Update: Be sure to read our full review of AMD's E-350 here.

Last week I mentioned that I had recently spent some time with AMD down in Austin, TX, benchmarking its upcoming Brazos platform. The Brazos platform is composed of an AMD Zacate or Ontario APU and the Fusion Controller Hub (a South Bridge based on the SB800 series). Brazos systems will run the gamut of mainstream notebook, netbook and nettop segments ranging from $299 to around $500. While AMD let us reveal the fact that we tested Brazos, we weren't allowed to publish numbers last week. Today, we can.

I didn’t have much time with Brazos. The AMD briefing started at 9AM, but AMD wanted to go through some marketing slides and answer questions before letting us at Brazos. Going into this whole thing I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to run everything I wanted to run. You see, the system I had access to wasn’t pre-configured. It had Windows 7 x64 loaded on it, drivers installed and PCMark Vantage - but everything else was up to me. Despite having a 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300, installing a dozen applications and games still took hours on the system. I asked AMD if I could at least begin copying/installing some applications before we started the briefing, they gladly entertained my request.

I brought an SSD full of applications, games and benchmarks that I wanted to run on the Brazos platform. I purposefully avoided any large test suites (PCMark Vantage, SYSMark) because they would eat up a lot of time and I had no idea how long the rest of the benchmarking would take.


The Brazos test platform

I also didn’t run any of our media streaming suite. The Zacate/Ontario APUs feature AMD’s UVD3 engine and should, in theory, have similar media playback features to the Radeon HD 6000 series. Of course once we have final systems it’ll be easier to put this to the test. I was mainly interested in characterizing the CPU and GPU performance of Brazos, the two major unknowns.

I didn’t get into the full swing of testing until just before 11AM, and we had a hard stop at 5PM. That didn’t leave a ton of time, but I believe it left enough to get a good idea for what Brazos will perform like in the real world.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of our coverage, the system felt snappy. I had the 11-inch MacBook Air on hand (it served as my Excel-runner while I benchmarked) and interacting with the OS felt no different between the Brazos system and the 1.6GHz MBA. That being said, the MBA is technically much quicker (and more expensive).

AMD Brazos Lineup
APU Model Number of Bobcat Cores CPU Clock Speed GPU Number of GPU Cores GPU Clock Speed TDP
AMD E-350 2 1.6GHz Radeon HD 6310 80 500MHz 18W
AMD E-240 1 1.5GHz Radeon HD 6310 80 500MHz 18W
AMD C-50 2 1.0GHz Radeon HD 6250 80 280MHz 9W
AMD C-30 1 1.2GHz Radeon HD 6250 80 280MHz 9W

The system I tested had AMD’s E-350 processor, the highest end APU you’ll find on a Brazos. This is the chip you’ll find in $400 nettops and notebooks in the $400 - $500 range. This puts its direct competition as really expensive Atom based netbooks, Pentium dual-core notebooks and low end Core i3 notebooks. While the latter two should easily outperform the E-350 in CPU intensive tasks, the GPU comparison is another story entirely. It’s also worth noting that the E-350 carries an 18W TDP (including graphics). During my testing I measured a maximum total system power consumption of around 30W (including the 1366 x 768 LCD panel) while playing games and around 25W while encoding H.264 on the two Bobcat cores. The system idled around 15W however AMD cautioned me that this number was unnaturally high. Final Brazos systems will be far more power optimized and AMD expects numbers to drop down to as low as 5.6W.

AMD is confident we will see Brazos based systems deliver well beyond 6 hours of battery life. AMD's goal is to deliver Atom like battery life and form factors, with a real GPU and hopefully better than Atom performance. We spent our time in Austin trying to find out if its goals were realistic.

Setting Performance Expectations
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  • mino - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Yeah, as well as some fail to see the forest for the treas. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    The focus here is obviously Zacate, which is why the text that accompanies graphs is centered around comparisons with reference to Zacate.

    As far as the gaming benchmarks go. I tried to put together a varied list of titles to show performance across a spectrum of game types. Starcraft 2 was the largest non-FPS game release this year, it of course had to be included. DAO simply provided another datapoint for an RPG showing how CPU limits can appear even in 3D games.

    I don't think anyone is arguing that Intel's HD Graphics are faster (note the title on the desktop IGP comparison page). But I do believe it's important to show both sides of the coin.

    Once final hardware is out we'll definitely spend more time with the platform and run through an even wider range of games and benchmarks. This merely serves as a preview until then.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    "Once final hardware is out we'll definitely spend more time with the platform and run through an even wider range of games and benchmarks. This merely serves as a preview until then."

    That is expected and waited for! :D

    Just think about splitting at least the conclusion as I have mentioned above. ;)
    Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    I find it more strange that you're criticizing the gaming benchmark selections. Consumers don't talk about "this game is very CPU intensive" when they typically buy games.

