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AMD’s Llano Mobile Test Platform

Similar to our Sandy Bridge Notebook, AMD shipped us a test notebook that likely will not actually hit the market. It’s also early hardware, as we haven’t received anything from the usual suspects, but performance and battery life should be representative of what we’ll see in shipping hardware. There’s still room for BIOS, firmware, and driver optimizations, so if anything we’d expect some scores to even improve from what we’re reporting, but for now we can get a starting point for what to expect from shipping Llano laptops and notebooks. Our test notebook is manufactured by Compal, and we understand there was a very limited production run, so what we’ve got is an existing shell with a new motherboard, slapped together for preview articles. Here are the specifications of our test system.

AMD Llano Notebook Specifications
Processor AMD A8-3500M
(4x1.5GHz, 2.4GHz Turbo, 32nm, 4x1MB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD A70M
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6620G 1GB DDR3
(400 Radeon Cores, 444MHz)

AMD Radeon HD 6630M 1GB DDR3
(480 Radeon Cores, 485MHz/1.6GHz Core/RAM clocks)

Dual Radeon HD 6690G2 (Asymmetrical CrossFire)
Display 14.0-inch LED Matte 16:9 1366x768
Hard Drive(s) Hitachi Travelstar 7K500 250GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gbps Hard Disk
Optical Drive Blu-ray/DVDRW Combo Drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
802.11b/g/n (Broadcom)
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 58Wh battery
Front Side Flash reader
Left Side 1 x USB 3.0
HDMI 1.4a
Ethernet
VGA
Exhaust vent
AC adapter port
Right Side Headphone/microphone jacks
2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Kensington lock
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 13.5" x 9.5" x 1.3-1.5" (WxDxH)
Weight 4.78 lbs
Extras Webcam
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB 3.0

AMD equipped this laptop with their highest performance 35W part, the A8-3500M. That gives us four cores running at a nominal 1.5GHz, all 400 Radeon Cores clocked at 444MHz, and the potential for Turbo Core to take the CPU has high as 2.4GHz. Here’s where we run into our first snag, unfortunately: apparently there’s no software currently available that will report the actual real-time core speeds for the CPU or GPU. Turbo Core appears to be working in some cases, but we don’t know how fast the CPU cores are running. We’ll see the results in the benchmarks in a moment, but for now it appears that the Llano Turbo Core isn’t quite as aggressive as Sandy Bridge’s Turbo Boost.

One interesting aspect of the test notebook is that it comes equipped with both the integrated Fusion GPU (fGPU) along with an HD 6630M discrete GPU (dGPU). The 6630M is a Turks core with 480 Radeon cores clocked at 485MHz (well, this GPU is clocked at 485; the specs for 6630M are actually 500MHz), with 1GB of DDR3-800 memory. We'll see what happens when we enable Dual Radeon later.

The rest of the notebook specs are pretty much what you’d expect. The hard drive is a 250GB 7200RPM model from Hitachi, so performance won’t be quite as good as the latest 500GB+ models and it won’t come anywhere near SSD levels. Networking is present and accounted for, with both Gigabit Ethernet and 2.4GHz 802.11n WiFi. The optical drive is Blu-ray capable (despite the DVDRW face plate in the pictures), and there’s even a USB 3.0 port.

We could discuss the build quality, keyboard, and screen quality, but there’s no real point in doing so on a laptop that won’t see full production. The keyboard is the “floating island” style commonly seen in Acer builds, which Compal apparently manufactures, and the LCD is a matte panel for a change (but still low contrast). The overall build quality isn’t bad, but we expect to see better retail builds from Acer, ASUS, HP, Lenovo, and others so we won’t spend any more time discussing the specifics of this laptop other than to note that it has a reasonable 58Wh battery and a 14” LCD. Expected pricing is $500 for laptops with A4 APUs, $600 for A6 APUs, and $700+ for the A8 series. Adding a discrete GPU like the 6630M (and thus enabling Asymmetrical CrossFire) should tack on another ~$100.

AMD is quoting “over eight hours” of battery life, but that’s highly dependent on what you’re doing as well as battery capacity. Since that’s going to be one of the major improvements with Llano, we’re going to start there.

Introducing Mobile Llano Battery Life: All Day Computing
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  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    I'm honestly sick of the fact I can't play TF2 on high settings on my laptop AND I cannot find an affordable computer to do so while I'm not paying attention during class. Several people I know feel the same way. Reply
  • krumme - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    The GPU performance hits dues to the shares bus is very low. Getting NV 540 /ati 5650 performance is far better than most expected.
    Battery life is simply amazing. Far better than expected.

