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Meet the AMD Trinity/Comal Prototype Laptop

So I have to be honest: I’m a sucker for unique laptops. Not so much from the standpoint of actually using such laptops, but just as something cool to show my fellow computer nerds when they visit. The Trinity prototype is quite clearly a design that isn’t going to market without some changes, but unlike the Llano prototype (or the Intel SNB prototype), at least this one tries to stand out from the crowd a little bit. AMD has gone all-in on branding, with the AMD logo featured prominently on the cover, below the LCD on the bezel, and at the top-left of the keyboard. None of that makes the design any better from a functionality standpoint, but it’s still a cool tchotchke:

The bottom of the laptop is full of the usual warning about how the laptop may not meet regulatory requirements (and if you think that sticker is bad, you should see some of the dire warnings in the documentation for another prototype I’ve got hanging about waiting for the NDA to lift!). There’s also a bold “Prototype System” label, and the Blu-ray drive is clearly of a not-for-resale nature, with a fascia that doesn’t line up with the laptop shell. None of this affects the performance of the laptop, but it’s a nice diversion for what is otherwise an unremarkable system. In terms of specifications, just for completeness’ sake here’s the full rundown of the system components:

AMD Trinity Prototype Laptop Specifications
Processor AMD A10-4600M
(Dual-module/quad-core 2.30-3.20GHz, 4MB L2, 32nm, 35W)
Chipset AMD A70M (Hudson M3)
Memory 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1600 Samsung
8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 Hynix
Graphics Radeon HD 7660G
(384 Radeon Cores, up to 686MHz)
Display 14" WLED Matte 16:9 768p (1366x768)
(AU Optronics B140XW02)
Storage 128GB Samsung 830 SSD
240GB Intel 520 SSD
Optical Drive Blu-ray Combo Drive (PLDS DS-6E2SH)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek 8168/8111)
802.11n WiFi (Broadcom BCM4313 2x2:2 MIMO, 2.4GHz)
Bluetooth 2.1 (Broadcom BCM2070)
Audio Stereo Speakers
Headphone and microphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI)
Battery/Power 6-cell, 11.1V, >4.84Ah, ~56Wh
90W Max AC Adapter
Front Side WiFi On/Off Switch
Headphone jack
Microphone jack
Left Side 2 x USB 3.0
HDMI 1.4a
1 x USB 2.0/eSATA Combo
VGA
Exhaust vent
AC Power Connection
Kensington Lock
Right Side Memory Card Reader
Optical Drive
1 x USB 2.0
Gigabit Ethernet
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Dimensions 13.33" x 9.53" x 1.16-1.34" (WxDxH)
(339mm x 242mm x 29.5-34.0mm)
Weight 4.7 lbs (2.14kg)
Extras Webcam
86-Key keyboard
Flash reader (MMC/MS/SD)

Everything is pretty much standard fare these days, though it’s interesting that AMD chose to ship us a laptop with an SSD drive instead of a regular HDD. You’ll note that we list two SSDs as well as two sets of memory; the reason is that we performed additional performance testing with hardware that’s slightly different than AMD’s shipping configuration. We wanted to make our comparisons with other laptops more apples-to-apples, so we used the memory from the Ivy Bridge laptop we recently reviewed to see if doubling the RAM made any difference for our benchmarks—it didn’t. We also tested five different laptops with a 240GB Intel 520 SSD, just to level the playing field for tests like PCMark.

The PCMark scores for the Samsung 830 and Intel 520 are within 1% of each other, and for most systems it’s really going to come down to a question of whether you have an SSD or not rather than what specific SSD you’re using. You may (or may not) be surprised to hear that the bigger impact from the SSD came in the area of battery life. The ASUS N56VM battery life remained essentially unchanged with the Intel 520 instead of the original 750GB 7200RPM Seagate HDD, so if you expect any SSD to improve battery life you might be surprised by that result. The other surprise was just how much of a difference there was between the Samsung 830 and Intel 520 SSDs in the Trinity laptop: the Samsung 830 improved battery life by nearly 10% in two out of three tests (and by 3% in the H.264 playback test). A quick look at the idle power consumption results from our SSD Bench provides the answer, of course: the 128GB Samsung 830 uses just 0.38W at idle compared to 0.82W for the 240GB Intel 520. For a desktop, it’s hardly worth mentioning, but for laptops that nearly half a watt definitely shows up.

We could complain about the usual items like build and LCD quality—neither one is particularly impressive for this test laptop—but they really don’t matter since this isn’t a retail sample. For the intended purpose, the laptop works fine—fix the optical drive bezel and I’m sure there would even be some enthusiasts interested in owning a piece of genuine AMD laptop kit. But since that’s not going to happen, let’s move on from the laptop and run some actual performance tests.

