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AMD A-Series Llano APU Sabine Notebook Platform Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: AMD

Performance

As always, SiSoft Sandra’s processor benchmarks are a logical way to dive in to performance. While not a dead-accurate reflection of a processor’s real-world capabilities, SiSoft provides excellent raw data that can be used to judge how a particular part compares to its peers when asked to complete a demanding, heavily multi-threaded task.

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The K10 architecture, combined with a base clock of just 1.5 GHz, results in processor performance that is well behind Intel’s Nehalem architecture, never mind Sandy Bridge. There’s really no way to twist these results – K10 was showing its age two years ago, and it is absolutely no match for the latest and greatest mobile processors in Intel’s stable.

Still, these benchmarks are just one part of a larger picture. The graphics performance of the A-Series is obviously an important part of the equation, and AMD has been careful to underline that point time and time again. Given the lack of raw processor performance, it’s no surprise that AMD would rather focus on graphics, but this talking point can be convenient for AMD’s marketing and still hold truth. Let’s move on to the general application benchmarks to see if the story differs.

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The results here don’t do much to inspire confidence, as they’re generally quite far behind the competition from Intel. The Peacekeeper benchmark, for example, shows a massive gap between the A8-3500M and the Core i5 dual-core found in the ASUS K53E. That gap becomes a chasm when compared to Intel’s Core i7 processors in 7-zip, where the Intel quad-core in the Maingear eX-L 15 nearly triples the performance of the A8-3500M.

Yet PCMark 7 offers a glimmer of hope. We’ve used this new benchmark only with the MSI GT680R and Maingear eX-L 15, two gigantic 15.6” gaming laptops with high-end Nvidia graphics. Yet the simple 14” Compal testbed was able to make a decent showing. This would indicate that the dual graphics are doing what AMD hoped – making up for lackluster processor performance with the GPU.

It’s now time to move on to the gaming benchmarks, which will highlight the success or failure of Fusion’s mobile graphics. Since this system comes equipped with dual graphics, we have the opportunity to not only the combination of the APU and the discrete GPU, but also the APU alone (by turning off CrossFire). The results are split into those that apply to the Radeon HD 6620G (the APU alone) and those that apply to the Radeon HD 6690G (the APU boosted by the discrete GPU).

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The gap between Intel’s HD 3000 and the Radeon HD 6620G is significant. The Radeon HD 6620G alone managed to beat the Intel HD 3000 graphics provided by the ASUS K53E across the board, and by no small margin. The 6620G scored over 1000 additional 3DMarks in 3DMark 06 and over 13 additional frames per second in the Far Cry 2 loop.

The greatest difference, however, was Just Cause 2. Although it’s been out for over a year now, Just Cause 2 remains relatively advanced in terms of the features used by its graphics engine, and it’s never played nice with Intel IGPs – in fact, the ASUS K53E was the first Intel system with an Intel IGP that could even launch the game. This gives some indication that Intel, despite massive improvements in driver quality and feature set, still has some catching up to do in those areas.

When combined with the Radeon HD 6630M in CrossFire to create the HD 6690G, the testbed system stands on equal footing with the Acer Aspire 5551G system we tested late last year. That means most games will be quite playable at the native resolution of 1366x768, and some will be playable at high detail settings. As you can see, both Just Cause 2 and Far Cry 2 were very playable with the HD 6690G fully enabled, and the 3DMark 06 and 3DMark 11 scores both enjoyed a significant boost.

June 13, 2011 | 10:32 PM - Posted by C-Dub (not verified)

Thank you for posting this - it's a great read.

A typo - you have "The graphics portion of the Llano A8 processors is going to be marketed as the Radeon HD 6620G. If you also have a Radeon HD 6770M discrete GPU in your notebook the combined product is the Radeon HD 6775G2. The A8 6620G paired with a Radeon HD 6630M GPU will be a Radeon HD 6990G2." I believe that you mean "6690G2" rather than "6990G2". :-)

June 14, 2011 | 02:56 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Thanks, fixed!

June 14, 2011 | 03:18 AM - Posted by bro (not verified)

Youa are poorAMDfag. Dodo destroyed in every test. How can it be Gold award?

June 14, 2011 | 11:30 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

In the mobile form factor, CPU performance is less important than overall usability and battery life.

Desktop processors will have a MUCH tougher go at it.

June 14, 2011 | 04:34 PM - Posted by whodi (not verified)

You're a troll calling people fags behind a keyboard, Grow a set and get out of your parent's basement.

June 14, 2011 | 07:38 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

stupid question whats up with $2339 compared to a $600 system?
to be fair, test a sandy bridge system in the price range and not some overpriced gaming system that is NOT in the price range

you guys should also compare it to a amd based mobile phenom II and mobile athlon II laptop too

$2339 = Maingear eX-EL15
http://www.maingear.com/boutique/pc/configurePrd.asp?idproduct=656

$1739 = MSI GT680R-008US
http://www.amazon.com/MSI-Notebook-GT680R-008US-15-6inch-I7-2630QM/dp/B0...

anyway, good review, very informative

June 14, 2011 | 11:31 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

We wanted to give a general overview of how Llano compared to EVERYTHING. We did include the K53/N53 for that purpose as well.

This is the same reason we through the Core i7-990X CPU in with our $200 CPU tests. People want to see those comparisons.

June 14, 2011 | 12:13 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

From the MSI GT680R onward I've started using the new PCMark 7 and 3DMark 11 benchmarks where possible instead of their older siblings. In the long run I think this is the better idea, but I've only tested the MSI and Maingear since making that switch, so they were the only laptops against which to compare.

