Final Words

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.

GPU Performance & Power vs. Intel HD Graphics
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  • chizow - Friday, May 24, 2013 - link

    I don't understand what the market is for one of these. Pretty poor CPU performance and untenable graphics performance for anything more than video streaming/web surfing. Seems to me like a faster CPU with less emphasis on GPU (i3-3XXX) paired with a low-power, low-profile discrete GPU would be the better way to go. Reply
  • jeffkibuule - Friday, May 24, 2013 - link

    Uhh... these are going into $300 laptops. There will be no discrete GPUs here. Reply
  • Frenetic Pony - Friday, May 24, 2013 - link

    This is really the market here. I'm fine with my 17 watt Ivy Core i5 Ivy bridge thanks, and my sister will be good with a 15 watt Haswell when she gets a new laptop next month. The key here is price, not performance per watt, in which case you'd just go with a Core i-whatever (possibly with a dedicated Nvidia GPU) and call it good. Reply
  • medi02 - Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - link

    So what kind of apps does our sister run, to justify need for a faster performing CPU? (and doh, just i5 won't cut it, you need a ULW part, or you are losing on longevity vs Kabini; So we are talking what, twice or triple the price?) Reply
  • chizow - Friday, May 24, 2013 - link

    I see, so these are like Netbook 2.0, I figured it was the first step to making AMD's Fusion a huge success with the APU, offering much faster graphics than ever before on a CPU. But it's really AMD's version of the Atom? Reply
  • Gigaplex - Saturday, May 25, 2013 - link

    AMD has two main Fusion lines. This line is the Atom competitor, which uses the low power CPU architecture (Bobcat derivative). The APUs that offer the high end graphics use the higher performance architecture (Bulldozer derivative). It sounds like you'd be more interested in the upcoming Kaveri chips. Reply
  • Voldenuit - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    I'm with chizow. AMD is trying to sell a sub-par device upmarket. These things really belonged in netbooks from 2 years ago. Their performance and and pricepoint is irrelvant today when a $200-300 Android tablet is a better ancillary computing device than a $300-400 netbook.

    The tablet may have less computing power and not be able to run the full suite of x86 productivity software, but will have a better screen, better battery life, more portability, and more importantly, said tablet would be better suited to running its native lightweight Android apps and games than Kabini, which is burdened with full-fat x86 programs targeted at more powerful CPUs/GPUs.
    Reply
  • glsunder - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    If you're not gaming, this would be quite nice for a little laptop. Most laptops with these apus won't have dvd drives, so they won't be used for ripping. If I'm going to play a game, it'll be on my desktop.

    I have an e-350 based laptop that I bought a few years ago. Under windows, it was plenty fast enough to do coding on and run VMs (vs no VM on atom). It was too slow to run an android ARM emulator, but native x86 android worked fine for testing apps. I recently switched it to Ubuntu, which is quite a bit more responsive than Win7.
    Reply
  • hyperspaced - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    "Full-fat x86 programs"? Are you talking about the CISC-RISC age-old comparison?

    So, what's your point? The same software will run better on RISC architecture?
    Reply
  • Voldenuit - Monday, May 27, 2013 - link

    The point is that most apps on Android are simpler and less resource-intensive because they are designed for:
    a. lower power CPUs
    b. lower feature set
    You can do more with most windows program suites than the comparable alternatives on Android, but if you want to do anything beyond basic editing/viewing, you'd be better off with a Corei/Richland laptop anyway.
    Reply

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