AMD has fallen on some hard times, dating back to the launch of Intel's Core 2 lineup in the fall of 2006. Many enthusiasts have been feeling quite anxious, holding out hope that Barcelona would mark the return of yesterday's AMD, where the K8 architecture basically scored a knockout punch for the underdog, but the chances of that occurring are becoming increasingly unlikely. At least in terms of raw performance, Intel has a roadmap in place that should keep the heavyweight belt firmly in their grasp. However, as many people are ready to point out, performance isn't everything. Is there some truth to that statement, or is it a convenient phrase that merely serves as an excuse? That's what we're here to find out.

It's no secret that the mobile PC market trails the desktop and server markets quite a bit in terms of computational power. Quad-core desktop systems are becoming increasingly common, and octal-core workstations and servers are more affordable than ever before. Bounce back to the mobile market and you will find plenty of dual-core offerings, but only at lower clock speeds. Laptops also come with slower memory, hard drives (with the exception of the new solid-state models), graphics chips, and system buses. Not surprisingly, for about $1500 you can build a high-quality desktop system that is capable of outperforming even the fastest notebook currently on the market. On the other hand, you can't easily take such a system on the road with you - and you certainly can't use it in an airplane or car. And if you want to talk about performance per watt, many notebooks are able to offer competitive performance to desktop systems that consume two or three times as much power.

In fact, compared to one year ago, about the only significant changes to the desktop performance landscape are the addition of quad-core CPUs and extreme performance graphics chips, neither of which are really necessary for a large number of computer users. Businesses in particular don't require such amenities, as they are rarely running their computers at full load and they don't tend to run a lot of 3D applications (aka "games"). Adding higher performance parts to such an environment would simply increase energy usage without necessarily increasing productivity. Throw in the mobility factor of notebooks, and there are a lot of businesses that are getting away from traditional desktops and moving towards using laptops for most of their employees. (There are exceptions of course, so we are speaking about typical businesses - game developers, 3D animation studios, and other high-performance computing companies can and do continue to use desktops and workstations.)

A couple months ago, AMD quietly launched their newest update to their mobile Turion X2 processor line. The latest addition is the TL-66, which increases the maximum clock speed to 2.3GHz, an admittedly small bump in performance relative to the TL-64 that runs at 2.2GHz. However, the TL-66 also holds the distinction of being one of the first 65nm Turion X2 parts to hit the market. The Brisbane core was AMD's first 65nm part, and while that part wasn't much faster than the previous 90nm offerings it did lower power requirements somewhat. With a more mature 65nm process, it certainly makes sense for AMD to migrate their mobile CPU production to the new fabrication facilities. We've got HP's 6515b business laptop in-house for testing, equipped with both a TL-60 and a TL-66 processor, so we will be able to see exactly what has changed (if anything) with AMD's new mobile CPU.

Naturally, we also want to look at how AMD's fastest Turion X2 compares to Intel's latest Core 2 Duo laptop processors. As we want to keep the system configurations as similar as possible, we will be focusing on performance compared to HP's dv6500t, which is based off of Intel's Santa Rosa platform. It's also noteworthy that both of these notebooks use integrated graphics, so we will also take a moment to look at the current state of IGPs. These are not strictly apples-to-apples comparisons, but by the time we're through with the benchmarks we should have a fair idea of how the two mobile platforms currently compare to each other.

HP 6515b Overview
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  • tomycs - Sunday, December 9, 2007 - link

    Since we talk about bargains i guess a comparison between the previous generation mid-range (Geforce 7600, ATI X1600) and the entry level graphic chips (Geforce 8400, AMD/ATI HD2300) would have been nice.
    I find myself choosing between 2 HP's almost equal specs (almost no differences between AMDX2 TL60 and Intel T5500) but one with ATI X1600 and the other with the 8400GS. I'm almost sure i will takle the X1600 because of build quality and screen, but i would have liked some numbers regarding 3D performance.
  • mobileuser2007 - Wednesday, October 10, 2007 - link

    Nice summary Jarred.
    I was a little surprised to not see anything about video quality. I, for one, don't do any gaming on my notebook but I do watch DVD movies while traveling. It seems the only way AT measures the success of "graphics" is how well they play games. Any thoughts on comparing systems on other visual aspects?
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 10, 2007 - link

    I guess the real problem is that I think most laptop LCDs suck, which means that even if the video card does an excellent job at decoding DVDs or whatever, the display quality makes this a moot point. I didn't think the 6515b was any better or worse than the dv6500t (or any other notebook, really) when it comes to DVD playback. Of course, you can always just get a different DVD decoder application that can make a big difference. DVD decoding is now at the point where the CPU can do all the work and still only put a moderate load on a CPU, even with higher complexity decoding algorithms that improve image quality.

