MSI Megabook S271: a Look at AMD's Turion X2

by Jarred Walton on 10/16/2006 12:05 AM EST
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  • Cehtna - Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - link

    You take one Acer Ferrari 5000 and a TravelMate 8210, and you benchmark them!
    These are both made by Acer and the battery and chassis are exactly the same and other features should also be the same..

    They both come in variants with:
    ATIX1600 - 256MB/512MB HyperMemory GRAPHICS
    15,4" TFT WSXGA+ (1680x1050) MONITR
    1024MB DDR2 MEMORY
    120GB SATA HDD
    Lithium 9 cells BATTERY

    This way its;
    LX.TEH06.017 TravelMate 8215WLMi with
    Intel Centrino 2 Duo T7200 CPU
    Mobile Intel® 945PM Express CHIPSET

    versus;
    LX.FR50J.016 Ferrari 5002WLMi with
    Turion64 2X TL50 CPU
    ATI Xpress 1150 CHIPSET
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - link

    Thanks... now just get Acer to send me both for review! Oh, wait... that's not as easy to accomplish, is it? I would love to review more laptops, with more variation among configurations. However, the simple fact of the matter is that we have to review what we are sent in most cases.

    I certainly don't make enough money to go out and buy laptops that I want to review, and a lot of companies don't necessarily want to have us do a head-to-head among their computing laptops. What happens if laptop X seriously trounces laptop Y and they both cost about the same amount?

    In the end, most people purchase laptops within their price range, so if AMD offers cheaper laptops, some people will buy those laptops whether or not they are faster. Those who want better performance are generally going to pay for more expensive laptops, and in that market that AMD laptops really don't compete very well right now.
    Reply
  • etee - Friday, November 24, 2006 - link

    AMEN to that. I bet HP, MSI (or any other company that makes value notebooks) doesn't want to see a performance review between their $550 and $1000 notebooks whose only difference is +200Mhz CPU, +40GB HDD, +1GB RAM.... If the public saw the lack of perf. improvement for the money, they'd never buy the $1000 notebook. Too bad discrete graphics hasn't become standard on the mainstream midrange $1000 notebooks yet. That might actually would justify the price.

    I also found that this review was all over the place and really didn't do a good job of isolating the variables that led to various performance indicators.
    How do we quantify the value of the discrete GFX of the ASUS notebook? Certainly system perf. would be significantly improved just because we don't have UMA graphics hogging up the system memory bandwidth. I think the intel notebook should have featured UMA graphics for comparison.

    I understand that the notebook makers won't hook you up with samples of all of their offerings. That doesn't mean that the only option is to cover the ASUS and MSI side by side. It would be better to compare a single system with various components upgraded. You can't get every model of notebook from MSI, but you can make your own "models" with upgraded CPUs, RAM, HDDs, batteries and try to generate an approximate price for such a model. If we did this separately for the MSI and ASUS, then the reader can be left to decide what suites them better for a given price. At the very least we wouldn't be trying to compare apples to oranges.
    Reply
  • abakshi - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Honestly, I found this review pretty useless. Forgoing the fact that other sites have actually done comparisons of the 271 with its Core Duo couterpart (the S270, if I recall), it still doesn't offer much.

    Obviously an IGP solution will be much slower than a Geforce Go 7700. I think most people who are going to read and interpret your graphs know that. But why must everyone have a a GF7700? Integrated graphics at the level of the current ATI chipsets are a good step up from what the vast majority of Intel-powered laptops come with, which is Intel's GMA junk.

    The article constantly refers to the ATI IGP as a huge drawback to the machine, implying that the competition has something better. Which other 12" portable has discrete graphics, besides the (heavier, not quite ultraportable) Dell XPS M1210? In fact, I'd argue the widespread use of ATI IGPs is a strength of the AMD platform - the Radeon Xpress chips are far better for everyday usage (from multimedia playback to general performance) than the Intel GMA950 chips. And unlike the GMA chips, R-X200/1150 will run Win Vista's Aero Glass interface and most modern 3D apps very comfortably.

    The other problem, related to the point on IGPs, is the focus on gaming. Who plays 3D games on a 12", <5 lbs. laptop? Aren't things like battery life and heat output far more important in this setting than how many FPS it can get in Half-Life 2? Why is there any stress at all on gaming? The almost nonexistent ultraportable gaming market is clearly not the target audience for this machine.

