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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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  • 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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