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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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  • Jamahl - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Err no.

    http://hothardware.com/articleimages/Item1589/amd-...

    http://www.pcper.com/images/reviews/1039/power-idl...

    It will easily outlast atom and beats it in everything.
    Reply
  • HelToupee - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Your graphs show that it eats less power at idle, but when it's actually doing something, Atom burns less. Of course, we're looking at engineering sample quality hardware from AMD, and fully built, tuned systems from Atom. AMD should be able to get those power figures to come down quite a bit. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    The atom burns less because it doesnt do anything. There is no way to get better power consumption than atom unless you clock the E-350 at 800MHz and hold it there. I suspect that even at that speed, the single core performance would make the system feel faster than the atom, or at least not any slower. Reply
  • Concillian - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    The CPU uses more than an Atom CPU, but the Atom is less integrated and needs more support from the chipset.

    Arguably idle power is more important than full load power for many applications ideal for the Atom. The only load scenario that really matters much is watching a movie. IN a netbook, idle state is more important. In an integrated system like a kiosk, idle is more important, and Brazos clearly leads in idle.

    The power consumption of the entire system at load is not far off from an Atom system at full load. A D525 atom + ION is using more power, but performing worse in all aspects. At this point it comes down to cost as to whether it can compete with an Atom, as it's clear from this article that it doesn't compete well with the "real" CPUs. It has to compete with Atom, because there's no way for it to compete with even CULV Arrandales.
    Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    So this is the sort of performance that the FASTEST Bobcat product offers? Can't say I'm surprised. In many situations it's barely faster than an Atom D510. I think in some cases an Atom D525 would be faster.

    Yes, the Brazos E-350 does very well in some games. However, it also does VERY poorly in other games. Compared to AMD's hype, those are terrible performance results for Dragon Age, Starcraft 2, and Civilization 5. Civ 5 and SC2 are both very popular games, so it's not a good sign that Brazos struggles so badly in those games.

    I totally agree with the Final Words section and what you say there Anand. So really, the only situations where Brazos makes sense is GPU-dependent applications/games.

    A Celeron E absolutely SMOKES Brazos in terms of performance in most situations.

    Yes I would say this product is competitive with Intel's offerings, but it is not class-leading. At 18W TDP for a Brazos platform, that is more power intensive than an Atom platform, and almost as power intensive as a Celeron platform. Intel's i3 products also carry 18W TDP ratings.

    I agree that the success of Brazos will heavily depend on which OEMs pick up this product, and also how they integrate it.

    Once Intel integrates their new Sandy Bridge-level IGP into their low-end products next year, Brazos will look even less appealing.
    Reply
  • wiak - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    thats why amd has LIano up it sleeves Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Llano will compete with Sandy Bridge though. Do you really think Llano has a chance? It will have a dated Stars CPU combined with a decent Radeon GPU. Yes the GPU might be better than Sandy Bridge's IGP, but by how much?

    We already know that Llano will lose to Sandy Bridge in CPU performance. It might beat it in GPU performance, but we'll have to see how much of a gap it will be. Also most applications and games are still CPU-dependent. AMD is making a big gamble by having Brazos and Llano be so GPU-dependent.
    Reply
  • smookyolo - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    It'll probably beat SB in power consumption, though... D: -quakes in boots- Reply
  • wiak - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    as far as rumors go, LIano has 400 or 480 shader gpu, aka a HD 5670 discrete, in anandtech preview of sandy bridge, its is just as fast as a 80 shader HD 5450

    add a phenom II based arcitecture then you have a pretty competent mobile gaming system in a mainstream laptop without discrete graphics and way better battery life than with a discrete graphics card

    and there is nextgen bulldozer fusion and bobcat fusion still coming

    btw, do people even need a high performace CPU in a laptop anyway?, i got a laptop here with Athlon II M320 2ghz with a onboard HD 4250 IGP that decodes blu-ray flawlessly in hardware, plays youtube flash h264 video in hardware, fast enught to work with scanned pictures, digitalcamera pictures etc

    and i usely use a quad core gaming rig with a Radeon HD 5870, 4GB memory
    Reply
  • Khato - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    As far as rumors go, Llano has at best a 128 bit, DDR3 1600 memory interface, which would give it 25.6GB/s of memory bandwidth available, aka a radeon 5550 with DDR3. Of course it has to share that bandwidth with the CPU, so actually it'll be far less than that. Not to mention, how many manufacturers would actually give it full speed memory?

    Anyway, I really do quite appreciate the inclusion of the 5450 numbers in this review. It makes it far easier to determine whether the GPU portion is shader or memory bandwidth starved... Though it'd be even better if numbers for an underclocked 5450 were included as well, especially three variations of underclocked (core only, memory only, and then both equal to the 'brazos' tested.) I expect that those numbers would confirm that performance is pretty much memory bandwidth limited. In which case the step from single channel DDR3 1066 at ~8.5GB/s to dual channel DDR3 1600 at ~25.6GB/s would allow for roughly triple the graphics performance.

    Oh, and ya know that the Sandybridge preview really isn't at all indicative of actual performance, right? aka, it stands a good chance of matching a memory bandwidth-bound Llano.
    Reply

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