In Q2 of 2015, AMD officially launched Carrizo, their new APU aimed at mobile devices such as laptops and portable all-in-ones that normally accommodate 15W-35W processors. Quoted in the media as 'the biggest change to Bulldozer since Bulldozer itself', the marketing arm of AMD released information regarding the Excavator architecture of the new processor, and which contained a long list of fluid and dynamic implementations on improving the Bulldozer based architecture over the previous iteration of Steamroller (Kaveri). Despite this, AMDs target market for the Carrizo platform has not been receptive to AMDs product stack in recent generations due to issues surrounding performance, battery life and designs. AMD believes to have solved the first two of those matters with Carrizo, whereas the third is out of their hands and up to the OEMs to embrace AMDs platform. We wondered if the OEM’s concerns were well placed, and organized some special testing to confirm AMD’s claims about Carrizo.

Who Controls the User Experience: AMD’s Carrizo Tested

Back in early 2015, we performed a long analysis on Intel’s Core M platform, featuring 4.5W processors under the Broadwell microarchitecture. The purpose of that piece was to test several designs using that line of processors, and examining how the design of the chassis and features of the platform directly affected both performance and user experience. For Brett and I at the time, it was an eye opening endeavor, showing just how the slowest processor in a stack in the right notebook chassis can outperform the fastest, most expensive processor in a bad chassis that is wholly un-optimized.

This review is along similar lines, but instead we are testing AMD’s latest Carrizo platform, which is focused on 15W mobile parts in the $400 to $700 market. We approached AMD after the Carrizo Tech Day back in May with a proposal – to speak to engineers and to test the claims made about the platform. Typically sourcing AMD laptops, at least over the past few years, has been a veritable minefield as they are seemingly never promoted by OEM partners as review samples, or as one senior member put it, ‘Some sales people only seem to offer AMD devices if people specifically ask for them’. Our proposal involved sourcing a number of Carrizo laptops when they were launched and tackling them head on, to see how many of the claims made on the Tech Day were testable but also noticeable and true. The issue AMD and OEMs have is that everyone in the AMD-to-OEM-to-retailer chain is invested in selling the platform, so there needs to be a source of third-party testing for people who don’t trust that chain.

Over the course of a few months, our proposal changed and merged with ideas to speak with AMD’s VPs and engineers, with a number of meetings and discussions. It emerged the best way to do this was to fly to AMD’s HQ in Austin, Texas for a week and get hands on time in the labs. We agreed, as speaking to engineers and learning what is going on behind the scenes at AMD is always a good thing, but on the condition that we were free to setup, test and report without any predisposition to the results. There is an added benefit of having engineers only a floor or two away if a problem was to arise. There have been similar events in the past where media have been invited on-site for canned testing, but we made sure this wasn’t going to be the case before we arrived. For example, Qualcomm has invited select media to in-hand, temporary Snapdragon testing on a couple of occasions, with media free to test and report whatever results.

 

The Testing

We had four Carrizo devices on hand to test for a week, along with a single Kaveri system. These devices were sourced by AMD, and I put in requests for a variety of price points, hardware configurations and styles, along with some specific testing equipment to which we don’t have access. While it wasn’t possible to get everything on hand due to timing issues, the arrangement at least captured a number of areas we planned on testing.

The testing aimed to cover the devices as units, the underlying hardware, as well as the Tech Day claims. Some of this piece will read like a regular review, some of it similar to our Core M testing regarding performance, power and temperature, but a large part is reserved for discussing both the results and the market. When building a platform like Carrizo, a lot of binary decisions are made that can be good or bad for the processor manufacturer, the OEM or the user. We discuss these in detail as a result of our findings. 

The Devices: #1 The HP Elitebook 745 G2 (Kaveri, A10 PRO-7350B)
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  • Kylinblue - Friday, February 05, 2016 - link

    When I saw the sub-page title "AMD's Industry Problem" I though it is the conclusion, after reading that page I found out I am just at half of the whole article. Well done Ian, well done... Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, February 05, 2016 - link

    I know, right? I'm one of those weirdos that reads the pages backwards (mostly), so I was immediately surprised at the list of pages before the conclusion. I honestly haven't finished even half of the article, but it's already evident that some tlc went into it. Reply
  • just4U - Saturday, February 06, 2016 - link

    A excellent article Ian.. and actually a surprise I wasn't expecting anything in the pipe like this right now. Reply
  • SviatAI - Friday, February 19, 2016 - link

    Unfortunately, this often happens when you work for some ecommerce shop selling various goods, the boss of the shop may not want such kind of articles about the products he or she sells. They want it now and fast, just to fill the site with irrelevant content. The problem is that you want to make something better than a stupid re-write. But who cares? So, I am happy for those guys who write for AnandTech and other similar websites. They can learn something new while doing their job. Reply
  • CajunArson - Friday, February 05, 2016 - link

    This article certainly proves one thing: When it comes to price lists on Intel Mobile parts, the numbers you see on ARK have absolutely nothing to do with the actual price that OEMs pay in real life.

    Observe the supposedly major $200 price premium for Intel chips when you read a price list in a vacuum, but then see that the real-life Intel system [with an honest-to-God *quad core* chip!] is basically selling for the exact same price as a much less capable Chorrizo part.

    I personally got a Costco-Special notebook for the wife last year at $500.. it has an I5-5200U, and I assure you that the OEM most certainly didn't sell that notebook at that price after spending $300 on the CPU.
    Reply
  • extide - Friday, February 05, 2016 - link

    BTW, that's not a quad core. It's dual, with hyperthreading :) Reply
  • CajunArson - Friday, February 05, 2016 - link

    When I said quad core I was referring to the Core i5-6300HQ (45W) in the price comparison that Anand posted. It is a 4 physical core part in a notebook that only costs $8 more than a "4 core" Carrizo using AMD's "cores".

    I am aware that the 5200U is a dual-core hyperthreaded part too. Like I said, the entire price of the notebook including the 5200U was only $500 (it has 8 GB of RAM too).
    Reply
  • extide - Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - link

    Ah, yes, Intel is FINALLY shipping quad core mobile i5's. Good call :) Reply
  • vladx - Saturday, February 06, 2016 - link

    Except you didn't put in consideration that what you bought was called "Special" for a reason and it wasn't the release price of the product that was most likely $200+ more. Reply
  • Braincruser - Friday, February 05, 2016 - link

    AMD still has a long way to go before its considered a valid choice. The 4.5W intel beats it in the tasks its gonna be used in. Even in graphics, the supposed strong side of amd's APU. Reply

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