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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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  • duploxxx - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    TDP doesn't mean real world power consumption, I think you should look at a few other reviews first who did a better compare.... Zacate even owns atom 525 big time with ION and even better then single core atom.... what TDP again? :)

    http://hothardware.com/Reviews/AMD-Zacate-E350-Pro...
    Reply
  • NST - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    No, it isn't.E-350 has the same number of cores as I7-680UM(top of the line Intel CULV Processor that is supposedly available but nowhere to be found), higher frequency, better IGP and it comes at a far cheaper price.

    Also, Sandy Bridge, at its launch, won't bring new CULV chips, because the current line has been out for less than 6 months.So, no more competition for this segment.
    Reply
  • 8steve8 - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    NST im not sure what your point is, yes the E350 has the same number of cores and the same TDP as all core i3/i5/i7 ULV parts, I'm not sure about price but they can be found in a variety of laptops, from the lenovo u160,u260,u460s, .... well almost every mfgr has a shipping laptop with a core iX ulv part (sans apple).

    laptops with these parts have been purchasable since june, and the e350 is only benchmarkable via an engineering platform... so its not exactly that close to market... even if it was.. seems like it can't compete vs core ix ulv. on anything other than price.

    maybe if its super-cheap, it'll sell in a few netbooks vs atom.
    Reply
  • NST - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    1. E-350 has much better power consumption.
    2. E-350 has better GPU performance.
    3. Intel CULVs are based on a better architecture however, E-350 has a higher frequency, which is crucial for 720p gaming.

    As a gamer, what I see here is the potential for ultraportable notebooks with gaming performance close to this of Alienware M11x and never before seen battery life at the cost of an Atom-based netbook.

    I do not question Intel's current supremacy in every segment but I think that next year Intel will face some strong competition from AMD.And that's good for us customers.
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    And you forgot the most important point - Brazos is playing in a completely different price bracket.
    The Atom price bracket.
    Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Brazos is aiming at the $300-500 market. Guess what, there are some Celeron systems that fall in that price bracket as well. Reply
  • 8steve8 - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    1. does it have much better power consumption? the tdp's are the same, ive yet to see ulv arrandale vs e350, total system power consumption.

    2. yes, it has better gpu performance

    3. the e350 has higher non-turbo frequencies than ulv arrandales, but why do you think that's crucial for 720p gaming... by that logic the 3.6Ghz pentium 4 is better suited for gaming than a 3Ghz sandy bridge cpu... which is false.
    Reply
  • NST - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    1.All you got to do is check the review of a laptop featuring an Arrandale ULV chip and then compare the power consumption.There plenty out there.Plus AMD stated that E-350's idle power consumption would be even lower in the final product.

    3. 720p gaming--->More CPU dependant
    1080p, 1600p etc--->More GPU dependant
    Generally about gaming, in higher resolutions, GPU becomes more and more important than the CPU.What I meant was that in a game that utilizes 2 cores E-350 will have an edge due to the higher frequency.And yes, if you find a game that utilizes only one CPU core (probably an old one) the Pentium will probably manage to hold his own against Sandy Bridge.
    Reply
  • Khato - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    1. How about the ~10W consumption of the Alienware M11x R2 while running the Anandtech Internet battery life test? That's a i7-640UM that'll ramp up to 2.27GHz when it's needed.

    With respect to other power consumption figures... It's mildly annoying how other sites are typically comparing desktop/'nettop' systems to the 'brazos' demo platform. After all, take a look at the power consumption of any actual notebook/netbook implementation of the same processors and suddenly the power consumption numbers of the 'brazos' demo platform is simply in line/above the competition rather than far below it...

    If interested in other power numbers, the Anandtech "Intel Core 2 CULV Roundup" published earlier this year has some good figures for both atom and CULV. For example, the Asus 1005PE with the single-core atom N450 at 1.66GHz consuming a massive 9.5 watts under 100% CPU load. So theoretically an N550 with its 3 watt higher TDP would get up to all of 12.5 watts... Of course more interesting is the fact that the 1.3GHz CULV notebooks in that review are at all of 19 watts under 100% CPU load - so comparable power consumption, despite being faster and on a 45nm process tech instead of 40nm (though the Intel 45nm is roughly equal to TSMC 40nm, if not better.)
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Do you see those ULV chips selling for Atom prices as Zacate and Ontario are ?

    You are comparing an enduro to a moped while complaining the latter is slower.

    Hell it is. IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE.

    The fact that Zacate is actually considered an alternative to ULV series at 1/3 the cost is a HUGE success on itself.
    Reply

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