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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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  • svojoe - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    I'm sure it was not easy to do a full suite of testing, But I would *really* like to see the Brazos pitted against the ATOM/ION or the CULV/ION Platforms. Despite atom's really slow performance for the same price ranges even today I am still amazed that my single core ATOM (hp mini 311) paired with ION is hard to beat in the 11.6" and below form factor for multimedia and gaming at a sub $400 price tag.

    I know that I am a small niche in the market I want netbook/ultraportable form factors that are potent at gaming/multimedia that are also cheap. Can the Brazos answer in this category too or will the dual core ATOM/ION system's still rule when it gets down to raw cost and fps?
    Reply
  • Cloakstar - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    The chip may be memory bandwidth limited, but AMD was kind enough to demonstrate what now is best termed as a ~30% memory overclock at IDF. As long as the retail mobtherboards have even a few clock options, the raw TDP looks like it should provide a ton of headroom for the rest of the chip to clock up to consume that memory bandwidth.

    Brazos TDP: 21W ... Load power: 6.5W
    "The Brazos platform was configured with 4GB of DDR3-1066 memory. The IDF system had memory running at DDR3-1333, however AMD had to decrease clocks presumably to meet validation requirements for final silicon."
    "The Radeon HD 6310 in the E-350 does very well, despite the memory bandwidth limitations."
    Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    I put 2GB extra in my PC the other week and had to up a couple of the timings to make it work. I wonder how memory timings will affect the GPU's performance.

    Without a full rundown on what the system had, we won't know if AMD could've put better RAM in there, for example. I doubt they'd be sandbagging.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    They're only a good value option because Intel doesn't care to offer their superior products with similarly thin profit margins.

    If Intel were to release a P4 for $0.50, it would be a fantastic value option for a lot of applications and users, but that doesn't change the fact that a P4 core is substandard when compared to a Nehalem core.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    I wouldn't call it a myth so much as slightly disingenuous. Painting with a broad brush, there are two types of compute tasks - those that are arithmetically intense and those that aren't. Typically those that aren't are integer/boolean, and the rest are float. GPUs are great with most arithmetically intense operations, so they get conflated with float problems while leaving CPUs for the rest.

    It isn't completely precise to say CPUs are for integers and GPUs are for floats, as both can work with and excel at using either, but it's a good approximation when you start talking about real-world tasks a typical user will want to complete that take a significant amount of time to run.
    Reply
  • krazyderek - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    by the looks of things, AMD has made a good cut in power usage, at the expense of looking CPU competitive.

    Why don't they just release a E-460 with 3 bobcat cores at 1.6ghz, or 2 cores at 1.8ghz that will leave Atom in the dust and truly compete with i3 ?? looks like that would only take it up to ~27w which would be on par...

    maybe it's just me, but when something new comes out, i don't care if just battery life has gone up, or any other one metric for that matter, i want to see better everything... battery life, graphics, and cpu, otherwise i just wait till the next generation when they've all been addressed.
    Reply
  • sinigami - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    uh, am i missing some charts on page 4 or something? because i only see three, and the zacate wins only the first one, ties on the second one, and loses on the third. With only one win, the headline should NOT say it's faster!

    you could say that the Clarkdale IGP wins or ties the zacate on two out of three gaming benchmarks, and declare it faster.

    sheesh, is that some biasedness, or just wishful thinking?
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    you're testing games on this eminently non-gaming platform, but not video ? Reply
  • sinigami - Friday, November 19, 2010 - link

    not just is it weird that they tested games, it's even weirder that they tested three games, and the headline said this platform was faster than intel's....

    WHEN IT ONLY WON ONE TEST!

    did anyone else even read to page 4?
    Reply
  • silverblue - Friday, November 19, 2010 - link

    One thing to point out is that the i5-661 has a 900MHz GPU, the i3-530 a 733MHz GPU and the 890GX a 700MHz GPU. This particular flavour of Brazos is a mere 500MHz. Also, Anand is right in that, if most games are GPU bound, Brazos is easily superior to most integrated solutions and definitely so at the same GPU clock speed. Reply

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