AMD’s Kabini Laptop Prototype

AMD shipped hardware sites special prototype laptops, similar to what we’ve seen in the past with Sandy Bridge, Llano, Ivy Bridge, and Trinity. These systems typically aren’t intended to hit retail outlets, though in some cases they may be very similar to production laptops; I’d guess that’s not the case with the Kabini prototype.

The laptop is actually very interesting in some areas, but it has major flaws in others—chiefly the build quality, keyboard, and touchpad. There’s more flex in this keyboard than in a steroid laced bodybuilding contest, and the feel of both the keys as well as the touchpad is poor at best. Those are areas that are easy to address, and given we’re not looking at hardware intended for retail sales it’s not too much of a problem; we only need the laptop for benchmarks right now.

If that’s the bad news, what’s the interesting aspect? The display. It’s the first high quality 1080p 14” LCD I’ve personally encountered. It’s an AU Optronics AHVA (Advanced Hyper-Viewing Angle) panel, model AUO B140HAN01.1. I’m hopeful that with AMD using such a panel in a prototype laptop, we may finally be nearing the end of the horrible 1366x768 panels…but don’t hold your breath.

Here’s the short rundown of the laptop’s hardware.

AMD Kabini Prototype Specifications
Processor AMD A4-5000M
(Quad-core 1.50GHz, 2MB L2, 28nm, 15W)
Chipset Yangtze
Memory 4GB (1x4GB) DDR3L-1600 (11-11-11-28?)
Graphics AMD HD 8330
(128 cores, 500MHz)
Display 14.0" Anti-Glare 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(AUO B140HAN01.1)
Storage 320GB Toshiba HDD (MQ01ABD032)
Optical Drive DVDRW (HL-DT-ST GU70N)
Networking 802.11n WiFi (Broadcom BCM43228)
(Dual-band 2x2:2 300Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Broadcom)
Gigabit Ethernet (Atheros AR8161)
Audio Conexant HD (R600)
Stereo Speakers
Headphone/Microphone combo jack
Battery/Power 6-cell, 15V, 3000mAh, 45Wh
65W Max AC Adapter
Front Side Flash Reader (MMC/SD)
Left Side 1 x USB 3.0 (Powered when Sleeping)
1 x Mini-HDMI
1 x VGA
Gigabit Ethernet
Exhaust Vent
AC Power Connection
Right Side Headphone and Microphone
2 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive
Kensington Lock
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 13.34" x 9.47" x 0.88" (WxDxH)
(339mm x 241mm x 22.4mm)
Weight 3.81 lbs (1.73kg)
Extras Webcam
86-Key Keyboard

Just to call out a couple noteworthy items, first is the single-channel memory configuration. In theory that could be hampering performance somewhat, but we have no real way of knowing. While the laptop does support two SO-DIMMs, Kabini only supports a single-channel interface, so adding a second SO-DIMM wouldn't help.

The other configuration item I want to call out is the storage device, specifically the Toshiba HDD. Hard drives are slow, we all know this, but our experience over the past several years suggests that Toshiba’s 5400RPM hard drives are even slower than other offerings. Anand installed an SSD to run PCMark 7 for comparison, and that certainly helps with overall responsiveness. Realistically, though, we’re not at the stage where I expect laptops using Kabini to ship with SSDs—even an inexpensive 128GB SSD will increase the total BoM by 15% or more, which isn’t going to fly in the budget sector Kabini is destined to compete in.

Before we get to the actual benchmarks, let me go over the general impression of the system in day-to-day use. For much of what you might do (e.g. surfing the web, watching streaming videos, emailing, and office use), Kabini works well. Technically even Atom and Brazos can handle most of those tasks, but there’s a noticeable speed up in typical use. However, there are also occasions where the system really bogs down; some of that may be thanks to the slow HDD, or (less likely) the single-channel memory, but while Jaguar cores are a step up in performance from Brazos cores (never mind Intel’s Atom variants), they’re still nowhere near as fast as a Trinity or Ivy Bridge core.

What Kabini really brings to the table is ultra low power requirements with performance that’s a great match for ultraportable devices. We’ll see the Temash APUs (basically a lower power Kabini) in tablets, but Kabini may find its way into a few larger tablets as well as hybrid devices. At 9W and 15W TDPs, basically anywhere we’ve seen Intel’s ULV cores show up is a place that Kabini can go as well. There are compromises you’ll have to make one way or the other (faster CPU, faster GPU, battery life, drivers, features, etc.), and I don’t think there’s going to be a single “correct” solution for every device out there. Choice is the name of the game, and even if you decide Kabini may not be right for you at least it’s good to have an alternative.