    The average Joe does not care how CPU intensive Starcraft 2 or Civilization 5 is. They just want to play it.

    These are both popular games, so their inclusion in the benchmarks is perfectly acceptable.

    Crysis is quite CPU intensive. Are you going to criticize Crysis as well for being CPU intensive?

    I guess any games that show Zacate as a poor performer should not be used according to you right?
    Reply
  • Jamahl - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    I have no issue with Starcraft 2 being used.

    I do have an issue with Starcraft 2, Civ 5 and Dragons Age being used however. These are supposed to be gaming benchmarks, yet the majority of them are far more cpu dependent.

    This is not the norm in gaming, however it is the norm in Anands benchmarking.

    You would be very hard pressed to find two games more cpu dependent than Starcraft 2 and Dragons Age.
    Reply
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    I will bet you anything that Diablo 3 will be very CPU intensive.

    As I mentioned, Crysis is CPU intensive. What do you have to say regarding that?

    While these are only a few games, these are very popular games.

    What exactly do you mean that it is not "the norm"? Do you mean to say that most sites don't include Starcraft 2 or Dragon Age in benchmarks? I don't see why people would have issues with this. It illustrates a variety of games that stress different parts of a computer.

    RPG and strategy games are typically quite CPU intensive. Also, they are rarely included in gaming benchmarks.

    I for one applaud Anand for including them, as far too many sites lack these kinds of benchmarks.
    Reply
  • Jamahl - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    Crysis is cpu AND gpu intensive. The point is most benchmarking suites would not have a MAJORITY of cpu intensive games. There's a reason why people actually spend a lot of money on gpu's.

    Did you even read Anands preview? Let me help you understand as you're making a great job of failing to.

    Page 2 - "Setting Performance Expectations"

    You get a slower CPU than most existing mainstream platforms, but a much better GPU.

    The expectations here are better CPU performance than Atom, but lower than Arrandale ULV. GPU performance should easily trump both.

    Then what does he do? Well lets look at the gaming benchmarks shall we?

    First of all, lets look at the comparison benchmarks.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3871/the-sandy-bridg...
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2952/2

    So the 5450 was benched using a i5 661 and an i7 920 - And you wonder why Bobcat can't keep up? To see if it is actually close to discrete graphics performance, it should have been benched on a 1.5ghz athlon for a fair comparison.

    1 in 3 of the desktop tests was Dragon age - a massively cpu bound game which hugely favours intel cpu's over AMD's...and he benched it in comparison to a 5450 with two fast intel cpu's. Not right however you look at it. MW2 is not particularly heavy on graphics either so basically the only true graphical test is Bioshock 2.

    Next page

    In the mobile gaming comparison, he's gone and added Starcraft 2 - TWICE.

    Lets see what we got then -

    MW 2 - 50/50 split cpu/gpu
    Bioshock 2 - gpu
    Dragon Age - cpu
    Warcraft - 50/50 split
    SC2 TWICE - (yes even the gpu test is more like cpu obviously looking at the results)
    I'm not even gonna talk about using Civ 5. Civ 5 got a huge question mark over it's reliability in the fallout over the 6800 benchmarks, then he goes and uses it here?

    So...yeah. ONE pure recognised gpu benchmark used in all of those tests compared to 3 or 4 cpu gaming benchmarks.

    It's really very simple. benchmark 20 games at random and Bobcat will beat any intel integrated graphics by around 50% in 15 of them. Anand has managed to make it lose more often that not in the very, very few games that massively favour cpu's.

    The fact is, he knows this or should. He said at the start what to expect, then went and benchmarked what he knew would happen.
    Reply
  • techworm - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    all of us know anandtech is intel PR site so no complaint Reply
  • nitrousoxide - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Watch your words, unless you can give evidence that Anand is indeed an Intel PR. Reply
  • silverblue - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Do me a favour and step back before making judgements.

    If Anand was biased towards Intel, why would AMD even entertain him with an offer to benchmark their newest CPU, let alone let him publish the results? He already said he was time constrained so you can't very well do everything. Moreover, he did mention that this was a "preview" - this isn't final silicon, it's an engineering sample, and that the final product should use less power.

    You should be grateful that there's a preview at all.

    It is a shame that the chip seems bandwidth starved, but I don't think AMD ever intended for it to be a triple-channel, SMT-enabled, out-of-order ULV solution - just think of the cost. As long as it does what you want of it, isn't that its point? Atom was "just enough" for browsing, basic media and light workloads, yet Brazos is at the very least an improvement in IPC, and substantially better if you take into account gaming, movies and so on. If Anand truly wanted to give it a bad name, he wouldn't have benched so many games AND highlighted where the chip's true strengths are. He also mentioned that most games should be GPU bound and thus will extol the virtues of the Brazos architecture - how very anti-AMD of him (!).
    Reply

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