Update: Be sure to read our full review of AMD's E-350 here.

Last week I mentioned that I had recently spent some time with AMD down in Austin, TX, benchmarking its upcoming Brazos platform. The Brazos platform is composed of an AMD Zacate or Ontario APU and the Fusion Controller Hub (a South Bridge based on the SB800 series). Brazos systems will run the gamut of mainstream notebook, netbook and nettop segments ranging from $299 to around $500. While AMD let us reveal the fact that we tested Brazos, we weren't allowed to publish numbers last week. Today, we can.

I didn’t have much time with Brazos. The AMD briefing started at 9AM, but AMD wanted to go through some marketing slides and answer questions before letting us at Brazos. Going into this whole thing I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to run everything I wanted to run. You see, the system I had access to wasn’t pre-configured. It had Windows 7 x64 loaded on it, drivers installed and PCMark Vantage - but everything else was up to me. Despite having a 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300, installing a dozen applications and games still took hours on the system. I asked AMD if I could at least begin copying/installing some applications before we started the briefing, they gladly entertained my request.

I brought an SSD full of applications, games and benchmarks that I wanted to run on the Brazos platform. I purposefully avoided any large test suites (PCMark Vantage, SYSMark) because they would eat up a lot of time and I had no idea how long the rest of the benchmarking would take.

The Brazos test platform

I also didn’t run any of our media streaming suite. The Zacate/Ontario APUs feature AMD’s UVD3 engine and should, in theory, have similar media playback features to the Radeon HD 6000 series. Of course once we have final systems it’ll be easier to put this to the test. I was mainly interested in characterizing the CPU and GPU performance of Brazos, the two major unknowns.

I didn’t get into the full swing of testing until just before 11AM, and we had a hard stop at 5PM. That didn’t leave a ton of time, but I believe it left enough to get a good idea for what Brazos will perform like in the real world.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of our coverage, the system felt snappy. I had the 11-inch MacBook Air on hand (it served as my Excel-runner while I benchmarked) and interacting with the OS felt no different between the Brazos system and the 1.6GHz MBA. That being said, the MBA is technically much quicker (and more expensive).

AMD Brazos Lineup
APU Model Number of Bobcat Cores CPU Clock Speed GPU Number of GPU Cores GPU Clock Speed TDP
AMD E-350 2 1.6GHz Radeon HD 6310 80 500MHz 18W
AMD E-240 1 1.5GHz Radeon HD 6310 80 500MHz 18W
AMD C-50 2 1.0GHz Radeon HD 6250 80 280MHz 9W
AMD C-30 1 1.2GHz Radeon HD 6250 80 280MHz 9W

The system I tested had AMD’s E-350 processor, the highest end APU you’ll find on a Brazos. This is the chip you’ll find in $400 nettops and notebooks in the $400 - $500 range. This puts its direct competition as really expensive Atom based netbooks, Pentium dual-core notebooks and low end Core i3 notebooks. While the latter two should easily outperform the E-350 in CPU intensive tasks, the GPU comparison is another story entirely. It’s also worth noting that the E-350 carries an 18W TDP (including graphics). During my testing I measured a maximum total system power consumption of around 30W (including the 1366 x 768 LCD panel) while playing games and around 25W while encoding H.264 on the two Bobcat cores. The system idled around 15W however AMD cautioned me that this number was unnaturally high. Final Brazos systems will be far more power optimized and AMD expects numbers to drop down to as low as 5.6W.

AMD is confident we will see Brazos based systems deliver well beyond 6 hours of battery life. AMD's goal is to deliver Atom like battery life and form factors, with a real GPU and hopefully better than Atom performance. We spent our time in Austin trying to find out if its goals were realistic.

Setting Performance Expectations
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  • jdonkey123 - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    What are the primary processor-related factors for consumers buying a new mobile PC?

    Battery Life, Price, Form Factor, & Performance (perceived)

    When you look at these factors, it's pretty obvious that this platform fits into a large hole between high-end Atom based offerings and Intel's myriad ULV and non-ULV mobile parts.

