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Introducing the ASUS X72D/K72DR

The ASUS X72D is an interesting beast and a testament to just how far prices have fallen on Blu-ray capable hardware. It also gives us the opportunity to play with a triple-core mobile AMD chip, something we haven't yet enjoyed on the review bench. While a mobile Phenom II and Mobility Radeon HD 5470 may not be the most exciting pieces of kit in the world, they can be used to buttress an attractive and affordable build able to handle most computing tasks without breaking the bank.

Today we'll be figuring out just how well three AMD cores can compete with two hyper-threaded Intel cores at the entry level, and whether or not the X72D delivers the solid multimedia experience it was intended for. Note that our review model is labeled X72D, but it's the same design as the readily available K72DR--only with Blu-ray and a 7200RPM drive compared to the stock model available at Newegg. We'll refer to the notebook as the X72D throughout this review, but the two names are synonymous--the X72D is just the upgraded model. Here are the specs of our review sample.

ASUS X72D Specifications
Processor AMD Phenom II N830
(3x2.1GHz, 45nm, 1.5MB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD RS880 northbridge and SB850 southbridge
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 1GB DDR3
(80 Stream Processors, 750 MHz core clock, 1600 MHz effective memory clock, 64-bit memory bus)
Display 17.3" CCFL Glossy 16:9 900p (1600x900)
Chi Mei N173O6-L02
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200 RPM Seagate Momentus 7200.4 Hard Disk
Optical Drive Blu-ray Reader/DVD+/-RW Combo Drive
Networking Atheros AR8131 Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9285 Wireless 802.11n (150Mb capable)
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 4400mAh, 48Wh battery
Front Side Speakers
5-in-1 Flash reader
Left Side Exhaust vent
2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Right Side Headphone and microphone jacks
2x USB 2.0
HDMI
VGA
Ethernet jack
AC adaptor
Kensington lock
Back Side Nothing
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 16.7" x 11.2" x 1.5" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.9 lbs
Extras 0.3MP Webcam
Keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
Altec Lansing speakers
Blu-ray reader
Warranty 2-year standard warranty
Pricing Available online as K72Dr

Even if it isn't that exciting, the most interesting part in the X72D is the AMD Phenom II N830 at its heart. AMD processors have been somewhat rarefied around here since manufacturers are typically more interested in throwing flashier, more exciting Intel-based units our way, so it's nice to get our hands on one of AMD's faster tri-core mobile chips. The Phenom II N830 runs its three cores at 2.1 GHz and is basically a mobile, power-binned version of the L3 cache-less desktop Athlon II X3. While these cores aren't as fast clock-for-clock as competing Intel chips, they're fast enough, and a healthy jump over AMD's old K8-based mobile chips.

There's still a major stumbling block for AMD in terms of power consumption, though: an AMD-based notebook has to power both a northbridge and a southbridge, while most of this functionality is either handled by integrated hardware in Intel's mobile processors or by the single power friendly HM55/PM55 chip. It's not a case of just having more chips, but when you look at the manufacturing processes in use and the historical data, AMD hasn't done well on getting power use in check. Having to run three of their chips compared to two of Intel's chips is going to be a big hurdle.

The odd choice is the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 dedicated GPU. Given the 17" chassis we would've liked to see at least a Mobility Radeon HD 5650, but what makes the anemic 5470 even more puzzling is how aggressive of an implementation it is. While the chip itself is still the same dismal DX11 rehash of the old 4300/4500 series, plugging along with just 80 stream processors and a paltry 64-bit memory bus, ASUS has opted to clock it at a staggering 750MHz. As has become customary with low-end chips, the 5470 has also been outfitted with 1GB of DDR3—about 512MB more than it could ever use—clocked at a healthy 1.6 GHz effective. This is pretty much as good as the 5470 is going to get, but that isn't saying much. For comparison we have the Dell Studio 14 in our charts, which uses a 5470 at a lower 675MHz core clock.