    The review even goes to the point of suggesting that mid-level discrete graphics chips like the ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 are inadequate. Something like an X1400 is more than adequate for the vast majority of users. It will run every common 3D function (like Aero Glass) and will even run relatively recent 3D games decently. Ever hear of battery life? Not everyone needs to get 60 FPS while playing Half-Life 2 on their miniscule screen in the train.

    So for example, I play games -- but for that, I have my desktop rig at home, with a dual-core A64 X2 4400+ (ironically now probably outperformed by my laptop's Core 2 Duo @ 2.0) and an ATI Radeon X1800XT 512. I'm currently using a Dell E1705 as my primary laptop, with an ATI MR X1400 GPU, which is great - it's solid (with consistently updated and universally compatible ATI drivers, unlike Intel junk), currently running dual-boot Win XP MCE and Vista RC1, and gets far better battery life than versions with more powerful GPUs (NV 7900GS, GTX, etc.).
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Wednesday, October 18, 2006 - link

    quote:

    The other problem, related to the point on IGPs, is the focus on gaming. Who plays 3D games on a 12", <5 lbs. laptop? Aren't things like battery life and heat output far more important in this setting than how many FPS it can get in Half-Life 2? Why is there any stress at all on gaming? The almost nonexistent ultraportable gaming market is clearly not the target audience for this machine.


    Exactly. Then who cares whether you have a slow integrated card or a SLOWER one. The point of most IGP reviews are to see whether any people who plays latest 3D games will bother with the IGP for their 3D games.

    quote:

    Integrated graphics at the level of the current ATI chipsets are a good step up from what the vast majority of Intel-powered laptops come with, which is Intel's GMA junk.


    0.1 to 0.2. Nobody will care.

    quote:

    And unlike the GMA chips, R-X200/1150 will run Win Vista's Aero Glass interface and most modern 3D apps very comfortably.


    There are no direct comparisons of GMA and R1150 testings on Win Vista's Aero Glass. They are both certified, so they can both run it that's for sure.

    quote:

    with consistently updated and universally compatible ATI drivers, unlike Intel junk


    Intel also has unified drivers and updated drivers for their IGP. 845G to G965. Of course the drivers aren't up to par as ATI based ones, but considering ATI's specialty, its expected.

    quote:

    and gets far better battery life than versions with more powerful GPUs (NV 7900GS, GTX, etc.).


    I'd say then having GMA950 will be more important for battery life than R1150 then. Because R1150 is more fully featured, and will waste unnecessary battery life.

    Final point is: the review isn't perfect, but there aren't many better Turion X2 laptops either. Anandtech happened to review the ones they got in hand.

    That's the problem with laptop reviews, it isn't as vast as the desktop ones, but that's little out of scope.

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Did you get hung up on page 10? That was there merely to point out that the IGP solutions CAN'T play modern games. End of story. A couple quotes:

    quote:

    Simply put, if you want to run any games other than solitaire, minesweeper, or other casual gaming titles, you will quickly find the included graphics to be unsatisfactory. We don't really find that to be a terrible flaw, as for business and office tasks even slow integrated graphics work fine, and you will still be able to run the Windows Vista Aero Glass interface (although performance will likely suffer compared to discrete graphics solutions).


    quote:

    Basically, the system provides the bare minimum of 3D graphics support that we would recommend these days and not much else. A lot of people don't need 3D graphics, so that's okay, but there are certainly other options available that include better graphics for a small increase in price. Unlike desktop systems, there's no way to add better graphics to many laptop computers, so just make sure you are absolutely certain you will never need 3D graphics performance (Windows Vista) before you purchase a new laptop that only includes an anemic IGP solution.


    quote:

    If you're okay with avoiding 3D applications and sticking with Windows XP rather than upgrading to Windows Vista, then the MSI S271 should suffice. Then again, if you're okay with those limitations, just about any laptop is likely to "suffice".


    The point of the article isn't comparing IGP performance; we took exactly one page to clearly show that IGP is inadequate for gaming, and if you don't play games it largely won't matter. A "focus on gaming" would be more what we had in the http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=274...">XPS M1710 review, where we did spend a lot of time on that subject as anyone buying a $3500 notebook with high-end graphics will probably want to make use of them! Oh yeah, I also talked about the advantages of an http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=276...">E1705 with X1400 in another article.

