Test Setup

We'll be comparing the CULV laptops against other inexpensive mobile solutions, like Atom N280 and N450 netbooks, the ASUS 1201N, and a few entry-level laptops from Dell and Gateway that don't focus as much on battery life or size. We've highlighted a few of the laptops to help clarify the charts (per reader request).

The ASUS 1201N represents the fastest Atom-based netbook/laptop, as it's armed with a dual-core Atom 330, and its results are shown in orange. The gold bars are for the ASUS UL80Vt with G210M active and a 33% overclock; combined with the discrete graphics this represents the high water mark for CULV performance - and the super sized battery doesn't hurt either. (Note that the Alienware M11x takes a similar approach but bumps the GPU up to a GT335M for even better graphics performance.) ASUS' Eee PC 1005HA is representative of the best Atom N280 netbooks, with results in black. Likewise, the ASUS 1005PE is the best (well, only) Pine Trail Atom N450 we've tested, with results in dark green. Finally, the MSI X610 is a single core Athlon MV-40 with HD 4330 graphics - an odd combination, as we pointed out in our review - with results in red.

Below you can find the specs of the laptops we're testing today; other laptops can be found in our previous mobile reviews if you're interested.

Acer Aspire Timeline AS1810T Test System
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300
(2x1.3GHz, 45nm, 3MB L2, 800FSB, 10W)
Memory 2x2GB DDR2-667
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD IGP
Display 11.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 320GB 5400RPM HDD
Optical Drive N/A
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 5600mAh, 63Wh
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Pricing Available Online starting at $680
(Black version available for $600)

Dell Inspiron 11z Test System
Processor Intel Pentium SU4100
(2x1.3GHz, 45nm, 2MB L2, 800FSB, 10W)
Memory 1x2GB DDR2-667
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD IGP
Display 11.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 250GB 5400RPM HDD
Optical Drive N/A
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 4840mAh, 56Wh
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Pricing Available Online starting at $400
Test System: $564 (with current $173 savings)

Gateway EC5409u Test System
Processor Intel Pentium SU4100
(2x1.3GHz, 45nm, 2MB L2, 800FSB, 10W)
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066
Graphics Intel GMA 4500MHD IGP
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 320GB 5400RPM HDD
Optical Drive 8x DVDR SuperMulti
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 5600mAh, 63Wh
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Pricing Available Online starting at $600

We'll include the usual assortment of application benchmarks, battery tests, and LCD tests. If you're interested in gaming performance, we suggest you look at our ASUS 1201N review, where we show gaming performance of the EC5409u at minimum detail settings. In a word, it's painful, but we'll include the 3DMark results later just to make things clear. If you want games and CULV, we highly recommend something like the ASUS UL series; check back next week for some new information in that area.

Okay, it's time for the test results. We'll spoil the charts a bit by once again stating that nearly all of the tests show complete parity among the tested laptops. If we had something with an SU9600, sure, it would be measurably faster. Similarly, an SSD can improve tests that are limited by hard drive performance. Both of those items would add at least $100 each to the cost of a laptop, so you quickly approach the $800+ laptop range, which is currently the domain of the ASUS UL30/50/80Vt laptops. If you're after a $600 CULV, the components you can get into such a design are pretty much set, leading to virtually identical performance. Outside of comparisons to other laptop categories (e.g. netbooks and non-CULV laptops), the previous pages on the design and features are going to be more meaningful than looking at how much faster the 1810T is relative to the 11z. The only areas where we see any real separation are the battery life results and the LCD testing.

Gateway EC5409u General Performance: Atom Gets Dusted
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  • diego10arg - Monday, March 15, 2010 - link

    Hi all,

    I am trying to upgrade my Atom 270N netbook and my primary and only concern is FullHD Playback through HDMI. I will be using an external harddrive for backup and storage purposes, so HD does not matter.

    After looking for a while I found several laptops with Celeron ULV 723, Athlon Neo MV-40, SU4100 and SU7300.

    So far I got this prices (I live in Argentina, prices are in USD)
    . MSI Wind 210-050AR, Athlon Neo MV-40, 2GB RAM, HD250Gb > 609 USD
    . MSI X340-241AR, Celeron ULV 723 1.2Ghz, 2GB RAM, HD320Gb > 699 USD
    . Dell Inspiron 11z, ULV SU4100, 2Gb RAM, HD160Gb > 709 USD
    . ASUS AU UL30A-QX050D, ULV SU7300, 4Gb RAM, HD320GB > 915 USD

    What differences are between CULV 723 and SU4100?
    What would you buy? Why?


    Thanks all!

