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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  • georgec84 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    These chis look great! I hope it can provide AMD with a small spark. They certainly seem to be looking up compared to 2 years ago. Reply
  • Nintendo Maniac 64 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    I think it would have been interesting if Anand tested the CPU against some older mid-range to high-end CPUs. From my own assessments it looks like Jaguar has slightly better IPC than K8 and is overall comparable to the original Phenom (though obviously without the huge power consumption). Reply
  • JDG1980 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    I really want to see a comprehensive rundown of single-threaded tests with constant clock rate. We have a rough idea of which architectures have better IPC, but I'd like to see some hard numbers. Reply
  • Streetwind - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    This is the first real step forard for AMD I've seen in nearly a decade... everything else were minor clock speed bumps, experimental architectures that ended up being slower clock-for-clock than the old ones, big iGPUs and shuffling around its product stack to target a changing market with the same technology.

    The performance advantage Intel has accumulated over the years means that AMD can still only really compete via price, but Kabini is finally the kind of product that attempts to narrow the gap with the competition again. Please AMD, more of this! Maybe in one or two years we the consumers will have a real choice in the x86 market again if you keep it up.
    Reply
  • KaarlisK - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Regarding memory performance: as I understand it, Kabini supports two DIMMs, but only single-channel. Reply
  • darkich - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Why are you always comparing that dual core ARM chip?
    Why not Octa chip?(like, the best currently available ARM chip)
    And why always avoid using Geekbench, but instead use a heavily software dependant tests?
    This always seems to be case when dealing with ARM on this site.
    Really, it looks like a deliberate undermining of the architecture, in my mind.
    Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    One: the "octa chip" is really quad-core.

    Two: Geekbench is not a great benchmark utility, especially when comparing cross-platform.

    Three: Attributing an anti-ARM agenda to this website is pretty freakin' silly.
    Reply
  • darkich - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    One: the chip has 4+4 independently operated core clusters.
    Operating at low power cores makes for a very advanced solution, compared to big cores revving down for a certain task.
    Besides, what does your remark have to do with what I said?
    My point is, Octa is a FAR more capable ARM chip than the one used in this comparison.. yet it doesn't cost more, and consumes up to 70% less power.

    Two: as opposed to what? Comparing Chrome for Android with Chrome for Windows?
    Geekbench is not perfect, but it is the best you can try when comparing across platforms.
    It is the ONLY credible comparison of pure processing abilities in this case.

    Three: answer the first two then. What am I missing here?
    Reply
  • darkich - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    Correction..I meant two modules (core clusters), with 4 cores each, of course Reply
  • Wilco1 - Thursday, May 23, 2013 - link

    And those 2x4 cores can run simulataneously with the right software, hence the name Octa.

    I agree with darkich that Anand always appears to show ARM in the worst light, first by only showing JavaScript browser tests rather than native code benchmarks, and second by insisting on the Chrome browser rather than the stock or fastest available browser. For example Geekbench shows that Exynos Octa easily beats Bobcat at the same frequency:

    http://browser.primatelabs.com/geekbench2/compare/...

    This means Jaguar will get very close to A15 - until Cortex-A57 is released of course.
    Reply

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