    Most notebooks with GMA950 run everything they need to without problems. GMA950 will run Aero Glass I believed (slower than Xpress 1100 but again, that's probably not a concern of anyone looking at budget systems). To say that Xpress 1100 can "run Win Vista's Aero Glass interface and most modern 3D apps very comfortably" is simply not true. It can run them, and perhaps Aero Glass will be fine; modern 3D apps choke on X300SE type hardware. I will worry about fully benchmarking/testing Vista on laptops when it actually ships, but I've read that Aero Glass may kill battery life. :|
    Reply
  • hondaman - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    After upgrading to the new bios from MSI that made the laptop stable, did you try the generic ram again to see if it fixed it? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    Yup, still no POST. Should have known better than to buy Gigaram. Heh. Still, it will make for a nice "worst case" test of other notebooks. If a laptop can boot with the Gigaram, it can probably boot with just about anything! That or the SO-DIMM is just bad, which is always a possibility. Reply
  • Patrese - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    Have you guys seen a huge ANATEL sticker inside the notebook? It is from the Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações, the regulatory agency of telecomunications here in Brazil. Kinda funny to see that on a notebook meant to be sold in the US market, as I have never seen one of these in any PC or notebooks sold in Brazil... :) Reply
  • randomas - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    I would really like to see a Linux test using 64bit distribution and a 32bit distribution on the same machine and then compare it to an Intel machine, which if I'm correct still doesn't support x86_64 instructions on its portable line of cpus.

    Seeing the results of the 64 vs 32 bit Linux tests already published here on Anandtech it would make for interesting reading, especially as IMHO this machine has a strong appeal for Linux users who can take advantage of its full potential.

    Personally I own a MSI M635 (turion mt34 atix700) which I'm very happy with.
    Reply
  • ShapeGSX - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    The Core 2 Duo mobile processors DO support 64 bit instructions!

    Core Duo does not.
    Reply
  • randomas - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Doh! I guess I should have checked then, but all the more reason to see them both pull their weight with a real OS! Reply
  • Wesleyrpg - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    hey all,

    im eager to see a review of the a8js, thats the laptop that i got my eye on at the moment, if asus play their cards right, the a8js could become one VERY popular laptop.

    Any idea on availability though on the A8JS?
    Reply
  • piesquared - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    Good review, but which system was being reviewed, the Asus C2D or the MSI X2? Reply
  • duploxxx - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    Nice comment, whenever it fits there results, they will publish it.. (does remember me of the time you would test 2P wood-opty in windows, but probably the result was not as expected of your sponsor). Also the memory issues do question your results......

    the core2duo is for sure the better performing one. Few months ago the X2 versus coreduo was a tight battle, but we all saw the core2duo outperforming the coreduo with glance, so the same thing happens with turion. Intel made his design for laptop and changed it up to desktop and server, AMD did it the other way around.... so for a 3year old design I think it was rather good against all those updating Mobile en core technologies from Intel.

    Now from an other perspective. Most of the laptops are supplied with Intel internal graphics. How Will this perform against the ATi Graphics? that would be an interesting review.......
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    ATI Xpress 1100 is about twice as fast as GMA950, plus it has full DX9 support (though not SM3.0). Problem is, it's pathetically slow still. I mean, what can you want that the Xpress 1100 can provide but the GMA950 can't? 20 FPS at minimum quality in HL2? If you want 3D performance, I'd say the 7700 in the A8JS is a good starting point. X1400 and GeForce 7400 are both substantially faster than Xpress 1100, buth still pretty sluggish for actual 3D work. X1400 is still okay for video playback and older games (as is 7400), but you can get 7600/7700 for about the same cost I think. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    MSI today, ASUS later this week. It's probably already clear which one we preferred, but there's more to say about the ASUS and putting out a 14000 word article seemed like overload. Reply
  • piesquared - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    Yes, i know, and sorry for the sarcastic question. I guess i'm just wondering why so much content on the Asus solution, when as you say there will be a seperate review later this week. My overall picture of that article was that AMD's solution was a steaming pile of mess not really suitable for anyone. At least that's the impression i(and probably most visitors that read or will read it, so i guess it was successful that way) got, regardless of any conlusion throwing it a bone here and there. What i can't understand is why MSI would even offer up such an abomination for review!! ;)

    BTW, i did think it was a very good article, aside from the above mentioned slant that seem to ooze from it..

