Toshiba A660D-ST2G01: AMD Goes Quad-Core with the Phenom II P920

It's been a long time coming, but the Toshiba A660D-ST2G01 finally gets us an up-to-date AMD mobile platform. It has all the latest and greatest AMD enhancements, including switchable graphics and a quad-core processor. Running at 1.6GHz, the P920 happens to have the same base clock speed as the i7-720QM, but it lacks Intel's Turbo Boost technology. The result is going to be interesting; we expect slower performance overall, particularly in single-threaded workloads where the 720QM can Turbo up to 2.8GHz; we're also looking at the mobile equivalent of the desktop Athlon II X4 processors, since the P920 lacks L3 cache. On the other hand, AMD specs the P920 for 25W compared to 45W on the 720QM, and unlike Arrandale the quad-core Intel chips are still manufactured on a 45nm process.

The new Danube platform also makes the switch to DDR3, which should further reduce power requirements. Will the A660D finally give us reasonable battery life from a midrange AMD system? More importantly, how does it stack up to other options—with a $950 MSRP it goes up against far more than entry-level laptops. Before we get to the answers to those questions, let's go over the basic specs.

Toshiba Satellite A660D-ST2G01 Specifications
Processor AMD Phenom II P920
(4x1.6GHz, 45nm, 4x512KB L2, 25W)
Chipset AMD RS880M Northbridge, AMD SB850 Southbridge
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
(40 Stream Processors, 500MHz Core, Integrated)

ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650
(400 Stream Processors, 450MHz Core, 1600MHz GDDR3)
Display 16" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Samsung 160AT06-U01
Hard Drive(s) Toshiba 500GB 7200 RPM Hard Disk
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW Combo Drive with LabelFlash
Networking Realtek RTL8139/810x 10/100 Ethernet
Realtek RTL8191SEvB 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Harmon Kardon stereo speakers
Headphone (shared with optical) and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 48Wh battery
Front Side MMC/SD/MS/xD Reader
Left Side ExpressCard/34 slot
USB 2.0
eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port (with Sleep and Charge)
Ethernet jack
Exhaust vent
Right Side Microphone/headphone jacks
2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
AC jack
Kensington lock
Back Side Nothing
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.98" x 10.0" x 1.18" (1.48" with feet) (WxDxH)
Weight 6.5 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
101-key LED backlit keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD/xD)
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing $949 MSRP
Currently $949 Online
A665D-S6049 for $799 Online

While many of the basic features are similar to the Toshiba A505D, the package as a whole is very different. For one, despite using the same size 16" LCD panel, the dimensions of the A660D are still slightly smaller in width and depth, and about a quarter inch thinner. The exterior is also a textured plastic that's not quite as much of a fingerprint magnet. The big changes are in the components, with a quad-core CPU, a discrete GPU with the ability to switch to the IGP, and DDR3 memory. The modem port is also gone, and the slot-load DVDR is swapped out for a standard DVDR. The eSATA/USB combo port also has Toshiba's Sleep and Chard functionality, which allows you to charge USB peripherals even while the system is powered down. Similarly, the speakers can be used with the system powered down if you connect to the line-in jack.

The remaining components and features are what we find pretty much everywhere, though with a few additions you don't always find. ExpressCard and eSATA are nice extras, as is the LED backlit keyboard. The internal speakers are better than most laptops, though they still won't beat a good set of external speakers or headphones. The battery is also rather small for a 6-cell unit, and downright puny when compared to some of the ASUS laptops that are using 84Wh batteries, but otherwise the specifications look reasonable.

For those interested in branding, the A660D is part of the AMD Vision Ultimate line. We talked about AMD Vision with the Toshiba T235D, and the A660D belongs in the higher performing Ultimate bracket. You can read the specifics of AMD's Vision Ultimate, but the quick summary is that notebooks with this branding should provide advanced multitasking, advanced photo editing, enough power to create and edit HD movies, and enough graphics horsepower to play modern games. We could say that any reasonable laptop meets many of those requirements, but the gaming requirement in particular means you need a discrete GPU (at least for now), and the HD 5650 definitely fulfils that requirement. It's not the fastest GPU on the block, but in the mobile world the number of graphics chips that are clearly faster is very limited.

While the $949 price is going to be too high for most, there's also an A665D-S6059 that has the same feature set but with a 500GB 5400RPM drive. You can find the A665D on Newegg for just $799, making it a far more attractive buy. We actually started this review way back in July, but we ran into complication when we received pre-production hardware that had a few glitches, creating some unfortunate delays. The problems we encountered on the early samples of the A665D have been fixed in the retail A660D—and presumably the A665D as well—so unless you really want to spend $150 for the upgrade to a 7200RPM drive there's no reason to choose the more expensive model. There's also an A665D-S6051 model that drops the HD 5650 and lowers the price about $60; while we have concerns with the 5650 drivers that we'll get to shortly, the $60 saved isn't enough to make the S6051 a better option.

Frankly, the $949 MSRP is far too expensive compared to the competition, but hopefully when the A660D starts showing up at vendors other than Toshiba Direct we'll see that price drop to around $850. As we pointed out in our mobile DTR buyers' guide, you can find the Acer 7740G with an i5-430M and HD 5650 for $750, or the Acer 7551 with a faster Phenom II N930 and HD 5650 for about the same price as the A665D. Toshiba also has the A505 with an i7-720QM for $900 online right now, with a GT 330M in place of the HD 5650. The 5650 should be faster and it has DX11 support, but the GT 330M is a decent mobile midrange part that should handle 1366x768 gaming quite well. We'll want to keep an eye on how performance of the P920 compares to the i5-430M as well as the i7-720QM, not to mention checking on battery life, to see if the A660D-ST2G01 and A665D-S6059 are a good value.

