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Budget DTR: The Toshiba Satellite L775D-S7206

Since Llano's introduction, the value of AMD's new APU has been the subject of some debate, even between editors here at AnandTech. With notebooks sporting the new A-series processors trickling out from vendors (and Toshiba waving the banner) it's been fairly difficult getting a good feel for what the chip brings to the table for the end user, but thankfully that's changing. Today we have on hand the Toshiba Satellite L775D-S7206, a budget 17" model that also gives us our first look at the AMD A6-3400M.

We had a chance to meet with Toshiba reps and preview their refreshed mobile line a couple of months back, and now I'm happy to say we have one of the new notebooks on hand for testing: the catchily named Satellite L775D-S7206. More than that, it's also an opportunity to further explore AMD's Llano APU and what it means for consumers at every point on the continuum as well as determine whether or not AMD's new offering can be price competitive with notebooks featuring Sandy Bridge processors and low end discrete NVIDIA graphics. Our review unit is equipped as follows:

Toshiba Satellite L775D-S7206 Specifications
Processor AMD A6-3400M
(4x1.4GHz, 32nm, 4MB L2, Turbo to 2.3GHz, 35W)
Chipset AMD A60M
Memory 1x2GB Samsung DDR3-1333 and 1x4GB Samsung D(Max 2x8GB)
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6520G
(320 Stream Processors, 400MHz core clock)
Display 17.3" LED Glossy 16:9 1600x900
(Samsung 173KT01-T01 Panel)
Hard Drive(s) Hitachi Travelstar 5K750 640GB 5400-RPM HDD
Optical Drive HL-DT-ST BD-ROM/DVD+-RW Combo Drive
Networking Realtek PCIe FE 10/100 Ethernet
Atheros AR9002WB-1NG 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth v3.0
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Mic and headphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 48Wh battery
Front Side Speakers
Left Side AC adaptor
Exhaust vent
DisplayPort
VGA
Ethernet
USB 2.0 (Chargeable)
HDMI
MMC/SD/MS Reader
Right Side Headphone and mic jacks
2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Kensington lock
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 16.3" x 10.6" x 1.1"-1.49" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.2 lbs
Extras Webcam
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB charging
Blu-ray
Warranty 1-year limited warranty
Pricing MSRP $699

Let's start at the top: the AMD A6-3400M APU is the second-fastest 35W mobile Llano chip available, behind the A8-3500M we've already reviewed with our introduction to Llano. AMD's Fusion initiative started grassroots with Zacate and the E-350 and its kin, sporting a single chip dubbed an APU to handle the CPU and graphics and then a single chip for the chipset, which AMD dubs an FCH or "Fusion Controller Hub." This is a major consolidation compared to what we're used to seeing from AMD in the mobile market: we've gone from a processor, northbridge, and southbridge down to just a single 35W-45W part and a low-wattage "northbridge" serving roughly the same functions as Intel's mobile 6 series chips.

Unfortunately, sacrifices were made. The A6-3400M sports four slightly-modified Stars cores with L2 cache per core bumped from 512KB to 1MB and no L3 cache, effectively putting the CPU half on par with an Athlon II. These cores are clocked at a low 1.4GHz, and while AMD has instituted a turbo feature to speed them up to as high as 2.3GHz depending on the workload applied to the chip, none of our monitoring software is yet able to actually track the processor speeds as they turbo up. We don't need to tell you the CPU half of Llano is nowhere near as powerful as Intel's Sandy Bridge, and if you've been following coverage of Llano this is going to be old news to you.

Yet I suspect AMD knew they were going to take it on the chin where the CPU half of Llano was concerned, and they dish it out royally in the GPU side. Llano sports a modified Redwood core (Radeon HD 5670) with 400 stream processors in the VLIW5 configuration, 20 texture units, and 8 ROPs. In the A8 chip, this entire GPU core is present, while the A6 is slightly crippled, sacrificing 80 stream processors and 4 texture units, putting its specs roughly on par with the Radeon HD 4650/4670 (but with DX11). GPU clocks also take a hit from the spec of 444MHz, but it's a mild one, dropping down to 400MHz.