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    It's basically a case of getting an okay system, but we would say there are better options out there. If the MSI is cheaper, faster, has more battery life, or some other benefit than other competing laptops, great. It's basically at best equal to other ultraportable options.

    The ASUS W5F with Core Duo is about as fast (with "slower" integrated graphics, though it doesn't matter much), but it costs more, so there you could say the S271 is "better". Unfortunately, there aren't many faster Turion X2 notebooks around, other than the MSI MS-171772 mentioned in the conclusion.

    If all you're after is ultraportables, the MS-1058/S271 is about all I see for Turion X2. It does tend to be about $100-$200 cheaper than any Core 2 equipped ultraportables, or about the same cost as Core Duo equipped ultraportables. In that market, it has a place. I'm not a huge fan of ultraportables, but some people are. I'd personally rather carry an extra 2 pounds and get a 14" (or larger) display.
    Reply
  • aidanjm - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    you rip apart a closed system not designed to be opened up by the consumer, fiddle around inside, then complain when things don't work? even the complaints on memeory compatability seem lame. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    First, the "closed system" as such is not something we would recommend. Dual core with only 512MB of RAM? I already covered that. Second, the system *is* available as a barebones (MSI MS-1058), as I mentioned in the review. Memory compatibility aside, this isn't a great laptop. It's okay.

    The memory issues are something worth mentioning, even if we got them worked out. Even if everything had worked without issue, the laptop would have still only been okay - there are quite a few competing notebooks in the same price range, and this one fails to stand out from the crowd in any meaningful way.
    Reply
  • Furen - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    Sounds like you had huge memory compatibility problems, though. Personally, I always buy Crucial because when I used to buy other RAM (Kingston, etc), more often than not, I had some sort of memory compatibility problems (probably because I mixed brands but I've never had ANY problems at all with Crucial stuff). Reply
  • DrMrLordX - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    I know the Core Duo is now an old product that is being replaced by the Core 2 Duo in the mobile sector, but it would have been nice to see the Turion X2 benchmarked against a Core Duo laptop as well. Surely a similarly-configured Core Duo machine exists out there somewhere. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    One thing is the Core 2 Duo laptop has 7200RPM HDD while the Turion X2 has 5400RPM. It shouldn't impact is greatly but it'll make a difference. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    quote:

    This leads us to an interesting conclusion in regards to battery life and power requirements. As best we can tell, it appears that the Core 2 Duo processor actually requires less power than the equivalent Turion X2 processor when both are placed under full load.


    Uhh. No. Clearly no. Explanation?? Turion X2 system uses integrated graphics, while Core 2 Duo system uses a powerful video card. Do you guys really think idle power of video card+chipset is equal to chipset alone??
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    http://www.computerbase.de/artikel/hardware/grafik...">http://www.computerbase.de/artikel/hard...hnitt_le...

    Integrated graphics power is clearly lower than even super low-end discrete. Now on this AT review we are talking about a mid-range part.

    Sorry for triple post, but I must get my point across.

    Two laptops, each possessed by one of my friends, both a Dell:
    Pentium M 765 2.0GHz/533MHz FSB
    1GB DDR2-533
    120GB 5400RPM HDD
    Geforce Go 7800GTX 128MB
    15.4 inch wide-screen
    70WHr battery
    2.5 hour battery life with internet surfing, usage

    2. Pentium M 1.6GHz/400MHz FSB/Dothan
    512MB DDR2-533
    Intel GMA900
    60GB 4200RPM HDD
    14 inch screen
    45WHr battery
    3.5 hour battery life with internet surfing, light usage

    Is there a reason some high-end laptops are featured with integrated/discrete graphics card option?? You can turn one off?? Cause video cards in laptops suck huge amounts of power.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    There are multiple issues involved with testing comparable laptops. Short of going out and purchasing a laptop, it's very difficult to pull off. At this point, there's not much reason to get a Core Duo notebook instead of a Core 2 Duo notebook, other than price. So we're doing our best to compare laptops that are similar, and we wanted to get this review out the door before it got any older. Obviously, we're still not recommending the MSI S271 over other laptops.

    In regards to Inteluser2000, he makes several comments. I have now reworded the page on power consumption to clarify a few points. However, not all of his points are entirely valid either. For example:
    quote:

    No. Clearly no. Explanation?? Turion X2 system uses integrated graphics, while Core 2 Duo system uses a powerful video card. Do you guys really think idle power of video card+chipset is equal to chipset alone??


