Gaming, Circa 2006

I’m still in the process of benchmarking other test systems, and it will probably be a couple of weeks, but I have nearly completed testing of 23 older/less-demanding games running on the E-350. I also tossed in a few titles that are neither old nor undemanding, like Civ5. All of the reported figures are generally from “Low” detail settings, though a few games have slightly modified settings. I also tested many of the titles at slightly higher quality settings to see what would happen. The table below summarizes the performance.

AMD E-350 Performance in Older Games
Title Detail Setting E-350 FPS Notes
Arkham Asylum
Low 29 Sluggish at times and appears mostly CPU limited; anything more than "Medium" is out of the question.
Battlefield 2 Low 50.8 Easily playable at Medium detail as well with >30FPS.
Civilization IV Medium 27 The game is playable and cursor input is separate from the frame rate; however, CPU performance can make later turns in large games take a long time.
Civilization V Minimum, DX9/DX11 9.0/11.8 Even at minimum detail, performance is pretty bad, although DX11 outperforms DX9 at minimum detail. Like several other games in our list, mouse input is handled separately from frame rates, so technically the game is playable. The opening video also stutters and has issues, but it can play back fine in Windows Media Player. Given the slow CPU and GPU performance in this title, I'd recommend skipping this on Brazos.
Company of Heroes Low 44 Average frame rates are good, but performance can drop into the low teens at times.
Crysis: Warhead Minimum 21.6 There's nothing to do for Crysis; it's too much for E-350.
Fallout 3 Low 32.9 Minimum frame rates can drop into the 20s, but in general the game is playable.
Far Cry Low 49.6 Definitely playable; Medium detail still averages nearly 40FPS.
Far Cry 2 Low 21.3 Even at minimum detail, FC2 runs poorly on E-350.
F.E.A.R. Minimum 100 Minimum frame rates were 40; you can definitely increase detail levels.
Half-Life 2 Low 31.9 This is one of the demanding sections (the Strider battle in City 17); elsewhere the game runs faster and is very playable.
Half-Life 2: Episode Two Low 26.8 Episode Two is also playable, but as indicated here you'll get some choppiness in some areas.
League of Legends Low 21.7 22FPS may seem low, but the game is playable since mouse input is separate from the frame rate; too slow for competitive players.
Minecraft Far + Fast 22.5 This is an outdoor test where frame rates were low. Mining, you see performance into the 60+ FPS range. Drop the view distance to "Normal" and you basically double the frame rate.
Need for Speed: World Low 33.5 You get periodic hiccups where the frame rate will drop severely; this seems to be server related, though, and most of the time you'll get 30+ FPS and can definitely play the game.
Oblivion Low 20.2 Ultra Low settings will improve performance but look really poor. This is an outdoor area with lots of trees, and even at 20FPS Oblivion is manageable.
Quake 4 Low 57.3 No problems at low detail, as Q4 is one of the first id games to support SMP; at higher settings it still breaks 30FPS.
STALKER: SoC Static + Min 53.2 Turn off static lighting and performance plummets into the 20s.
Supreme Commander Low 12.6 Far too CPU intensive to run on the E-350/Bobcat core.
Team Fortress 2 Low 37.8 Even at maximum detail, performance didn’t change. This may be a driver bug, but you can at least play TF2 casually.
Torchlight Netbook 45.7 Netbook mode runs great; at maximum detail without AA, you'll still get 22FPS, so somewhere in between minimum and maximum detail is the sweet spot.
Unreal Tournament 3 Low 29.7 UT3 is too demanding on the CPU for competitive play, but you can game casually. You'd want to go for UT2K4 for optimal performance from an Unreal Tournament game.
World of Warcraft Fair 49.6 I played through level 25 without trouble; even with Fair settings and maximum view distance I didn't have any problems. I can't speak to the performance in later raids, but casual players should be fine.

You can see the results of testing a broader selection of games are about as expected. Unreal Engine has always been a bit harder on the CPU than the GPU, so performance is lower than other games of that era. Quake 4 is the other side of the spectrum: it wants more GPU memory bandwidth than CPU performance, and the E-350 delivers enough to make everything besides anti-aliasing viable (at least for single-player). Several of the titles have somewhat low frame rates, but they’re still enjoyable because of the way the game is designed. Both Civilization games fall into this category, along with League of Legends.