Essentially AMD hedged their bets, trading off processor power for GPU power, and this is one of the places where our opinions of Llano start to diverge. While it's true Llano's CPU half is hopelessly outclassed in every respect by Intel's processors, and I do honestly think two faster AMD cores would've been a better call than four slow cores, the vastly more capable GPU opens new avenues for mobile users, and the processor half is going to be fast enough for general use and light gaming. Essentially what Llano does is enable laptops that can game south of $600. Llano may not make much sense on the desktop (where I still feel the CPU and motherboard are priced out of competition), but in laptops it basically serves an entirely different market from Intel. It's not direct competition, but it's a foothold.

Moving on from Llano, it's a shame Toshiba has essentially crippled the L775D from every other angle but RAM, which is a generous 6GB. There are two available mobile chipsets for the APU: the A60M and A70M, with the key differentiator being that the A70M supports USB 3.0 while the A60M does not. The L775D uses the A60M and thus is missing USB 3.0, and worse, Toshiba has even forgone gigabit ethernet in favor of ancient school 10/100 ethernet. The inclusion of Blu-ray is some consolation but not really enough, though if you need a Blu-ray-capable notebook for under $700 these sacrifices might make some sense to you. Finally, I'm happy to report Toshiba eschewed one of their own dog slow hard drives for a slightly better (though still 5400RPM) Hitachi drive.

Here's where things get difficult. All of the above would make for a fairly decent entry level laptop capable of moderate gaming, but the $699 MSRP would push into competition with better equipped offerings. Luckily, you can already find the similar L775D-S7226 for $599, which is very reasonable for a Blu-ray equipped notebook. As long as that sort of pricing holds, the L775D has plenty to offer.

Baby Steps into the Present
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  • drumhellar - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    Is it feasible to get measurements of display latency on laptop panels? Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Saturday, August 13, 2011 - link

    I do like Llano for laptops, but I am frustrated by the people who keep excusing the lousy CPU performance by saying that it is "good enough" for office tasks, web surfing, and e-mail. They then criticize Intel for having lousy graphics.

    However, in the same way that AMD cpu performance is "good enough" for these tasks, I would also argue that the HD3000 is also "good enough" for 90 percent of the casual users.

    Only if you intend to do some light gaming (very limited at that) would the better graphics performance of Llano be of much benefit, in my opinion.
    Reply
  • AnandThenMan - Saturday, August 13, 2011 - link

    The problem with your argument is the CPU power in Llano IS more than adequate for most tasks, having a faster CPU yields little benefit to the day to day experience. Intel graphics on the other hand are simply too slow, and the drivers quite honestly are garbage. Llano is a more balanced processor, it's that simple.

    I would also say that Anandtech.com picked probably one of the worst examples to review, the Toshiba unit is quite poor. Either way, the satisfaction rates of the Llano units so far has been extremely positive, people are very happy with them. Goes to show that synthetic benches are quite useless in predicting the overall experience.
    Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Saturday, August 13, 2011 - link

    I agree with you that CPU power in Llano is probably adequate for most tasks.
    And Llano is indeed a more "balanced" processer. In fact as Anand said, it may be too directed to the GPU. My point was that for most users, HD3000 is also adequate qraphically, while delivering superior CPU performance.

    You say the HD3000 is "simply too slow". Too slow for what, except gaming, in which I already gave the edge to Llano? If one wanted the superior CPU performance of Sandy Bridge, what tasks would they not be able to do, other than gaming, because of the weaker graphics? I am not trying to be sarcastic or agrumentative, because I seriously dont know of anything the average user would not be able to do because of the HD3000.
    Reply
  • DudleyUC - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    frozentundra, you're right. HD3000 is good enough for everything except games. I wonder, what with hardware acceleration available, how many flash and HTML5 games there are/will be that will be too demanding for HD3000. Regardless, if a user doesn't do any gaming, it's a better idea to pick the best CPU at a given price point (taking into consideration build, display quality, etc.). Reply
  • joe_dude - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    Couldn't wait for a review, so I got the HP G4 (same AMD A6-3400m).

    Using K10Stat, it was (relatively) easy to OC *and* undervolt. Speed went from 1.4 GHz -> 1.8 GHz, turbo from 2.3 GHz -> 2.8 GHz, and uses 10% to 15% _less_ power now than at stock (!!!).