    I don't think he was reading clearly, because I had just explained that at maximum CPU load MSI Turion X2 is consuming MORE power than ASUS Core 2 Duo. In other words, even with integrated graphics versus discrete graphics and with all of the other variables involved (7200 RPM hard drive versus 5400 RPM Drive, 14 inch LCD versus 12.1 inch LCD, etc.), without putting a load on the GPU one would expect the ASUS system to draw more power than the MSI system, and it doesn't. At idle, all of the variables can explain why the ASUS consumes more power, but when I put 100% load on just the CPU Turion X2 clearly requires more power.

    I have no idea what he is trying to say with his comment about Dell laptops. Comparing a high-end system with a GeForce Go 7800 GTX to one that uses IGP is far worse than comparing something that uses GeForce Go 7700 to IGP. Different battery sizes, different display sizes, different processors, different hard drives, memory, etc. -- of course they're going to have different results. However, in this case are not drawing any final conclusions about idle power, other than to point out some interesting trends. What I am concluding is that if we were able to isolate just the CPU power use, a Turion X2 TL-60 at 100% load would require a lot more power than a Core 2 Duo T7200 at 100% load.

    The ASUS system is there more as a frame of reference, particularly on the power requirements page. I really can't say for certain whether Turion X2 uses more power or less power at idle, but I am positive that it requires more power when it's placed under 100% load. Hope that explains things.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    quote:

    I don't think he was reading clearly, because I had just explained that at maximum CPU load MSI Turion X2 is consuming MORE power than ASUS Core 2 Duo. In other words, even with integrated graphics versus discrete graphics and with all of the other variables involved (7200 RPM hard drive versus 5400 RPM Drive, 14 inch LCD versus 12.1 inch LCD, etc.), without putting a load on the GPU one would expect the ASUS system to draw more power than the MSI system, and it doesn't.


    Nonono. I don't care about the load power, I care about your conclusions regarding idle. Even if you don't put load on the GPU, it consumes power. In laptop standards, lots of power. Its not a coincidence some laptop manufacturers put dual video card solutions(integrated/discrete), because they realize discrete cards affect battery life in idle, not just load. What I don't like is the explanation that its the CPU and chipset that contributes to idle power consumption and less battery life at DVD playback, Mobilemark, etc.

    Check this out: http://www.trustedreviews.com/article.aspx?page=50...">http://www.trustedreviews.com/article.aspx?page=50...
    (Dual GPU machine)

    DVD playback
    IGP: 164 minutes
    Nvidia Geforce Go 6600: 112 minutes

    MobileMark 2005 general battery life test
    IGP:128 minutes
    Geforce Go 6600: 92 minutes

    30-40% battery life difference. Looks like video card is quite a big drain on battery life. I bet significant battery life difference between my friend's two system lies in the video card.

    This is really a laptop review rather than a CPU review. Of course, due to laptops peculiarity of outperforming one with what looks like similar specifications, the idea of a CPU comparison on a laptop is far-fetched.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    I did reword the rest of the page in regards to power use. I have used an ASUS W5F and found that it used about the same amount of power as the S271 (at idle). It was slightly more, so the remaining conclusions (i.e. Turion X2 in low power mode uses a bit less power) seem to be consistent. Tough to say 100% without nearly identical laptops - and you still have chipset and mobo components that can have an impact. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    quote:

    I did reword the rest of the page in regards to power use. I have used an ASUS W5F and found that it used about the same amount of power as the S271 (at idle). It was slightly more, so the remaining conclusions (i.e. Turion X2 in low power mode uses a bit less power) seem to be consistent. Tough to say 100% without nearly identical laptops - and you still have chipset and mobo components that can have an impact.


    You can find otherwise similar looking laptops that have different power consumption. How did you test out the W5F?? Just dropped in a Core 2 Duo in replacement of Core Duo?

    Otherwise nice test.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    I don't have it any more, but it was a 1.66 GHz Core Duo with 512MB RAM and IGP and an 80GB 5400 RPM HDD I believe. So at that speed it was still using aroung 18-19W at idle with minimum display brightness. I'm trying to get the owner of that laptop to run some power tests for me (our old Kristopher Kubicki has one now). Reply

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