Out of the 23 titles tested above, only three are definitely not playable at native resolution: Crysis, Far Cry 2, and Supreme Commander. [Update: Civ5 should probably be skipped as well.] The former two are somewhat newer titles, but I had requests to run them so that’s why they’re in the list. (Dropping to 800x600 might bring performance up to 30FPS, but I doubt many users are really interested in going that route as there are plenty of other options.)

Overall, gaming in the 2006 and earlier era is very doable on E-350, and you can even play some recent less-demanding games. Need for Speed: World for instance ran well enough that I played it for a few hours without any serious complaints—network lag was a bigger problem than frame rates. If you’re looking for gaming options, you might consider checking out the March issue of PC Gamer where they list their top 100 games of all time. At a quick glance, I’d say at least 80% of the games they listed would run well enough on E-350 to be enjoyable.

What About the Games? Battery Life and Temperatures
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  • Gigantopithecus - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    It will be interesting to see if MSI offers the X370 in the North American market; though at $700+, I can't imagine why you'd want to buy it. MSI isn't exactly known for the build quality of its netbooks, and their logo on something this thin makes me very leery.

    I've not handled a YB so I appreciate your comments regarding its keyboard. You don't paint a particularly compelling picture, especially since the Lenovo X120E and HP DM1Z both offer very solid keyboards. Again, it has a Sony logo on it...but is that logo worth hundreds of dollars?

    I'm not sure whether these even have WWAN slots, but if they do, would you mind checking to see if they support mSATA drives? That feature on a Brazos netbook would be very groovy...
  • Arnulf - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Thank you for testing those older game titles !
  • Kaboose - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Good to know i can do some mining while on the go for cheap, My habit is usually to find a mountain and make myself a nice cave with an extensive mine system. This type of laptop will be perfect for me because I don't go outside much anyway.
  • ImSpartacus - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Mining is very important!


    I like to go straight down in a cylindrical path until I hit bedrock and then move out from there. All the good stuff is deep in the ground.
  • Pirks - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    two cubical pervs, yuck
  • nitrousoxide - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    These two offer some overclocking features, USB 3.0 and a not-so-big-not-so-small form factor (12.1''). Can't wait for their shipment.
  • nitrousoxide - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Will user experience be significantly improved?
  • DanNeely - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    That article is still in work, but the page 1 text says that any current SSD will help.
  • ninjackn - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Maybe I was expecting too much but I shoved an ocz agility into my acer 1410 (with a su2300) and didn't really notice much. It booted faster but I generally sleep/resume so it was hard for me to notice any significant differences.
  • Quizzical - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    I've got an Acer Aspire 5253-BZ602 (upgraded with a 64 GB SSD and 4 GB of memory), which isn't one of the models reviewed here, but it should be roughly equivalent for gaming performance, as it is based on the same Zacate E-350 APU.

    I think the processor is likely to be the dominant factor in whether games can run smoothly. Usually, if the video card isn't terribly powerful, you can turn down video settings and be fine. (Well, within reason; people who buy a GeForce 6150 SE from Wal-Mart today are likely to be disappointed.) But if it's a processor bottleneck, you're stuck.

    I tried running Guild Wars, and it ran nearly the same as it does on my desktop (capped by vsync), and at nearly the same settings (shadows off because they're annoying, everything else in game maxed, including anti-aliasing, but 1366x768 resolution instead of 1280x1024). Of course, Guild Wars is so light on processor usage that my desktop processor declares itself idle and downclocks while the game is running, and without affecting performance. The bigger impediment to gameplay was that a monitor resolution a meager 768 pixels high is awkward with the default UI, though that's adjustable.

    I also tried Champions Online, which is known to be a lot more processor intensive. Even at extremely low graphical settings (safe mode in the launcher, /renderscale 0.1 for an effective resolution of 137x77), it was stuck at about 20 frames per second. I could turn up video settings quite a bit from there without the frame rate budging much.

    I don't like the idea of Civilization 4 on a netbook, though. Even my desktop Core i7 doesn't run the game that well--and not nearly as well as my old Pentium II ran Civ 2. It's a processor issue, not a graphics issue; the game can render smoothly at high settings on a Radeon X1300 Pro. Civ 4 only proves that no matter how fast your hardware is, a sufficiently badly coded game can still run poorly.

    So I'd expect that one proxy for whether the Zacate E-350 APU can run a game smoothly is whether a high end desktop can hit 200 frames per second or so at low settings, without running into a processor bottleneck first.

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