The remainder of the X72D is fairly healthy. 4GB of DDR3 is clocked at 1333MHz instead of the usual 1066MHz, and ASUS saw fit to equip the unit with a 500GB, 7200 RPM Seagate hard disk. 5400 RPM drives are starting to phase out of the ASUS lineup, and that's a good thing. There's also a combination Blu-ray reader, DVD writer, suggesting the X72D's intended market, but that Blu-ray drive is only going to be pushing a 1600x900 screen—no 1080p for us. What's puzzling is the lack of eSATA, USB 3.0, FireWire, or ExpressCard. Any one of these would be excellent for external storage, but apparently we're stuck with USB 2.0 still. This is even more bizarre when you recall the concerted push ASUS was making to add USB 3.0 to all of their hardware.

Kicking the Tires of the ASUS X72D
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  • pattycake0147 - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    FYI

    There is a pricing row on the first page table, but the price isn't listed.
    Reply
  • OneArmedScissorB - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    "There's still a major stumbling block for AMD in terms of power consumption, though: an AMD-based notebook has to power both a northbridge and a southbridge, while most of this functionality is either handled by integrated hardware in Intel's mobile processors or by the single power friendly HM55/PM55 chip."

    Considering that there is a separate, 45nm chip fitting the exact definition of the traditional laptop northbridge chip in the dual-core Core iX CPU package, and that the Core 2 platform, with its multiple "inefficient" and "obsolete" chips still seems to be untouchable in battery life, that statement is riding a fine line between silliness and misinformation.

    It doesn't surprise me one bit that AMD's laptops tend to use a bit more power. That's just what happens with a more complex GPU and more CPU cores. Why that would be more dependent on nearly identical northbridge and southbridge functionality is beyond me.
    Reply
  • mino - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    Seconded. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    I've updated the text to make it clear that it's not just having an extra chip, but having three AMD chips (which have traditionally not been as power optimized) vs. two Intel chips is a real concern. The AMD CPUs have always used more power (at least post Pentium M), and I don't think either the NB or SB is particularly power friendly. They're not horrible either, but having two chips doesn't do AMD any favors. Finally, toss in process tech and the result is less than ideal battery life. Reply
  • SteelCity1981 - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    I really don't know why AMD calls these Phenom II's when they lack an L3 cache which puts it a lot closer to the Athlon II chips. It can get confusing and hard to tell each mobile cpu apart that AMD markets for advance users to tell apart let alone the avg pc user lol. Unlike their desktop chips line which is pretty cut and dry, their mobile chips on the other had are all over the place. You have the mobile Phenom II x4/x3/x2, the Athlon II X2/ Neo X2, the Turion II X2/ Neo X2 (which are basicly lower clocked Phenom II mobile cpu's now.) and the AMD single core V series that are all based on the same Champlain 45nm architecture. Reply
  • mino - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    Same reason why Intel calls Lynnfield i7. Marketing BS. Reply
  • SteelCity1981 - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    Yeah but in the mobile sector Intel's chips are a lot more clearer then AMD's to understand. Core i7 highend, Core i5 mainstream, Core i3 budget, Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    It's sort of like Back-to-the-Future III, it's really less like B2F II and more like Feival Goes West. Reply
  • GullLars - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    Since this is a laptop offering SATA 6Gbps, i strongly suggest you run a bench round with C300 128/256GB in it.
    It would also be nice to see the PCmark scores of that compared to the original configuration and the competition.
    Storage performance can be a real problem in laptops, so this could be a key selling point, at least for the version K72DR that does not include the mostly pointless price addition of a BD player.
    Reply
  • ssj4Gogeta - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    "Processor AMD Phenom II N830
    (3x2.1GHz, 45nm, 1.5MB L2, 35W)"

    Why do you state it as 3 times 2.1GHz? The frequencies of the cores don't add up. 3 cores don't even mean linear scaling vs. 1 core. So technically it's incorrect.
    Reply

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