    So yes, you can have your cake and eat it too. :)

    Note: It could easily OC above 2 GHz (non-turbo), but the power consumption and heat were too high (Prime95 + Furmark).
    Reply
  • Hrel - Saturday, August 13, 2011 - link

    blu Ray, seriously? Take 100 bucks off the price and DON'T include blu ray. It ads literally NO value to the laptop. I'd go so far as to say it makes it LESS valuable because now I have to go through the trouble of taking it out, putting in a dvd drive and selling it on ebay. Once you factor in time and effort I'm losing money. IF, that is a big IF, I want 1080p video running on my laptop, I will plug in my external hard drive. Give me USB 3.0, at least 2 ports and drop the price 600 bucks and you've got something. Wanna hit that 700 dollar price mark? 1080p screen please. Reply
  • oraclelaw - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    I am amazed at the endless stream of laptop reviews of units sporting the new LLano chips that bemoan the low speeds the apu's are set at, without even mentioning that buyers are, at the moment anyway, not bound by these speeds...huh? Yes its true. These present llano apu's are COMPLETELY UNLOCKED!!

    And this despite EVERY desktop llano review noting the huge performance gains to be had with the slightest bit of overclocking. Now before you all give me the knee jerk response..i.e. "OMG you CAN'T overclock a LAPTOP!!!!" let me put your lock step minds at ease...for while that may very well be true with this herd of reviewers, it is NOT the case with everyone else...WHY? Because not only do the LLano chips overclock like banshee's, they also and at the same time massively UNDERVOLT!!! giving the least technical buyer out there, the opportunity to hugely increase performance while at the same time, reducing voltage, and thus energy use, and thus HEAT. Its all free, and its all built in. Anyone wanting to know what they can really expect out of a LLano laptop should waste no time heading over to the notebookreview HP Pavilion forum where page after page of information on this subject lays it all out.

    Now for the 'hook'....how about an A-8 3530mx equipped lappie with a discrete amd 6570m running in what amd refers to as 'dual graphics' mode...laying down a 3dmark11 of p2100 plus.....with a Graphics score of just under 2200!!!...That's i series quad and 560m territory folks....but try and find any reference from the 'reviewers' to such possibilities. Now that $699.00 buy in price is looking a little better, eh?...Let me give you a sense of scale here.

    In HP's new Pavilion dv6 line we have nearly identical intel and amd based units to compare. The 'i' based unit with the huge advantage of the intel SandyBridge quad, AND a 'to within an inch of its life' overclocked 6770m (as opposed to the 'z' version's lesser 6750m) along with the requisite 'garage' sized utility fan to keep it from melting, can 'almost' get within 100 points of the 3dmark11 overall score, and almost 300 points of the Graphics score- both put up by the amd based 'z' unit referred to above, a unit (btw) that can game at hours at those clocks sitting on a std two fan laptop cooler, and not get past 78C.

    "But WAIT" u may say. "We're talking the A-6 series here, NOT the A-8's "...well glad you brought that up.
    Turns out its ALSO possible to run an A-6 to the same clocks or better than the A-8's to the point that a 3dmark11 in the 2000's can be had...

    Bottom line, Amd has built a rather amazing little package here, and set it up to run in an extremely conservative manner. I have no idea why. If you have any interest in multi-threaded apps, and/or not entirely casual dx10 or 11 gaming, these LLano based laptops represent the most serious 'bang for buck' to come down the pike in a very long while.
    Something you will apparently never hear from a laptop 'reviewer'.
    o
    Reply
  • oraclelaw - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    I neglected to mention that battery life can indeed run over 5 'real hours' with a std. 6 cell. AND,
    that tho this reviewer's unit is priced at 699, you can find 'other' mfg's fully equipped boxes in the 500's. If you look at the hp's you can (with the obligatory coupon) set yourself up with a full boat 1080p screened model with Blu-ray, a discrete 6750, and a hi-performance 9cell (u do NOT want to hear how long you get on battery:) and the whole nine yards for something around $800.00 Pretty amazing really.
    o
    Reply
  • oraclelaw - Sunday, August 14, 2011 - link

    Comparable to the subject of the article, but better, i.e. this model DOES have dual graphics..
    Best Buy has the Asus Llano with the A-6 in it for 449.00. At that price you're talking at least a hundred less than a tablet, 50 more than a good netbook...
    Seems like a no-brainer to me :)

    o
    Reply

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