Test Setup

Before we get to the charts, let’s quickly discuss the list of laptops we’ve selected for this review. There’s always some debate and outcry over what we include/omit in the charts, which is one of the reasons we have Mobile Bench—you can perform any head-to-head comparison there if you’d like. With well over 100 laptop results in our Mobile Bench database, sifting through the complete charts can be a bit of a nightmare, so for our articles we try to prune things down. I settled on ten laptops for the majority of our charts, with an attempt to represent most of the interesting data points.

Naturally we have AMD’s Trinity prototype (highlighted in red), and to go along with the newest and latest hardware we’ve also included results from Intel’s quad-core Ivy Bridge notebook (in dark green). It’s important to consider that these two laptops do not target the same market: we expect the ASUS N56VM to sell for around $1200 with the tested configuration, whereas AMD’s Trinity laptops will hopefully be closer to half that price—obviously, without shipping hardware we really don’t know what OEMs will end up charging for Trinity. To fill in the rest of the charts, we have two AMD Llano laptops (orange)—one the original AMD prototype, only this time equipped with an SSD, and the second a standard Toshiba Satellite P755D. We’ve also got two primary Sandy Bridge comparisons (light green): one is the prototype quad-core i7-2820QM, and the second is a retail Dell Vostro V131 with i5-2410M; the only catch is that we retested both systems with the Intel 520 SSD.

Rounding out the rest of the selections, we have three ultrabooks: the Acer TimelineU with NVIDIA GT 640M graphics, a Dell XPS 13 with i7-2637M, and a Toshiba Z830 with i3-2367M. All three of these come with SSDs, and we thought it would be interesting to show where Trinity falls relative to the low and high marks set by Sandy Bridge ultrabooks. The last laptop in the list is Sony’s VAIO SE, which has switchable graphics with AMD’s HD 6630M. Given the i7-2640M CPU, the VAIO SE should give a pretty clear look at the maximum performance you can get from the discrete Radeon HD 6630M GPU, so we’ll be able to see if/when Trinity’s HD 7660G comes out ahead of previous generation mobile GPUs. All four of these laptops are in blue—our default “don’t pay too much attention to me” color.

Mobile Trinity Lineup AMD Trinity General Performance
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  • zepi - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    You've got it backwards.

    Stuff is priced according to the value it has for customers. To get as much money from their product as possible, regardless of manufacturing costs. Or that's what everybody is aiming for. Trinity is going to be cheap only because it's not good enough to get sales if priced higher.

    Best possible outcome for everybody would have been that cheapest Trinity-based laptops would cost about $1500, but they'd be about as fast as Ivy Bridge Quadcore-desktops with Geforce GTX680 and still achieve a battery-life of about 8min per Wh. And performance & price would both have only gone upwards from there on.

    That kind of performance-dominance would force Intel and Nvidia to drop their prices considerably (getting us the cheap laptops regardless of trinity being pricey) and we'd still have to option to go for über Trinity's if we'd have the cash.

    And it would save AMD from bankruptcy, ensuring that we'd have competition in future as well.

    Llano, Brazos and Bulldozer are all horrible products for AMD. Good product is characterized by the fact, that it has considerably more worth to the customer than it costs to manufacture it. If a product is good, it's easy to price it accordingly, and people will still buy it. AMD's CPU's are apparently very bad products, because AMD is making huge losses at the moment. And I don't think it's the GPU-division that's causing those losses.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Products are priced according to where the marketing folks think they'll sell. All you have to do is walk into Best Buy and talk to a sales person to realize that they'll push whatever they can on you, even if it's not faster/better. And I think the bean counters feel they can sell Trinity at $700 or more--and for many people, they're probably right. We'll see $600 and $500 Trinity as well, but that will be the A8 and A6 models, with less RAM and smaller HDDs.

    As far as competition, propping up an inferior product in the hope of having more competition isn't healthy, and if AMD has a superior product they simply charge as much as Intel. NVIDIA is the same. If someone came out with a chip that had the CPU performance of IVB and the GPU performance of a GTX card, all while using the power of Brazos...well, you can bet they'd charge an arm and a leg for it. They wouldn't sell it for $1500, they'd sell it for $2500--and some people would buy it.

