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Final Words

The Brazos platform really poses the question of what is fast enough from a CPU standpoint. Netbook makers often argued that Atom was fast enough, and honestly they'd be right if Atom wasn't paired with such a heavyweight OS. Running Windows 7, Atom just wasn't fast enough but many made the sacrifice in order to get the form factor and battery life benefits that went along with the platform. The E-350 offers an alternative. You get faster than Atom CPU performance (particularly in single threaded tasks) and a fairly potent GPU. The only issue is that the E-350 doesn't compete against Atom. Most of the time you'll find it up against Pentium or low end Core i3 notebooks.

From a CPU performance standpoint, the E-350 can't compete with either of those CPUs clock for clock. Where AMD has the advantage is in power consumption and GPU performance. This is effectively AMD's answer to Intel's CULV platform, but with better graphics performance.

This is a huge statement from AMD, echoing what Apple has been saying for the past year: while CPU performance matters, GPU performance must scale at least as quickly, if not more to make up for lost time. The only thing we're really lacking are the killer apps (outside of 3D gaming and HD video) to support this mentality today.

The Radeon HD 6310 in the E-350 does very well, despite the memory bandwidth limitations. Its easily faster than Intel's HD Graphics, although some games (e.g. Starcraft 2) are still held back by the performance of AMD's Bobcat cores. Despite being a significant step forward for integrated graphics at this price point, I would be lying if I said I didn't wish it were faster. Ideally I would like to see > 30 fps performance across the board from the E-350.

There's also the GPU compute argument that AMD makes for Fusion, however the GPU compute tests I tried to run on Brazos didn't exactly work. Cyberlink Media Espresso would not use the GPU for encoding and the Civilization V compute shader test wouldn't run either. Both I suspect will be worked out by the time the platform actually ships.

What matters the most with Brazos is what the OEMs do with it. We'll of course get mini-ITX boards to turn into HTPCs, but on the mobile side Brazos needs to be paired with a sleek/well built chassis, good display, fast storage and a large battery to truly be attractive. I am also concerned about the performance of the Ontario based APUs. In many areas the E-350 isn't that much quicker than a dual-core Atom, which makes me wonder how the C-30 and C-50 would do.

Brazos ultimately has the same problem Atom had at its introduction. Compared to similarly priced notebooks based around 2.2GHz Pentium dual-core CPUs or Core i3s, the CPU just isn’t competitive. Unlike Atom however, in GPU bound scenarios the E-350 is actually faster than those two. The only issue, as I mentioned above, is that currently the majority of mainstream applications that are GPU bound are 3D games. Like Atom however, the Brazos platform is also destined for ultra thin formfactors - places a low end Core i3 can’t go. It’s in that comparison that AMD is most successful.

 

Compared to a Core i3-330UM, Brazos offers much better GPU performance and it’s even competitive in CPU dependent games like Starcraft 2. The i3-330UM is still faster CPU bound scenarios though, reinforcing the CPU speed for GPU performance tradeoff that you’re faced with when considering these two.

 

The E-350 delivers 50 - 60% of the multithreaded CPU performance of the Core i3-330UM, and nearly 70% of the single threaded performance. It’s a noticeable gap, but AMD attempts to make up for it by delivering up to twice the GPU performance in games.

 

Then there’s the issue of die size. For years AMD has had to give sell you a larger die at a lower price than Intel in order to remain competitive. The Brazos platform changes that. At 75mm^2, the Zacate die is smaller than just the CPU portion of a Core i3 and it’s less than 40% of the total die area when you include Intel’s HD Graphics. While more CPU performance would be nice to have, this is a good start.

 

AMD is committed to revving the Brazos platform yearly. We’ll obviously see updated graphics next year but I’m hoping for updates to the CPU cores as well. The biggest mistake Intel made with Atom was to be too conservative with its roadmap. AMD has a history of not making the same mistakes as Intel, so hopefully the Brazos roadmap looks good. Now we wait for the notebooks.

Mobile IGP Comparison
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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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