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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  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    All of us know some Anandtech posters are AMD PR people, so no surprise here.
  • silverblue - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    Yep, and I, for example, wouldn't be running a low-end Phenom II X3 setup if I was getting fees from AMD for hyping their products (which I clearly am not, anyway).

    Do yourself a favour and stop spouting rubbish about conspiracies where none exist.
  • nitrousoxide - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    OK, so Anand said that no worries about CULV Sandy Bridge series because they are more expensive, power-hungrier and bigger chips which is not a good deal for OEM manufacturers. What about the new Atom CPUs then? Intel is going to upgrade them to 32nm, which is twice as faster as today's 45nm Atoms, or half the power consumption at the same performance. Though bobcat has more efficient OoO architecture, Intel can easily improve the performance of Atom by adding more cores or tune up the frequency given the superiority of 32nm.

    AMD will definitely win this wave of competition, but its successor won't come until 2012. How will Fusion APUs compete with the future Atoms which will be defnitely faster then current models?
  • silverblue - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Yes but isn't Brazos 32nm at the very least? There's really no sense in throwing out a 3GHz dual core APU of this class because it would simply use too much power. Also, there's not much justification for any sort of Turbo clocking.

    What MIGHT significantly improve performance would be a dual channel memory controller (especially in the case of the GPU) but I don't know what that would mean for the die size nor the power consumption.

    Let's remind ourselves of a couple of things - AMD's two thread out-of-order architecture is still beating Intel's four thread in-order architecture at the same clock speed. Brazos also has Atom completely beaten in lesser threaded workloads. Considering the primary target of these platforms isn't supposed to be massive workloads, the AMD solution will still be more capable than Intel's... for now.
  • silverblue - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Apparently Brazos is 40nm. When they put it onto 32nm, I imagine that anything Intel does with Atom in terms of a die shrink won't be enough to put it back in front of Brazos. We'll see.
  • mino - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    No 32nm SOI Bobcat APU will see the light of the day.

    There will be a Zacate/Ontario successor in H1 2012 at 28nm bulk(GloFo).

    2-4 Bobcat+ cores, ~120 SP's (mostly likely 2*64 SP's of a newer design)
  • silverblue - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    So that's where 28nm came in. You must forgive me, I lost track on that one.

    So yes, imagine the power drop from 40 to 28 even with a more powerful CPU. This one might even please Dark_Archonis. Might.
  • mino - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    More like making him furious :D
  • mino - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    "Worried about whether it can survive the next wave of attack by Intel"

    The funny part is that AMD's 2011 product portfolio is as strong as it has not been for the past 15yrs.
    It is AMD attacking this time around gals. Just think about it for a minute ... 1999 ... 2003 ... 2011 ...
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Q4 2011/Q1 2012 TSMC will deliver the next low power Fusion at 28nm.

    Krishna & Wichita with 2 and 4 cores flavors (real ones).

    Anandtech an Inteltech site? We all know that, just leave with it.

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