    Ultimately, they're all big businesses, and they (try to) do what's best for the business, so I buy whatever product fits my needs best. I wish Trinity were more impressive, particularly on the CPU side of the equation. I think if Trinity's CPU were as fast as Ivy Bridge, the GPU portion would probably end up being 50% faster than HD 4000; unfortunately, there are titles that require more CPU work (Skyrim for instance) and that starts to level the playing field. But wishing for something that isn't here, or playing the "what if" game, just doesn't really accomplish anything.
    Reply
  • Targon - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - link

    And you can get a quad-core A6 laptop for under $500 right now. If you pay attention, you generally get what you pay for. For most users, going with an AMD quad-core laptop does provide a decent product for the price. For some, CPU power is more important, and for others, a more well rounded machine is more important. I expect that A10-4600 laptops will start closer to $600 than $700, unless you are looking at machines with a large screen, discrete graphics, or something else that increases the prices. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    What you're all missing is all the then second tier Optimus laptops that will have much deflated pricing, as well as the load of $599 amd discrete laptops that will sell like wildfire and please those who waited - just like the amd fans are constantly waiting for nVidia to release so they can snag a second tier deflated price amd card.

    Since the "cpu doesn't matter !" as we have been told, there's no excuse to not snag a fine and cheap Optimus that won't have an IB.

    This is the "best time in the world" for all the amd fans to forget all prior generations of laptops and pretend, quite unlike in the video card area, that nothing else exists.

    I love how amd fans do that crap.
    Reply
  • evolucion8 - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Also remember that Penryn was launched on 2007-2008 and until late 2009, several Core 2 Duo laptops were released. I have a Gateway MD7309u and it was launched on October 2009 and still feeling very snappy and has good battery life, I hate its GMA 4500M with my whole heart..... Reply
  • Nfarce - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Yeah well I don't understand the point of buying a low-mid range laptop expecting to be enjoying playing games at basic laptop 1366x768 resolutions. What's the point?

    You can spend around $1,200 on a mid-range i5 turbo boost laptop with a discreet GPU and 1600x900 resolution screen that plays games decently without completely shutting down the eye candy sliders. Save up and get a better laptop - and Intel with a dedicated AMD or Nvidia GPU. If you can afford $600 now, you can afford $1,200 down the road and enjoy things much better.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - link

    I agree but the famdboy loves to torture itself and claim everyone else loves cheap frustrating crap - often characterized as a "mobile employee on the road, in the airplane, or at the hotel spot" needing a "game fix"...(in other words someone flush enough to buy +discrete) as you pointed out.
    The rest of the tremendous and greatly pleased "light gamers" will purportedly be playing at work( no scratch that) or on their couch at home (that sounds like the crew) ... and then one has to ask why aren't they using one of the desktops at home for gaming... a $100 vidcard in that will smoke the crap out of "the light gamer".

    That leaves "enthusiasts" who just want to play with it and see for a few minutes if they can OC it, and "how it does" with games... and after that they will want to throw it at a wall for how badly it sucks - not to mention their online multi-player avatar will get smoked so badly their stats will plummet... so that will last all of two days.

    So we get down to who this thing is really good for - and I suppose that's the young teen to pre teen brat - as a way to get the kid off mommy's or daddy's system so they can have the reigns uninterrupted... so the teeny bopper gets the crud low $ cheap walmart lappy system that should also keep them tamed since being too rough with it means the thing snaps in half a the plastic crumbles.

    Yep - there it is - teeny bopper punkster will just have to live with the jaggied pixelized low end no eye candy crawler - and why not they still love it much more than homework and have no problem eyeballing the screen.
    Reply
  • Latzara - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    While i agree with the 'nothing earthshattering' part I have to wonder what kind of average Internet browsing usage are you commenting on when you say 'People want their laptop to be responsive when doing work, watching movies and browsing' -- Most of the CPUs on the entire board presented here are enough for work - not graphics modelling mind you - excell, DB, mail, presentations, average calculation load, and even smaller programming projects - which constitutes most of the workload an average worker is gonna get, movies stopped being an issue way before, and what kind of browsing are we talking about that will make your platform unresponsive (i don't mean frozen)? 25 tabs at once? Cause i've done that with a much weaker platform and had no issues...

    The main problem i see is that the plaform hasn't moved as much as ppl hoped, but enough to be a new iteration in terms of progress - and with the right pricing it could be the sweet spot for many of the broader average consumers - not just the '1% of the 1% of people looking for great gaming" ...
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Load up a couple Java runtime environments in those browsers. Some flash. I did have an etc in there. I am a multi-tasker, and cannot stand waiting any amount of time. For the majority of real laptop owners, a late Pentium M, Athlon 64/X2, is not enough power for any real work. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - link

    Please define a "real" laptop owner? I own an Alienware and I don't do any of that sort of crap. Mind you, most users I have met express more patience than you do, too. regardless, in none of these metrics do you appear to represent the majority, which is the target market for this chip. Reply

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