Applications, Round Two: Treading Water

Futuremark PCMark Vantage

Futuremark PCMark05

Cinebench R10 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R10 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Single-Threaded Benchmark

Cinebench R11.5 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark

x264 HD Benchmark - First Pass

x264 HD Benchmark - Second Pass

This time we have a more interesting competitor to look at: the Toshiba A660D. AMD says Turbo Core works at speeds of up to 2.4GHz on the A8-3500M, but we have no way of monitoring the actual CPU clocks right now. (CPU-Z if you’re wondering shows a constant 1.5GHz, but AMD says that utility doesn’t currently detect the proper clocks.) When we compare performance results between the Llano notebook and the A660D, we definitely see some differences in performance. Some of that may come from the added L2 cache and other architectural tweaks, but Cinebench R10 in particular shows a healthy 17% performance increase, even with a base clock that’s 7% lower. In the multi-threaded Cinebench result, the lead drops to 10%, which correlates well with how we’d expect Turbo Core to work. PCMark Vantage is still heavily influenced by the storage subsystem, and the storage score of 2950 on the A660D versus 3791 on the Llano suggests the Toshiba HDD is a significant bottleneck.

Looking at other laptops and tests where we’re looking purely at CPU performance, suddenly Llano starts to struggle. The Arrandale i5-520M offers 92% higher single-threaded performance in Cinebench R10 and 48% better single-threaded performance in R11.5; multi-threaded performance also goes to Arrandale, with a 23% lead in R10 and 17% lead in R11.5. x264 also gives Arrandale a decent lead, with i5-520M 17% faster in the first pass and 29% faster in the more intense second pass. The overclocked i3-380M in ASUS’ U41JF tells a similar tale—and both of these laptops are running processors from early last year. When we shift to Sandy Bridge, even without looking at the quad-core parts AMD’s CPU performance is tenuous. The i5-2520M is anywhere from 50 to 150 percent faster depending on which test we look at; even if we toss out the older Cinebench R10 single-threaded result of 150%, R11.5 given the 2520M a 94% lead. In general, then, a moderate dual-core Sandy Bridge i5-series processor looks to be at least 30% faster, so quad-core Llano really only competes with Core i3 and its lower, non-Turbo clocks.

None of the results here are particularly surprising; K10.5 even at 32nm is still largely the same performance. AMD has focused this round up upgrades more on reducing power consumption rather than increasing performance, and that’s a perfectly reasonable approach for a mobile CPU. Most of us probably aren’t doing 3D rendering, CAD/CAM, or unassisted video transcoding on our laptops anyway. It would still be great to see AMD offer up an equivalent to Intel’s Quick Sync; they have the better GPU architecture, but a dedicated decoder like Quick Sync can clearly pay dividends. Outside of that one deficit the reality is that Llano is still plenty fast. Slapping an SSD into Llano will make more of a difference than upgrading an HDD-based Llano laptop to Core i5, so if you’re looking for an inexpensive laptop that can do everything most users need, Llano is very appealing.

Application Performance, Round One: PCMark 7 Fusion GPUs: A Long-Awaited Upgrade to IGPs Everywhere


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  • ionave - Thursday, June 16, 2011 - link

    I'm honestly sick of the fact I can't play TF2 on high settings on my laptop AND I cannot find an affordable computer to do so while I'm not paying attention during class. Several people I know feel the same way. Reply
  • krumme - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    The GPU performance hits dues to the shares bus is very low. Getting NV 540 /ati 5650 performance is far better than most expected.
    Battery life is simply amazing. Far better than expected.

    The OEM is standing at a very long line for this.
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    That battery life is incredibly impressive. That AMD will finally have a competitive mobile offering is huge news; their engineers definitely deserve a pat on the back. Let's just hope that OEMs don't mess things up by cutting costs and shipping Llano laptops with tiny batteries.

    Unfortunately AMD will almost certainly struggle to get the message across that their CPU performance deficit is pretty much irrelevant for the vast majority of mobile usage models. It'll be especially difficult to get across to the huge number of consumers that think a 2GB 6570 is better than a 768MB GTX 460, but I wish AMD's marketing department the best of luck.
  • Dribble - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    They'll struggle because cpu performance deficit does matter, cpu performance matters more then gpu performance for most of us. While llano might be *enough* today everyone buys a notebook and expects it too last several years.