    Maybe I didn't pay enough attention, though, so I'll see if I can notice any difference with additional testing.
  • magao - Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - link

    Thank you very much for this article.

    I've been looking for a new laptop for the several months, and have almost settled on one of the 6515b, 6510b (if I can find one in Australia) or (most likely) the 6710b.

    I've been searching for months trying to find comparisons of the laptops with anything near the configuration I'm looking at (T7100/GMA X3100, or Turion X2/X1250). The 6515b is pretty much out of contention though since to get an X2 you have to go above the price of the T7100 in the 6710b (the cheap 6515b comes with an MK-38).

    It's not going to be a desktop replacement, but it needs to be grunty enough for serious work, and needs good enough graphics to play things up to the level of Guild Wars at native resolution (1280x800). I had a work laptop recently with a T5500 and GMA 950, and GW was playable (but not great - 20-30 FPS most of the time), so I have reasonable expectations of the 6710b. Interestingly, my home server (E2140 with G33/GMA 3000 graphics) has worse GW performance than the GMA 950 - my understanding was that GMA 3000 is basically an upgraded GMA 950, but there appear to be significant differences (GW detects the GMA 3000 as DX8 but GMA 950 as DX9, even when both have the 14.31.1 driver).

    I'll be *very* interested in the X3100 results you get under XP (with the 14.31.1 drivers).

    BTW, one of the reasons I've settled on the HP laptops is their look and feel. They are simple-looking, no-nonsense designs, that aren't going to show marks, the keyboards feel very nice, the screens are good and the sound is quite good for a laptop.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - link

    I'll spoil the results a bit and say that under XP, GMA X3100 appears to best X1250 across the board. Shockingly (pardon the pun), it even runs Bioshock - okay, so it's at about 20FPS at 800x600 (minimum detail), but at least that proves it's mostly drivers under Vista keeping it from running the latest titles. I should have the final article done next week, showing X3100 XP results. Still, for $80 more you can get HD 2300 which remains about 2-3 times as fast, or 8400 GS which is also around 2-3 times as fast.
  • yyrkoon - Sunday, October 7, 2007 - link

    I honestly think your time would have been better spent covering some other aspect in the industry. Everyone knows that AMD is in a "rutt' at the moment, and this article really only tells us what we could have guesses on our own. Reasons for an article of this type in my own opinion would be; ground breaking news, or at the very elast a much shorter article just covering the import stuff such as AMDs mobile graphics superiority.

    There are lots of people out there, with myself included that would like to see you guys do an article on something like SAS IN DEPTH, or SATA Port Multipliers, with benchmarks, implementation, etc.

    Also, just going from past experience of reading your articles, I cannot help but wonder why you guys do not have any how-to's such as 'how-to overclock an Intel core 2 CPU . . ', or 'how-to build a cheap storage solution with SAS/HPM technology . . ' , etc. I honestly think filling content with things such as the above mentioned how-to's, would be far more benificial to your readers, than the obvious re-iteration of things we already know.
  • zsdersw - Sunday, October 7, 2007 - link


    or at the very elast a much shorter article just covering the import stuff such as AMDs mobile graphics superiority.

    Oh? So that's the only thing that's important? It's dubious that you'd pick one of the few bright spots in the article for AMD and tout it as "the important stuff".
  • yyrkoon - Sunday, October 7, 2007 - link

    How would it be dubious that I do not care to hear about the same thing I have been hearing about for the last several months ?
  • zsdersw - Sunday, October 7, 2007 - link

    What you do and do not care about is not what's dubious. What's dubious is that the only thing you supposedly regard as "the important stuff" just happens to be the one area of mobile platforms where AMD generally fares better than Intel (mobile graphics chipsets).
  • yyrkoon - Monday, October 8, 2007 - link

    Look guy, if you're going to call me an AMD Nazi, fanboi, or whatever, why dont you just come out and say so, instead of making stupid comments that MAY imply *something*. You would be wrong by the way.

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