 18W TDP (including graphics). During my testing I measured a maximum total system power consumption of around 30W (including the 1366 x 768 LCD panel) while playing games and around 25W while encoding H.264 on the two Bobcat cores. The system idled around 15W however AMD cautioned me that this number was unnaturally high. Final Brazos systems will be far more power optimized and AMD expects numbers to drop down to as low as 5.6W.

AMD is confident we will see Brazos based systems deliver well beyond 6 hours of battery life. AMD's goal is to deliver Atom like battery life and form factors, with a real GPU and hopefully better than Atom performance. We spent our time in Austin trying to find out if its goals were realistic.

Setting Performance Expectations
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  • silverblue - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    "Intel itself has talked about how Atom will get smaller and lower in power consumption while keeping the same performance or better."

    Of course they'll improve Atom's power draw... architectural tweaks plus new processes ensure that. Not improving Atom much, if at all, is rather mad.
    Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Yup, Intel is definitely sitting idle with Sandy Bridge ... oh wait no they're not.

    Sandy Bridge is the BIGGEST architectural change to Intel CPUs since the Pentium 4, and before that the Pentium Pro.

    So being in a strong position, Intel in this case in not sitting idle at all. They are further strengthening their already strong position which will likely allow them to handle any new AMD competition without much issue.
    Reply
  • ninjakitty - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    These article posts are funny... I think everyone here either works for AMD or Intel. Nobody is so nerdy to defend or care about processors as much as all of you... It could also be NVidia people who just want to get AMD and Intel people mad at each other. Reply
  • ninjakitty - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    I am such a huge fan of you. Are you married? How come you never talk about you? Where are the pictures?

    N/K
    Reply
  • Iketh - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    LOL Reply
  • outsideloop - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    Guys,

    Look at the war, not the battle:

    Who is biggest thorn in AMD's side today? NVidia, not Intel. AMD wants and needs to eliminate NVidia from the chipset/integrated graphics business. Brazos makes the ION platform irrelevant, and is in effect-kicking NVidia out of this market. Hell, AMD's goal right now is not to beat Intel, its to put NVidia out of business (sure, they can have their Tegra market). That will leave two competitors vying to deliver an ever expanding and increasing HD/3D rendered world to us. The Brazos is the first product with this goal in mind.

    Sure, Intel still has higher performance processors. But, which way is the world technology/computer market going? Cheaper, better value, lower power, lower cost. Especially with the world economy struggling and the commoditization of everything we use and need.

    The world needs it done cheaper and more efficiently. We can't afford the Intel platforms anymore. And why should we, when an AMD platform at half the price is good enough for most of the stuff we do? Yes, I have the 5850 Radeon for gaming but the rest of the platform is really becoming irrelevant. (I do realize best possible workstation performance is something some of us do need, hence you use a core I5/i7). BUT, for the vast majority of users in the world, why not just do AMD + SSD + Radeon 5XXX/6XXX, and not really notice the difference?

    Intel has all those expensive fabs and legions of employees. They need to sell a $200 processor to cover the overhead and make their billions of profit. If we get to the point of a average $100 chipset/processor/GPU combination (Fusion) and below, then that powerful little GPU on the die will become more and more important to the attractiveness and utility of the technology platform in the future.

    By 2012/2013, if AMD can produce a superior chipset/processor/GPU (Fusion) for $100, one that games in 3D at high rez, does the next levels of HD content, runs solitaire :) etc, basically doing the 3D job good enough to the Intel platform that will require a DISCREET GPU (which will be a RADEON incidentally) ,THEN it will be a serious problem for Intel.

    The Brazos is NVidia poison. Zambezi and beyond are targeted towards taking serious desktop and mobile market share from Intel.

    The strategy for AMD is to force Radeon technology on Intel.

    Intel will be forced to:

    1) Buy NVidia and incorporate their GPU technology into their processors (too late for this, plus they will burn like the sun), or

    2) Use low to mid-range Radeon discreet GPUs on their platforms, or

    3) Continue using their mediocre IGPs in their future processors (most likely), and watch the world choose the AMD platform at half the cost that delivers a superior graphical) HD/3D computing experience.

    A fast, competent high-res 3D capable/gaming capable/HD capable desktop or laptop for $500. This is where AMD will eliminate NVidia and take billions in sales from Intel. But not until Fusion matures.
    Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    An AMD Fusion product by 2012/2013 that will cost $100 and be able to play 3D games at high resolutions? Those are some ambitious dreams you have there. Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    Trinity might just miss that pricing mark, however it's certainly possible. Additionally, it all depends on what you mean by "high resolutions" - to some that's still 720p, to others 1080p.

    If it can handle a smooth gaming experience at 1080p and provide good CPU performance for everything else with a single Bulldozer module, we have a winner... but $100 is cutting it close.
    Reply
  • sinigami - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    hey dark, did this review just say that zacate's graphics are better than the IGP in clarkdale?

    how can it say that when there were only three benches run, and the zacate only won one?

    currently, intel, with clarkdale, is tied with the 890GX for the fastest integrated graphics, right?
    Reply
  • Rayb - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    What's to stop the OEMs from dropping the chipset/netbook prices accordingly if still is profitable, after all it's been a while since the Atom/ION was released. Let the customer decide what is their choice and the manufacturers compete for their money. The notion of what you think is best for you is good enough for everybody else. Have you thought that it might not go over so well with other people.

    Do you really believe that this APU is going to drive Nvidia out of the market or really hurt Intel's profits? It seems to me AMD is a day late and a dollar short in this market segment.

    It is a preview that hasn't been released yet and you're already talking two years from now, how good the next iteration is going to be, get real! Therefore, everything else will be static while your favorite company plays catch-up. Hahaha!!!

    In short, in one whole swat you managed to drive Nvidia out, cut into Intel profits by billions and left with the only one logical choice, AMD! Huurray!!!

    Ladies and Gentelman, this is FANBOYISM at it's best! With unreleased products no less.

    This diatribe of yours can only be three things:

    1) That koolaid must be something special.

    2) Whatever your smoking must be really good stuff (why don't you share with the rest of us?)

    3) How much are you getting paid to post your deranged illusions? (is it per word or whole post?).

    Excuse me if I don't favor your POV!
    Reply

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