    Regards,
    DiEGO
    Reply
  • Daeros - Monday, March 01, 2010 - link

    Any word on how something like the 1201n will perform with the new GPU-accelerated versions of Firefox and IE? I feel the current-gen Intel graphics are just unacceptable, so the Ion and AMD laptops are more attractive, but I don't want to feel like I'm trapped in molasses when I browse the interwebs. Reply
  • fwacct4 - Monday, February 15, 2010 - link

    I would like to see noise levels tested for laptops. The thing with desktops is that you can actually hide them some place where noise doesn't bother people, but laptops are always right in front of you, and some laptops have a very annoying high-pitch noise that is noticeable because they are so close to the user.

    I'm sure there are a lot of people interested in having quiet laptops, so I hope that noise level can be compared among laptops as well, and especially with CULV processors which are low voltage, there is an opportunity to present a particular model as being particularly quiet, which would really be a selling point for some.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - link

    All of the CULV laptops tend to run very quiet, to the point where my SPL meter has trouble detecting the noise level over the background noise in the room (around 30dB). Even under a heavy stress test like CINEBENCH, the fans rarely reach a level that I would consider distracting (so typically under 35dB). When you're not running a stress test, the fans are often stopped. Out of the three, the Gateway EC5409u seems to be a bit quieter, likely because it's larger and has even more room inside to dissipate heat, but the others weren't loud by any stretch. Reply
  • viewwin - Tuesday, February 09, 2010 - link

    I would like to see the next version of Ion mixed with a CULV CPU for a decently powerful HTPC. Reply
  • acron1 - Tuesday, February 09, 2010 - link

    A couple of weeks ago I was looking to replace my Toshiba NB205 with something small but with a bit more punch. I ended up with the Toshiba Satellite T115D-S1125 primarily because of the HD3200 graphics. I knew that in terms of battery life the Intel based solutions are better choices but I wanted the extra graphics power available from ATI. Battery life while browsing the web, some flash and email is just over 5 hours... Reply
  • Hrel - Saturday, February 06, 2010 - link

    I'm still waiting for a CULV laptop with a screen of AT LEAST 1600x900 and a dedicated GPU that's about equivalent to the GT240 from Nvidia; I'd prefer it be from Nvidia but since I want DX11 AMD will do fine; the 5series really steps it up. Asus has what I agree is the best CULV laptop, I just want the CPU overclocked to 2GHz, a screen with a resolution of 1600x900 and a GPU about as powerful as a GT240 for 1000 bucks or less. That's totally reasonable. And I want it NOW! 15" chassis too, btw. Reply
  • Schugy - Friday, February 05, 2010 - link

    I don't think that I care about the time I can wait in front of my Netbook but I need to know whether the battery can encode xxx thousand frames to complete the task. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, February 05, 2010 - link

    In that case, FPS is a more useful figure than the time taken, since you don't know how many frames are in the video we choose to test. (For reference, we use a 1080p MPEG2 video for the DivX test with 719 frames.) You would also need to know how long the battery lasts under a heavier CPU load, which I haven't shown here. If you look at the "100% CPU power draw" figure and divide the battery capacity by that amount, you can get an estimate... but the power settings will definitely come into play.

    Let's see if I can help: a 90 minute DVD as an example encoded into DivX would require the encoding of approximately 162000 frames. Now our test results show 5.14 FPS, but that's a far more complex 1080p encode. DVD quality should be a lot faster. A quick test of a 3978 frame chapter of a DVD yields an encode rate of 43.71 FPS (91.0 seconds) on the Gateway EC5409u. That means for a 90 minute 30 FPS DVD (like my test video), you'd need at least 61.77 minutes of battery life. I don't even need to run a test to say that it wouldn't be a problem for CULV on that sort of encode. Atom N450 would still take about 40~50% longer, but again that's not a problem.

    Then again, the default settings result in a low quality encode. If you do a 2-pass DivX encode targeting better quality, total time required increases over two-fold. I just tried it out and the EC5409u managed to encode the same 3987 frame DVD chapter in 237s, or 16.83 FPS. That means roughly 2.7 hours for a 90 minute DVD, or over 3.5 hours for a two hour DVD encode. If that's what you're trying to do, it's unlikely you'll manage the entire encode while on battery.
    Reply
  • buzznut - Thursday, February 04, 2010 - link

    I have the 8200M chipset, I really wouldn't recommend it for gaming. As the article suggests, a discrete graphics option would be better. I think the chipsets that allow the discrete card to turn off when not needed to save battery life are the best options.
    My laptop has a 2.1 Ghz dual core and 4 gigs of ram, with 4 gigs ready boost. It can't game very well, its heavy and the battery life is atrocious. It gets quite hot while watching video, probably the cpu while using flash, and struggles with hidef.

    Given today's options, I would not have gone with the notebook I currently have, as it is too big to carry with the addition of my enormous and heavy chem and bio books. Why drag it along when the battery will die after 2 hours? Most days it sits on a bed side table. I think I would go for a culv with the switchable chipset I mentioned. I am quite jealous of my wife's netbook and 8 hour battery life.

    Nice article, it would be nice to visit again in 6 months to see how the mobile market changes.
    Reply

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