The Kabini Deal: Can AMD Improve the Quality of Mainstream PCs with Its Latest APU?by Anand Lal Shimpi on May 24, 2013 1:45 PM EST
AMD’s family of cat-cores began their lives as higher performing alternatives to Intel’s Atom. Ambition (and a desire for higher ASPs) drove them to compete with the lower end of Intel’s Pentium lineup. The Jaguar based Kabini APU continues the trend and even aims higher up the product stack, with the highest spec Kabini APU aiming for Intel’s Core i3.
When it comes to GPU performance, Kabini is absolutely there. Depending on the benchmark we either saw parity, a slight disadvantage or large advantage for Kabini’s integrated Radeon HD 8830 compared to Intel’s 22nm HD Graphics.
On the CPU front, we already established that Kabini runs laps around Brazos and Atom. The point of today’s article however, was to find out if comparing to a $320 notebook based on a Pentium 2020M would change things. The answer ends up being, not really. Kabini is very efficient for what it is, but the Ivy Bridge cores simply have better single threaded performance. Even a lower clocked/lower TDP Pentium part would maintain a healthy single threaded CPU performance advantage.
Whether that CPU performance advantage matters really depends on your usage model. Anyone who’d be happy with a Cortex A15 based Chromebook for example would likely be just fine with Kabini under the hood of their next notebook.
Where Kabini excels however is in its power consumption. Better battery life than a Brazos based notebook is a given, but in our earlier comparison we even noted better battery life than a 17W Ultrabook. I suspect AMD is indeed being a little conservative with its 15W TDP rating for the A4-1500.
That brings us to the deal that AMD is offering OEMs. A lower cost, lower power APU that’s better than Atom/Brazos, comparable to Pentium in GPU performance but behind it in single threaded CPU performance. Historically PC OEMs have taken the cost savings AMD offered them and delivered a lower priced system, my hope with Kabini is that we’ll finally get something different.
Kabini alone offers a power advantage, which itself may be enough, but if an OEM were to take Kabini's cost savings and put the money towards a better LCD or better storage that could significantly alter the balance of things. I agree with what Jarred said in his conclusion yesterday: "Give me a reasonable Ultrabook-style chassis (or maybe a dockable tablet) with Kabini and a decent quality 1080p touchscreen and do it at the right price and there are plenty of people that will jump at the offer."
The traditional approach would be for an OEM to offer a Kabini system at a lower price than a Pentium based system. The Kabini system might offer better battery life, while the Pentium machine delivers better single-threaded CPU performance. Should that same OEM offer both systems at the same price, but give the Kabini an appreciably better display, I think many users would be willing to overlook the difference in CPU performance entirely.
As it stands, I like Kabini. It’s a good part that could make for the foundation of a nice, affordable ultraportable system. The best selling notebook on Amazon remains the Cortex A15 based Samsung Chromebook. The second best selling? A Core i3 based ASUS X202E. Consumers are clearly willing to sacrifice CPU performance if the price is right and the rest of the machine/experience is well designed. I see no reason that a Kabini based platform couldn’t be up there as well. It’s just up to an enlightened OEM to do the right thing with what AMD has given them.