    While much of that is obvious from this excellent benchmarks article, what's missing a bit is a compilation of relative power consumption (and by extension, battery life.)

    The most power-hungry Atom system that this is likely to compete against in mobile can be found in the Asus Eee PC 1015PN with a DC Atom N550 + NG-ion. CNet found load power of that system to be 20.66 watts. Compare that to the E-350's 25 watts that you found under similar load (assuming gaming wasn't CNet's test case.)

    In that case, the power consumption is only modestly higher for what seems like at least an equivalent boost in performance and at $429 list, AMD's system looks pretty good!

    I guess I see an upgraded slate of netbooks as the most likely home for this APU and I think that as long as the pricing is there, AMD is actually in a great position to displace a ton of the higher-end Atom parts.

    Ref: http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/asus-eee-pc-1015pn...
  • Joe Supersales - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    If you want to test one please contact Joe Jao at www.jetwaycomputer.com, Tel: 510-857-0130 Ext# 128, thanks.
  • gudodayn - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    With all the noises Intel and AMD makes, I am surprised at the little guy's performance figures, the VIA Nano DC.
    I read the VIA Nano DC review and knew it took out Intel Atom D510 with ease but in the larger picture with desktop CPU numbers, I didn't expect it to do what it did!!!

    I am excited about consumer products developed for the VIA Nano DC but unfortunately past experiences tell us all that in the market today, its all gobbled up by other bigger players!!!
  • Iketh - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    you're forgetting Nano's power consumption...

    this is everyone's argument proven in many of these posts, the article was written in the wrong light for Brazos... people looking at $500 notebooks either want near-desktop performance and dont care about 6 hour battery life, or they need a spreadsheet/web surfer with 6+ hours of battery... these are NOT competing markets

    this is one instance where sticking to the price bracket does not work
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    What about the performace of this vs. the current Zotac Ion board with the Intel SU3200 dual core chip at 1.2ghz?
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Irrelevant comparison. Intel's "i" processors offer strong performance for those who want it. For those who can't afford the performance, lower CPUs are "good enough".

    I'd love to hear why you think AMD settled for "good enough" in terms of Bobcat performance.

    Atom will get smaller and less power hungry than Bobcat. i3 and above CPUs offer easily better performance than Bobcat. A Celeron E in many cases offer better-than-Bobcat CPU performance. Bobcat's GPU is not good enough for gaming or intensive multimedia tasks.

    Bobcat ends up being stuck in no-mans land.

    Clearly this discussion is about Bobcat. So tell me, what is the point of Bobcat compared to Atom? Sure it's faster than Atom, but it's still not fast enough to make a big impact in the market.
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Yes they have a long way to go, but Intel's upcoming Atom SoC designs dramatically reduce power consumption. Cedar Trail and Oak Trail are supposed to be very power efficient Atom platforms.

    So Zacate is mainly good for GPU-accelerated browsing? What about when Intel offers a strong-enough GPU integrated with Atom for hardware accelerated browsing? What then?
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Better get your wings ready then. Cedar Trail and Oak Trail will offer far lower Atom platform power consumption than current Atom platforms. Don't believe me? You'll see when the products are released, don't take my word for it.

    Really, "at the same price"? For the price that Zacate will go for, I'm pretty sure I would be able to get a Celeron E or Core 2 Duo-based Pentium for about the same price. Yes in some games they would perform worse due to the IGP in those products, but gaming on Zacate is a struggle anyways so it would be a moot point.

    As for average everyday tasks, a Celeron E or Pentium would generally perform better than Bobcat.

    You get what you pay for. Lower end products have lower end performance. This is a simple fact, no need to get politically correct.

    Anyone who wants performance wouldn't be looking at this market anyways. Neither Atom nor Bobcat provide enough performance for enthusiast/performance users.
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    No, I don't "speculate much", do you?

    Do you want me to post links to what Intel has said about the future of Atom, or should I let you look it up yourself?

    Intel itself has talked about how Atom will get smaller and lower in power consumption while keeping the same performance or better.
  • Iketh - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    "dark_archonis", just stop... you're making a complete fool of yourself

    anand need's DT's post rating scheme please

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