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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  • flyck - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    don't forget to look to different sites also...

    example:
    http://hothardware.com/Reviews/AMD-Zacate-E350-Pro...

    Totally different picture... power consumption for system is on a whole other level for those systems, advantage to zacate.
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    where are going to stop making a total fool out of yourself on every intel - amd based review?

    Anandtech totally lack any decent compare with ULV based solution where the real competition is. yes the atom d525 will be on par performance wise cpu but not gpu unless you combine it with ion2 and yet you will have between 30-60% more powerconsumption, not to mention total platform cost. for initial release E-350 is fine, they just need some higher performing parts which can arrive real soon when the platform matures.

    TDP has nothing to say here even a D510 consumes more then the E-350 and that is rated at 13W....

    http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=1039&type...

    graphics is bad? it is at least playable on this kind of level now - netbooks, something intel can't and most games are even faster then current intel. only on some cpu limited you see brazos going down against i series which is btw a 35W part and higher clock cpu+gpu... wait until you see some ULV compares how low they are.....

    Intel SB will hurt there budget/ASP big time if they need to compete against zacate, by that time you will also see higher rated zacate.
    Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Fact is Brazos still struggles with certain games that require high CPU power.

    I really don't see the point of this product. The GPU is better than Atom products yes, but it's not good enough for a lot of popular games. People will still be disappointed if they buy a Brazos netbook or laptop only to discover it struggles to play a lot of popular games.

    Intel is aiming Atom at really small devices like smartphones. Currently, Brazos power consumption is too high for something like smartphones. So is Atom, but Intel will greatly improve that with upcoming SoC Atom products.

    As for people who want a netbook but don't need gaming, current products on the market are already "good enough".

    Sure maybe Brazos might fit for those that want to watch HD videos on a netbook, but that is a small niche market.
    Reply
  • SandmanWN - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Seems like a bunch of bad assumptions that don't take into account that there will most likely be different CPU speeds for this processor that address your very issues. Its just a review sample. It could indicate the low end of the line or middle or upper. We just don't know yet.

    Given AMD's years of release history. They start low and work their way up the speed spectrum.
    Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    We "don't know"?

    Are you for real?

    The E-350 is AMD's top end Brazos product. Anand has stated this, and so have several other sites. You really think AMD will offer a Brazos platform at launch with higher performance than the E-350?

    All the other Brazos products will perform worse than the E-350 at launch, not better, since this is the top-end Brazos that was tested.
    Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Who buys a net-book to specifically game? While you can play certain games, at low quality, the purpose of this Fusion system is to have a low power system that can still do what the majority of people BUY netbooks for...internet, email, youtube, etc. All of this is achieved with better performance than the Atom.

    I normally look forward to Anand's reviews as he usually does some of the best, but this article was very disappointing. Testing the system against the higher performing, higher power consumption chips is one thing, its always good to have a reference point. But to compare and base a conclusion against what is not its market or competition point? Utterly disingenuous.
    Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Atom is already "good enough" for internet, email, and youtube. Unless you watch HD videos on a netbook of course. I've used netbooks with Atom for regular tasks like email, internet and the performance is good enough for those tasks.

    But then, I would have to question why even bother watching HD videos on a netbook? That is almost as pointless as gaming on a netbook.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Monday, November 22, 2010 - link

    Atom is junk for any HD content, everyone knows that. You cant even hook it up to a higher res screen or TV due to lack of ports under the intel regime. Its a whole different story with Brazos. VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort - all possible.

    So, while this puppy can actually playback HD material, you can even use it to play it back on your TV if you wish. Thats just one of the things that puts it in another league than the Atom platform.

    Next would be the possibility of light GPGPU applications. YYes, AMD had that in mind too when they called it Accelerated Processing Unit.

    But since you seem to be the authority on what everybody could ever want to do with their netbook, all this is irrelevant.

    Get the hell out of here, fanboy.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Updated with Arrandale ULV results :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Griswold - Monday, November 22, 2010 - link

    So many words, so little sense. You should have spared us this load of horseshit. Reply

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