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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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  • Stas - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    I agree with xd_1771. A mid-range CPU from 2 years ago is plenty for any CPU requirements an average user might have (Office, browser, IM, pr0n). The one thing that's been limiting laptops for generations is the GPU. AMD has brought serious graphics to laptop. Not only do you benefit through improvements in gaming and 3D software, with almost every resource intensive application becoming GPU-accelerated, you get better performance all-around. Reply
  • zephxiii - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    I am using this old Thinkpad T60 with C2D 1.66ghz built in 4/2007 and it is plenty fast enough for regular use lol. The only thing that really sucks about it is the spinning HD in it.

    I use a T61p at home with C2D 2.2ghz and Quadro something HD with SSD and that thing does everything I need it to (Photoshop, lightroom, Internet, flash video etc.).

    Both running Windows 7.
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Nope, I promise that C2D 1.66Ghz lags for Flash enhanced./Java Runtime environments. Especially multitasking.

    Please, quit defining regular use with acceptance of slow. Drop even Core 2 Quad 9550 in that home PC, and I promise you would not go back.
    Reply
  • Belard - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    I have a ThinkPad R61 with PDC (Bottom end Core2 with missing cache) at 1.6Ghz. I bought for $550 off the shelf new when VISTA was about 8 months old. It came with XP-Pro, 1GB RAM and more importantly, a matte screen. I use it almost every day and since then I've added 1GB and Windows7 and it runs better than it ever did when it was new.

    Its slow compared to more C2Q Q6600, but the R61 does what I need for a mobile system. I sure don't like using Photoshop on it. But its mostly for browsing, Office apps and xfer of data/work.

    It still faster than ANY Pentium4 class CPU.

    I have an urge to go IvyBridge this year... but my Q6600 doesn't really keep me waiting much (other than video encoding) with 4GB / Win7. Nope, going on vacation this summer out-weighs a new computer. :)
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Stop telling everyone what CPU is GOOD enough. There truly is software out there that my Core 2 Duo at work lags behind. My Core i7 system at home is remarkable smoother and more responsive. Neither with an SSD. Reply
  • tfranzese - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    For a user who can't stand to wait, you've got your priorities screwed up if you're not using an SSD on those system. Reply
  • evolucion8 - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    I wonder which kind of sofware tuns too slow on a C2D. I have a i7 2600K at 4.5GHz, much faster on WinRaR, media encoding, gaming etc. But running everyday tasks like web browsing, office, media playback etc, doesn't feel much different from my Core 2 T9300 and my i7 machine. My laptop does have very good encoding power which is very tolerable, but definitively my i7 destroys it, but considering that my C2D has a 35W TDP I don't loosing some performance for the sake of lower heat dissipation and battery consumption. Reply
  • vegemeister - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    We were just getting to the point where a CPU could be good for 6-8 years, but then the web developers started making applications and desktop environments. Not to mention the horrors of flash and Java. What Intel giveth, web 2.0 taketh away. Reply
  • medi01 - Thursday, May 17, 2012 - link

    Bullshit.

    Most of the web 2.0 is nowadays "also gotta run on tablets" and no way inhell it's "java based", or "flash based" or CPU intensive.
    Reply
  • seapeople - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    You people are a little crazy coming up with exotic applications that stress CPUs. It's much simpler than that.

    I'm running a Q2720m with Intel SSD and fiber optic internet, and I notice immediately if I turn turboboost off while browsing standard webpages with Chrome + Adblock. My browsing is noticeably CPU limited, especially in cases where I'm clicking through dozens of large webpages to find a specific page I'm looking at (such as browsing backwards through poorly designed blogs).

    I would detest running something with the single-threaded speed of AMD's latest offerings. Of course, that's why I'm not in that target market.
    Reply

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