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What About the Games?

Our HP dm1z review already covered gaming, so we’ll start with a retread of the current status quo for modern games. While the 3DMark results on the previous page may be somewhat useful, they’re no replacement for real games. First up is our usual suite of eight titles from the last year or so, many with support for advanced rendering features like DX11. While the HD 6310M does technically support DX11, so far we haven’t found any games where the feature is beneficial, as performance is too slow with it enabled.

Here are the minimum detail performance results for our test laptops, compared to a recent selection of other laptops. We have everything from Arrandale’s HD Graphics and Sandy Bridge’s HD 3000 Graphics to discrete GPUs like the GT 335M and HD 5650. We’ve also got AMD’s older IGPs (HD 4225 and HD 4250) for comparison, and the MacBook’s 320M thrown in for good measure. This isn’t going to be very pretty….

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mafia II

Mass Effect 2

Metro 2033

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

So running at the native 1366x768 found on so many consumer laptops today, the E-350 manages to break 30FPS in exactly zero out of eight games. Ouch. Scores from all the E-350 laptops are close enough that we won’t worry about it too much—the biggest gap is the dm1z lead of 19% in SC2, while there’s also an MSI X370 lead of 15% in DiRT 2; the other titles are single-digit percentage differences. E-350 does manage to beat the HD4250 and HD4225 laptops in every game, with the exception of StarCraft II where the CPU bottleneck is bigger than the GPU bottleneck at minimum details. E-350 is also generally faster than Atom + ION, but ION does lead in ME2 and Stalker. Another interesting comparison is the Dell E6410 with Intel’s HD Graphics; we’re looking at a CPU that’s easily twice as fast as E-350, but with a slightly slower IGP. The result is that (similar to the HD4250 with P660) the only case where E-350 loses in terms of gaming potential is StarCraft II, and even there HD Graphics is only 14% faster.

Move up into the next category of performance, though, and HD 6310M can’t compete. Sandy Bridge is faster than Arrandale, with roughly double the IGP performance, so the high-end i7-2820QM has an easy lead over E-350. Going off the numbers of the newer MacBook Pro 13, the dual-core Sandy Bridge models will be a bit slower than the quad-core in terms of GPU performance, but still 35 to 120% faster than E-350. More importantly, the dual-core SNB managed to break 30FPS in six out of eight titles. (Vivek didn’t test Mafia II or Metro 2033, but you really need a discrete GPU to come anywhere near playability in those games.) Similarly, the 2010 MacBook/MacBook Pro 13 is much faster than E-350, posting frame rates that are 63 to 150% higher. We hardly even need to mention discrete GPUs like the HD 5650, but we will: it’s up to 260% faster with a P520 CPU, and 315% faster with the i7-640M.

It would be interesting to see just how far the HD 6310 could go if it were untethered from the Bobcat core. Ultimately, once Llano launches in a few months it won’t matter, but for now many modern titles need something more than the current AMD IGP. But what about older games? You asked, and I’ve been pulling out a bunch of older stuff to put the E-350 through its paces….

Application Performance: Better than Atom, Worse than CULV Gaming, Circa 2006
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  • Gigantopithecus - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    It will be interesting to see if MSI offers the X370 in the North American market; though at $700+, I can't imagine why you'd want to buy it. MSI isn't exactly known for the build quality of its netbooks, and their logo on something this thin makes me very leery.

    I've not handled a YB so I appreciate your comments regarding its keyboard. You don't paint a particularly compelling picture, especially since the Lenovo X120E and HP DM1Z both offer very solid keyboards. Again, it has a Sony logo on it...but is that logo worth hundreds of dollars?

    I'm not sure whether these even have WWAN slots, but if they do, would you mind checking to see if they support mSATA drives? That feature on a Brazos netbook would be very groovy...
    Reply
  • Arnulf - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Thank you for testing those older game titles ! Reply
  • Kaboose - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Good to know i can do some mining while on the go for cheap, My habit is usually to find a mountain and make myself a nice cave with an extensive mine system. This type of laptop will be perfect for me because I don't go outside much anyway. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Mining is very important!

    .)

    I like to go straight down in a cylindrical path until I hit bedrock and then move out from there. All the good stuff is deep in the ground.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    two cubical pervs, yuck Reply
  • nitrousoxide - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    These two offer some overclocking features, USB 3.0 and a not-so-big-not-so-small form factor (12.1''). Can't wait for their shipment. Reply
  • nitrousoxide - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Will user experience be significantly improved? Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    That article is still in work, but the page 1 text says that any current SSD will help. Reply
  • ninjackn - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Maybe I was expecting too much but I shoved an ocz agility into my acer 1410 (with a su2300) and didn't really notice much. It booted faster but I generally sleep/resume so it was hard for me to notice any significant differences. Reply
  • Quizzical - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    I've got an Acer Aspire 5253-BZ602 (upgraded with a 64 GB SSD and 4 GB of memory), which isn't one of the models reviewed here, but it should be roughly equivalent for gaming performance, as it is based on the same Zacate E-350 APU.

    I think the processor is likely to be the dominant factor in whether games can run smoothly. Usually, if the video card isn't terribly powerful, you can turn down video settings and be fine. (Well, within reason; people who buy a GeForce 6150 SE from Wal-Mart today are likely to be disappointed.) But if it's a processor bottleneck, you're stuck.

    I tried running Guild Wars, and it ran nearly the same as it does on my desktop (capped by vsync), and at nearly the same settings (shadows off because they're annoying, everything else in game maxed, including anti-aliasing, but 1366x768 resolution instead of 1280x1024). Of course, Guild Wars is so light on processor usage that my desktop processor declares itself idle and downclocks while the game is running, and without affecting performance. The bigger impediment to gameplay was that a monitor resolution a meager 768 pixels high is awkward with the default UI, though that's adjustable.

    I also tried Champions Online, which is known to be a lot more processor intensive. Even at extremely low graphical settings (safe mode in the launcher, /renderscale 0.1 for an effective resolution of 137x77), it was stuck at about 20 frames per second. I could turn up video settings quite a bit from there without the frame rate budging much.

    I don't like the idea of Civilization 4 on a netbook, though. Even my desktop Core i7 doesn't run the game that well--and not nearly as well as my old Pentium II ran Civ 2. It's a processor issue, not a graphics issue; the game can render smoothly at high settings on a Radeon X1300 Pro. Civ 4 only proves that no matter how fast your hardware is, a sufficiently badly coded game can still run poorly.

    So I'd expect that one proxy for whether the Zacate E-350 APU can run a game smoothly is whether a high end desktop can hit 200 frames per second or so at low settings, without running into a processor bottleneck first.
    Reply

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