    If llano currently only has the performance of a notebook several years old (core 2 intel) then you can bet in 3 years it'll be dog slow.

    Really its only a winner for a pretty small margin of people. If you don't really care about gaming you go intel because cpu's are faster, if you really care about gaming you go intel + discrete. That leaves those who really care about gaming but are on an extremely tight budget.
  • ET - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I think that you underestimate the effect of price. If you really care about gaming you go desktop, anyway. If you want a reasonable size laptop with good battery life and capable of some gaming, Llano will fit the bill, and if it sells considerably lower than the competition, then I'm sure a lot of people will buy it. It won't be anyones main gaming rig, but it will surely serve many as a secondary one.

    I agree that Llano is disappointing at the CPU level, but it really should be enough for most people. How well it sells will depend on pricing. There are big E-350 laptops being sold, which boggles the mind, and there wouldn't be if all people really cared or had any clue about performance.
  • ppeterka - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    I strongly disagree with you. My first notebook was exceptionally crappy in terms of raw CPU power. Desktop P4 Celeron 2.6GHz was used to power it. Yet I could use it for more than 4 years, after which I changed the CPU to a 2.8GHz P4, only to discover that the "user experience" was left unchanged except of the rare cases when I used the computer to work on it. Compile times were not left unchanged...

    But even with the Celeron in, the casual usage was just fine. Why? Because of the quite nice VIA IGP in it. I could actually play GTA San Andreas on the poor thing - even though there were times it was not very much fun, but it did work. Swapping the CPU didn't make it much better, only considering work duties.

    Today "everything" is about multimedia. By "everything" I mean 80% of what the people are doing. Youtube, Facebook, who-knows-what, all. None of my friends ever regretted heeding to my advice to choose a notebook with a reasonable graphics solution even when there would be an altenative type with a stronger CPU. (of course not to the extremities). Granted, they were not primarily interested in scientific calculations, or heavy duty software development.
  • Dribble - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Multimedia doesn't need llano's gpu - SB graphics accelerates video just fine. Hence why you are recommending something that has better 3D graphics performance they'll never use, over something with a faster cpu which they will use all the time? Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    You claim that CPU performance matters. That's true, but can you answer the following -

    1) Consider two laptops side by side. One has a ~2.5GHz C2D, one has a quad-core Sandy Bridge. Name a single task more than 5% of mobile users run that would allow you to definitively tell which laptop is running the C2D and which has the SB. (Task Manager doesn't count, I'm talking actually using an application.)

    2) Name a single task or application that theoretically might let you do the above once it's widespread in the next 3-5 years.

    3) What percentage of laptops are sold for <$1000 with roughly Llano or below levels of graphics?

    4) What percentage of laptop buyers care about battery life?

    My answers are -
    1) No clue
    2) No clue
    3) Most of them
    4) Most of them

    That's why I say that Llano's battery life is huge and its CPU performance really doesn't matter. Even Intel agrees, which is one reason why you're seeing them move towards lower-power CPUs. Ivy Bridge will have "configurable" TDP, and Haswell will move from 35-35W to 10-20W:
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    3) The fact is you can get a laptop with better GPU performance and faster CPU performance for $700-750 on the Intel side:

    i5 480 + HD5730 for $700:

    i5 480 + GT 540M (which beat 6620 in almost every gaming benchmark in this review) for $700:

    i5 480 + HD6550M for $700:

    i5 2410 + GT 540M for $750:

    Every single one of these provides faster CPU & GPU performance (

    So Llano A-8 would need to be less than $700.
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - link

    Can you find faster GPUs for <$1000? Sure, but that wasn't the question. Go to Dell or HP's website and look at the number of laptops priced under $1000, then look at the percentage of those that come with significantly better than Llano-level graphics.

    There's much more to determining the value of a laptop than raw CPU and GPU performance; you could easily pay more than $700 for a Llano laptop and still be getting a very good deal.

    I'm not saying whether or not Llano should target this or that price point, though - I'm just trying to give a little perspective.

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