    The OEM is standing at a very long line for this.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    That battery life is incredibly impressive. That AMD will finally have a competitive mobile offering is huge news; their engineers definitely deserve a pat on the back. Let's just hope that OEMs don't mess things up by cutting costs and shipping Llano laptops with tiny batteries.

    Unfortunately AMD will almost certainly struggle to get the message across that their CPU performance deficit is pretty much irrelevant for the vast majority of mobile usage models. It'll be especially difficult to get across to the huge number of consumers that think a 2GB 6570 is better than a 768MB GTX 460, but I wish AMD's marketing department the best of luck.
    Reply
  • Dribble - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    They'll struggle because cpu performance deficit does matter, cpu performance matters more then gpu performance for most of us. While llano might be *enough* today everyone buys a notebook and expects it too last several years.

    If llano currently only has the performance of a notebook several years old (core 2 intel) then you can bet in 3 years it'll be dog slow.

    Really its only a winner for a pretty small margin of people. If you don't really care about gaming you go intel because cpu's are faster, if you really care about gaming you go intel + discrete. That leaves those who really care about gaming but are on an extremely tight budget.
    Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I think that you underestimate the effect of price. If you really care about gaming you go desktop, anyway. If you want a reasonable size laptop with good battery life and capable of some gaming, Llano will fit the bill, and if it sells considerably lower than the competition, then I'm sure a lot of people will buy it. It won't be anyones main gaming rig, but it will surely serve many as a secondary one.

    I agree that Llano is disappointing at the CPU level, but it really should be enough for most people. How well it sells will depend on pricing. There are big E-350 laptops being sold, which boggles the mind, and there wouldn't be if all people really cared or had any clue about performance.
    Reply
  • ppeterka - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I strongly disagree with you. My first notebook was exceptionally crappy in terms of raw CPU power. Desktop P4 Celeron 2.6GHz was used to power it. Yet I could use it for more than 4 years, after which I changed the CPU to a 2.8GHz P4, only to discover that the "user experience" was left unchanged except of the rare cases when I used the computer to work on it. Compile times were not left unchanged...

    But even with the Celeron in, the casual usage was just fine. Why? Because of the quite nice VIA IGP in it. I could actually play GTA San Andreas on the poor thing - even though there were times it was not very much fun, but it did work. Swapping the CPU didn't make it much better, only considering work duties.

    Today "everything" is about multimedia. By "everything" I mean 80% of what the people are doing. Youtube, Facebook, who-knows-what, all. None of my friends ever regretted heeding to my advice to choose a notebook with a reasonable graphics solution even when there would be an altenative type with a stronger CPU. (of course not to the extremities). Granted, they were not primarily interested in scientific calculations, or heavy duty software development.
    Reply
  • Dribble - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Multimedia doesn't need llano's gpu - SB graphics accelerates video just fine. Hence why you are recommending something that has better 3D graphics performance they'll never use, over something with a faster cpu which they will use all the time? Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    You claim that CPU performance matters. That's true, but can you answer the following -

    1) Consider two laptops side by side. One has a ~2.5GHz C2D, one has a quad-core Sandy Bridge. Name a single task more than 5% of mobile users run that would allow you to definitively tell which laptop is running the C2D and which has the SB. (Task Manager doesn't count, I'm talking actually using an application.)

    2) Name a single task or application that theoretically might let you do the above once it's widespread in the next 3-5 years.

    3) What percentage of laptops are sold for <$1000 with roughly Llano or below levels of graphics?

    4) What percentage of laptop buyers care about battery life?

    My answers are -
    1) No clue
    2) No clue
    3) Most of them
    4) Most of them

    That's why I say that Llano's battery life is huge and its CPU performance really doesn't matter. Even Intel agrees, which is one reason why you're seeing them move towards lower-power CPUs. Ivy Bridge will have "configurable" TDP, and Haswell will move from 35-35W to 10-20W:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4378/ivy-bridge-a-ti...
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    3) The fact is you can get a laptop with better GPU performance and faster CPU performance for $700-750 on the Intel side:

    i5 480 + HD5730 for $700:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    i5 480 + GT 540M (which beat 6620 in almost every gaming benchmark in this review) for $700:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    i5 480 + HD6550M for $700:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    i5 2410 + GT 540M for $750:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    Every single one of these provides faster CPU & GPU performance (http://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Graphics-Cards...

    So Llano A-8 would need to be less than $700.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Can you find faster GPUs for <$1000? Sure, but that wasn't the question. Go to Dell or HP's website and look at the number of laptops priced under $1000, then look at the percentage of those that come with significantly better than Llano-level graphics.

    There's much more to determining the value of a laptop than raw CPU and GPU performance; you could easily pay more than $700 for a Llano laptop and still be getting a very good deal.

    I'm not saying whether or not Llano should target this or that price point, though - I'm just trying to give a little perspective.
    Reply

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