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Battery Life: All Day Computing

AMD makes a point of their mobile offerings (A/C/E-series APUs) all offering “all day computing”, with a note that “all day” is defined as eight hours or more. While that’s easy to do with a gigantic battery, doing so with the typical 48/56Wh batteries in mainstream laptops is a lot more difficult. One of their test notebooks apparently manages around 10.5 hours (best-case) with a 62Wh battery, compared to 6.5 hours for a similar Core i5-2410M laptop. Without specifics on all the settings, we’ll just say that our results for “similar” laptops don’t show nearly the disparity AMD achieved, but the important point is that AMD is finally competitive in battery life.

We ran our usual series of battery life tests, with the LCDs set for ~100 nits (70% brightness for the Llano laptop). We shut off WiFi for the idle test and mute audio; the Internet test is run over WiFi and repeatedly loads four tabs of content every minute, again with audio muted; finally, the H.264 playback result is done with a set of earbuds connected and WiFi disabled. Here’s how the Llano laptop stacks up to some recently reviewed laptops—you can compare Llano with other laptops in Mobile Bench.

Battery Life - Idle

Battery Life - Internet

Battery Life - H.264 Playback

Starting with pure battery life, only three laptops consistently offer longer battery life than the Llano system: the ASUS U41JF, MSI’s X370, and the quad-core Sandy Bridge notebook. Also, the ASUS K53E boasts better battery life in the H.264 playback test, which for whatever reason is a test where SNB has proved particularly potent. Intel’s DXVA decode may be efficient, but it's also possible it's doing less work; we're running the test again with all of AMD's video enhancement features turned off. [Update: I retested with all the AMD video enhancement features disabled, and battery life didn't change, so Intel is simply more efficient at H.264 decoding with SNB.]

Back to the discussion of battery life: all three of the laptops that beat Llano have the advantage of slightly to moderately higher battery capacities, so the comparison isn’t entirely fair. Let’s level the playing field by looking at relative battery life.

Relative Battery Life - Idle

Relative Battery Life - Internet

Relative Battery Life - H.264

Rather amazing is that Llano actually rises to the top of the charts in the Idle test, and it’s only slightly behind the competition in the other two tests. Considering the X370 is equipped with an E-350 APU, the fact that Llano is even close is surprising. While we should note that the X370 wasn’t the most efficient of the E-350 laptops we’ve tested, we also need to point out that the 13.3” LCD is a lot closer to the 14” panel in the Llano notebook than the 11.6” panels used in the Sony YB and HP dm1z. The dual-core SNB notebook still leads in the H.264 test, and considering it has a 15.6” panel we’d say that relative battery life is very similar between the two.

We also want to talk about AMD’s claims of “all day battery life”. If we accept their definition of 8+ hours, the test laptop doesn’t actually hit that mark in our idle test. We did run the same test again at 40% LCD brightness (around 60 nits) and managed eight hours exactly, but that’s in an absolutely best-case test. For Internet surfing, which represents a more useful metric, the best way to get 8+ hours is demonstrated by ASUS’ U41JF: stuff in a higher capacity battery!

Rounding out the battery life discussion, we also tested battery life while looping 3DMark06 at native resolution (1366x768). This represents a reasonable 3D gaming scenario, and Llano still managed a reasonable 161 minutes. Considering graphics performance is a healthy step up from what Intel’s HD 3000 offers and that AMD manages double the battery life under gaming situations compared to the K53E, mobile gaming is clearly a win.

Overall, for the first time in a long time, AMD is able to offer battery life that competes with and even exceeds what Intel offers with their current mainstream offerings. There are of course a bunch of lower power Intel CPUs we could discuss, but looking at the 35W TDP parts the combination of 32nm and power gating has brought AMD back into the discussion. Even more interesting is that you should be able to get something like our test laptop for $600, possibly less, compared to dual-core SNB i5 laptops that start at $700. But then, perhaps Core i5 isn’t the best comparison for quad-core Llano, despite what AMD might like to say? Let’s move on to general performance and gaming discussions before we decide which mobile part is the “best”.

AMD’s Llano Mobile Test Platform Application Performance, Round One: PCMark 7
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  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, June 20, 2011 - link

    Can you try setting the affinity manually so that it has to use only one core? I notice that even though I'm running only one thread, that thread will jump around to all my available cores, making them all look like they are running at 25%. Maybe by the time AMD's turbo kicks in, the thread is already moved to another core. Reply
  • GullLars - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Looking forward to the re-test with an SSD.
    IMHO all machines over $600 meant for general purpose use in 2011 should include at least a 32GB SSD of Indilinx Barefoot performance or better.
    My laptop from 2007 with 2,2GHz C2D and a 32GB Vertex (retrofitted in 2009) still wipes the floor with new $800+ laptops with HDD-only for general use.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Having played with a bunch of laptops using 64GB SSDs, they all feel snappier, though of course it doesn't help with gaming frame rates or CPU computations. Still, I have to say that 64GB isn't big enough for me. If you can get a 32GB mSATA SSD and some sort of SSD caching, and then have a main 500GB HDD, that would be the sweet spot. If you're going SSD-only, I need at least 120GB, and for anything that can run games I'd want 240GB. (By the time I install most of the games I'm currently interested in playing on a regular basis, I easily fill up a 120GB drive.)

    Anyway, I'm swapping in the SSD now and will start testing during the week, with the follow-up article hopefully ready next week. I've got DC SNB, Arrandale, DC Phenom II, E-350, and now Llano for the article. Anything else you want to request before I call it quits? I've still got the XPS L502x and an AMD K625, but I figure the five laptops are a reasonable representation of what's currently out there. (Note that I have currently focused only on IGP equipped laptops.)
    Reply
  • Boissez - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Results with/without DDR3 RAM would be interesting as it seems RAM speed is a bottleneck. Reply
  • Boissez - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    dang... That should have been with/without DDR3 1600 Mhz RAM Reply
  • Brian23 - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Application compile benchmarks. ;-) Reply
  • Cloudie - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    The battery life has exceeded my expectations although battery life is a low priority for me when buying a laptop. As long as it gets 4 hours or so at idle is fine by me.

    Both the GPU and CPU performance has disappointed me somewhat but on the plus side I was not aware until now that the APU being tested was a 35W version, I simply assumed it was the fastest 45W one. Hopefully the CPU perfomance will be just that little bit better on the 45W APUs. And OEMs better get out some decent compact systems with this in... I'd say 13-14" chassis will do me just fine.
    Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    If they can get this priced out in a $600 laptop with all the bells and whistles... It will sell. Looking locally (and online) decent gaming laptops start out at about $800. Looking at the numbers it's more then acceptable I think. Profit has to be in there though for AMD.. If their not turning an acceptable profit on each chip then... it will be a wash. Reply
  • duploxxx - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    Looking at the recent preview of anandtech on the desktop Liano part and the increased performance from DDR1333 to DDR 1866 i would like to see what it would bring on a Mobile platform. Afterall LIano mobile does support ddr 1600

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4448/amd-llano-deskt...
    Reply
  • Germanicus - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - link

    1600 MHz DDR3 - lets make this accurate, since Llano can utilize it.

    Thank you.
    Reply

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