Introducing AMD's 2013 Mainstream APU Platform, aka Kabini Kabini vs. Clover Trail & ARM
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  • takeship - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    True, price will keep most budget buyers out of Haswell powered ultrabooks. Not so for the now-on-clearance-sale Ivy Bridge Dell & HPs though. And in that market Kabini loses most of it's price advantage, while still giving worse performance & marginal battery life improvements. There it's the new $500 plastic Kabini laptop, vs. the $600 aluminum IVB Lenovo. I just don't see that being a win. Reply
  • Gaugamela - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    The HP Pavilion 11 Touchsmart costs 400$. It has a 10-point touchscreen. So, the 400$ touch enabled Kabini seems mighty atractive compared to the 600$ Lenovo now. Reply
  • axien86 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link


    Touche! Thanks to AMD for providing alternatives to Intel's Atoms and higher priced CPUs.
    Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Besides the price issue, you seem to be quite missing the point of a low-power architecture like Jaguar. Let me know when ULV Ivy Bridge can scale down to 3.9W.

    Also, a lot of people seem to have trouble comprehending the fact that TDP doesn't really have much in common with the actual power draw of the chip (or the heat output). We've already seen what happens when you try to cram even the lowest wattage Ivy Bridge into a modern tablet form factor: high temperatures w/ fans, low battery life, high price.
    Reply
  • Gaugamela - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    It competes with an Sandy Bridge ULV i3 and it gets quite close to a i3 Ivy, while offering better battery life.
    Seems like a clear proposition to me: if Pentium like performance is what you need this offers you that and better GPU performance. Perfect for the low-end of the ultrathin/ultrabook market.
    Reply
  • andrewaggb - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    yeah, pretty much how I read it as well. Assuming you can afford to pay an extra $200 dollars there's not much reason (other than possibly graphics drivers) to not get haswell instead. Reply
  • aryonoco - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Very interesting article. Just a few notes:

    I'm not sure that Exynos 5250 is the best representative of Cortex A15. For one, it's dual core without any HT so at a massive disadvantage in a test like Kraken. Secondly, it came out in actual device in the market about 7 months ago. By the time Kabini shows in products, it will probably be over 8 months later. We'll have other Cortex A15 parts by then, and if the Tegra 4 Kraken scores that I'm hearing (~6000) is right, and if something Tegra 4 is using about half as much power as this 15W Kabini, then Kabini suddenly doesn't look that competitive.

    Of course as you say, the success of Kabini will depend on what OEMs do with it, but traditionally these cheap AMD parts find themselves in devices that are compromised in everyway. Even if we get a 1080p screen this time around (which I'm hopeful), we'll still have to deal with sub-optimal keyboards, trackpads that work only half the time, and other cost-cutting measures we are familiar with. For this to succeed, someone needs to put it in a Ultrabook-style laptop, with good display, good keyboard and no software glitches, and price it under $500. That's a tall task.

    HP just announced a very interesting Slatebook X2 running Android (not skinned) on Tegra 4 with 1080p IPS screen and a Transformer-style detachable dock for $479, including the dock (sidenote, I was disappointed there was no coverage of this on AT). If the performance claims for Tegra 4 (and other future more optimized Cortex A15 parts) are accurate, with such devices on the horizon, will there even be a cheap Ultrabook-style market left for Kabini to compete in? Can Kabini find its way into similar designs by major OEMs? I hope, for everyone's sake that AMD can succeed, but I am doubtful.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    I certainly think Kabini can go into the same designs that we're seeing Tegra 4 target. Which will end up being faster? That's a different question, and I'm not sure we have enough information to come to a conclusion right now. If Kabini/Temash can get into tablets sooner rather than later, they've got a chance. If it takes 6-8 months, you're right: it may not matter at that point. Reply
  • Gaugamela - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    HP just announced their back to school products and there is a successor to the HP dm1 that will cary A4's and A6's. Reply
  • Exophase - Friday, May 24, 2013 - link

    No Cortex-A15 has HT, and Kraken is single threaded anyway. I think Kraken just isn't a great benchmark. Although its makers say it's a lot better than Sunspider it shares a lot of the same sorts of problems:

    1) It's Javascript which has its own unique (pretty severe) overheads which can dominate run-time to the extent that it drowns out a lot of the variation from the type of JS code you're running. JS is used and it's important, but even today on good JITs most JS code is several times (think 5 times) slower than an equivalent written in something like C++ or even Java, making it a bad representation of performance of more efficient software.
    2) Much of what it does - path finding, signal processing, and crypto - is not the kind of stuff Javascript is usually used for.
    3) Its test durations are really short, which is bad for benchmarks in general but can be especially bad for JITs where it
    4) The variation in current browsers is extreme (http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=8&... where you can see some tests are substantially faster and others substantially slower. This again highlights the big overheads of Javascript and the impact of different JIT strategies, but also that the state of performance is still pretty volatile. A similar sort of variation could manifest between different backends (ie, x86 vs ARM) even for the same browser.

    Cross-architecture comparisons are hard and I don't blame people for using JS when there's not a lot else available (although at least some other inclusions would be nice).. but you shouldn't draw a very broad conclusion from a Kraken comparison alone. And if you did that it'd also make the Kabini vs i5 comparison look a lot worse than a lot of other tests show.
    Reply

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