Toshiba A660D-ST2G01 Inside and Out
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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    My Google-Fu was obviously weak. This is the only P520 + 5650 laptop around right now it seems, and we are working with AMD to get one. Acer likely will clock the 5650 at the full 550MHz as well, which would make it a lot more interesting.
  • silentim - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Hi, nice review. Glad to see AMD back to the game. Intel need competition these days.

    I m sorry for being off-topic here, but I can't find any anandtech official email. I'd like to ask for review for system76, one of few OEM other than Apple to ship consumer laptop other than windows, ubuntu in this case. I want to have references where I can buy laptop without m$ tax other than overpriced Apple.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    One of those should work. ;-)
  • Cal123 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Nice review btw, I thought it was objectively done. The only important thing I could think of to possibly add would be temp readings under load for cpu and gpu, to make sure the cooling system was up to snuff.
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    I seriously considered getting one of these laptops about 2 weeks ago, until I realized it didn't have amd's version of turbo boost/core. One quick look at some starcraft cpu benchmarks made me realize I would get half the frame rate of the i7-720qm. I also wasn't sure if toshiba let you use amd's laptop drivers, which you say they don't. I got a gateway one instead for $200 more, but it has the intel quad core and you can use amd's drivers. No regrets. 50% slower frame rates just wasn't worth it.
  • Roland00 - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    AMD would be competive to Intel if it had turbo and powergating.

    For example the best 35w AMD processors that AMD currently has are these three models
    AMD Phenom II x4 n930 at 4x2.0 ghz
    AMD Phenom II x3 n830 at 3x2.1 ghz
    AMD Phenom II x2 n620 at 2x2.8 ghz

    Now compare that to intel i7 720qm which works as follows with turbo (note this is a 45w processor)
    1.6 ghz Quad Core no turbo
    1.73 ghz Quad Core with turbo
    2.40 ghz Dual Core with turbo
    2.80 ghz Single Core with turbo

    If AMD had turbo and power gating it would not be unreasonable that the n930 could act as a 2.0 ghz quad core and a 2.8 ghz dual core. Thus if we are comparing straight ghz amd would possess 25% more ghz as a quad core with no turbo, 16% more ghz as a quad core, and 16% more ghz as a dual core. Now comparing ghz from different architectures is foolish for they are not the same thing, that said intel i7 mobile has a higher ipc than the phenom II mobile (which is a variant of the Athlon IIx4 of Desktops). That said the higher ipc of intel vs the higher ghz of AMD would put them real close in final speed (intel may win the benchmarks, but ask a person to "feel the difference in speed" and they would be hard pressed to differentiate.)

    Sadly AMD has no turbo or powergating thus it won't be comparable. Rumors say llano will have these features, thus that is good news for AMD, but then AMD will be competing against mobile Sandybridge which will be 10-30% faster compared to Nehalem.
  • LaptopDoctor - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    I own and operate a laptop repair business and after reading months of comments in various articles where folks are trying to justify AMD's recent poor performance, I thought I would throw in my two cents. Over the past 2-3 years I observed (and fixed) a 12 to 1 ratio of AMD based failures to Intel...mostly because of over-heating and chipset failures (HP's DV series is a great example). Seems like the vendors are trying to make AMD products compete at the mid to higher levels in thermal packaging which can't hold up much past the limited 12 month warranty. Guess this is why you can't find a ThinkPad (T-Series) with an AMD solution inside it. Unfortunately the consumers purchasing the Toshibas and HPs in this price range are really the ultimate loosers. It would be interesting for this forum to take a look at longivity in addition to speed. A fast laptop that lasts 12.5 months is a bad investment regardless of how many frames per second it can do!!!
  • The Crying Man - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - link

    Can you specify the most common AMD CPUs? I have an HP L2005CM with a Turion 64 that's still running after 4 years with the first 2 years seeing heavy use. Curious if my CPU is part of that or if it's more with the Turion Ultras that came out after.
  • LaptopDoctor - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    In most cases it is a HP, Compaq, or Toshiba with Turion 64 based system with Nvidia examples are HP DV2000,DV6000,DV9000,Compaq F500/700 series etc. But in general it is in the retail packaging versions commonly seen and sold at local retailers in the $450-800 price range. When you get inside them the quality, fit, finish - especially with the heatsink/fan and venting, point out obvious issues. Little foam pads to make up for poorly fitting heatsinks, etc. The really sad part is that if you had an unmarked Acxx or Asxx open next to a Tosxxx or Hxx (any model except their commercial machines), you would wonder what happened to American and Japanese quality. Sort of reminds you of when Honda and Toyota taught GM and Ford what quality meant. You can observe the same issues when you lay a ThinkPad or Sony heatsink/fan assembly down next to a Dell Inspiron/XPS counterpart. After the 12 month warranty is gone, you really find out that "you get what you paid for"!! I just finished taking a CQ62 apart to remove a piece of tape that was supposed to hold the wires away from the fan, instead it was acting like a mini noise maker when the fan ran....they used to route those wires in a channel so this would not it's scotch tape. Guess this site caters to "gamers" who are only concerned about how fast it will run Crysis for the next 6 months....but then again, high failure rates in the 12-20 month range is great for my business.
  • DanaG - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    "Nvidia chipset" -- remember nvidia's bumpgate fiasco?

    But yeah, it's always sucked that manufacturers include weak GPUS with AMD processors. It really reflects badly upon AMD.

    Also Toshiba fail for not offering DisplayPort. No DisplayPort means you can only use two displays at once.
    Anything with Evergreen and DisplayPort should allow three displays at once.

    DP->VGA adapters are a mere 25 bucks, and the single-link DP->DVI adapters should be 30, soon.

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