I did try to make clear that the MSI and Maingear are MUCH more powerful machines, and the A-Series laptop performed well considering the competition.

June 14, 2011 | 09:54 AM - Posted by Tom (not verified)

Yeah, I didn't understand that either. You're pitting i7's w/ high end discrete cards against a system w/ no discrete cards on a hybrid xfire thats still be fixed up?

I'd rather see comparisons that make sense, like ya know, a stock sandybridge w/ its trash IGP vs Llano in gaming. ANyway, I can't wait to pick one of these up if the performance is there. I hope they can fix the kinks w/ the hybrid xfire so performance will be decent, or if it can allow graphics switching to its IGP and then back to the discrete for gaming.

June 14, 2011 | 09:55 AM - Posted by Tom (not verified)

Sorry for any grammar and mechanical errors in my last post, but I think you get it.

June 14, 2011 | 10:35 AM - Posted by bjv2370

nice review!

June 14, 2011 | 11:09 AM - Posted by Anoyingmouse (not verified)

The inexpensive gpu heavy platform looks like it could suit my mobile needs nicely, however I can't help but fear that its price point will mean initial design wins will feature glossy plastic and glossy 1366-768 screens and other such cheapness. Please Lenovo, Sony, Samsung, or any one else, PROVE ME WRONG...

June 14, 2011 | 04:36 PM - Posted by whodi (not verified)

nice review, I'm looking for a 600 laptop to tide me over for a couple of years.

June 17, 2011 | 11:28 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I imagine these machines will be able to do just that.

June 14, 2011 | 07:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well we were promised a Giraffe and got a tapir .. Not a bad swap but it simply wont impress the Emperor.

June 15, 2011 | 12:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

anyone know if this will be able to Xfire with any Radeon? to make a Bigger and better Xfire then we saw today? I mean it was only a 6630. What if it was a 6830M with the 6620M on the A8? Will this work?

June 17, 2011 | 11:29 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yep, it can essentially do that with "Dual Graphics" technology to speed up gaming. The feature is listed and described on page 2 I think.

June 15, 2011 | 01:14 PM - Posted by Anoyingmouse (not verified)

I believe it will only work with specific (mid range) cards. Xfire works through alternate frame rendering, so if the mismatch is too big, the faster card would be slowed down by having to wait for the slower card.

June 16, 2011 | 10:25 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Your review fails to give the average consumer--not geeks--some perspective on what this chips performance means. I will do it for you: people that can only afford one new computer for around $500 and want the portability and power efficiency of a labtop will now also have the option for entry-level gaming, somethig that was simply out of reach before. So parents, you can watch hd movies, surf the internet and run msoffice for 4hrs and beyond on one charge while your kids can borrow the labtop to play some--not all--pc games. I think AMD has a winning product for the mid to low end labtop,netbook segment.

June 17, 2011 | 11:30 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I agree with this - as new models based on this technology are released we will definitely be making these points.

June 17, 2011 | 11:29 AM - Posted by vik (not verified)

Most buyers are so fool that only know about Intel as Processor.They haven't heard of AMD in there life. So computers with AMD will increase in sale but slowly.
People consult among there friends when they need to buy a PC. If a person buying AMD pc likes it performance very much he will tell about it to his friends and only this can increase the popularity of AMD.

Also in many homes there are children who likes to play games and they will like PC with AMD.

June 17, 2011 | 11:34 AM - Posted by vik (not verified)

Benchmark here is not that good. Please compare AMD laptops with equally priced Intel Laptops. Intel laptops with i7 & Nvidia GTX 480 are very costly compared to AMD laptops.How can AMD match the performance of such costly Intel Laptops.

June 20, 2011 | 06:31 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

ASUS K53(2Core + IGP) is the biggest power eater in the Battery Eater Standard? It's strange. I think it's fitting that ASUS K53's battery life is at least longer than ASUS N53(4Core + GT 540M).

June 22, 2011 | 07:59 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Strange, but true. That was tested back in the ASUS K53E review. Battery Eater Standard + Intel HD 3000 = A quickly drained battery. I'm seeing a similar situation from another Intel HD 3000 powered laptop I'm currently testing.

July 18, 2011 | 12:14 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Do not let the past repeat itself!

Intel engaged in unfair competition by offering very large rebates to worldwide PC manufacturers and oem sellers who agreed to eliminate or limit purchases of microprocessors made by AMD.
In the 90s intel used cash over product performance to keep its lead

You can read about this in Wikipedia AMD v. Intel

October 5, 2011 | 12:11 AM - Posted by John Christmas (not verified)

The lack of battery life kills this laptop. The poor processor performance also means many will turn to laptops for better experiences. Its a shame because the rest of what this laptop offers is just fine.

October 16, 2011 | 01:39 AM - Posted by Vish (not verified)

Ryan/Matt,
Great write-up!
Maybe you guys can help me with this question. Suppose my laptop comes with just the AMD-A8-3510MX and the Radeon 6620G discrete-class graphics, would it be possible to add on, say, a 1GB DDR5 Radeon card to this later and still have it function as a Dual graphics? Any pointers on how I would know if the motherboard will support this.

Vish

October 28, 2011 | 02:17 AM - Posted by kathyink

This review of the AMD A-Series Llano APU Sabine Notebook Platform is good. Those who like notebooks would like the review. The photos of the notebooks look eye-catching. The charts giving details of the processor, RAM and hard drive are useful for us.

February 28, 2012 | 08:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

if i buy a notebook lets say samsung series 3 305V4A-S01 with a 6640g2 because it's a 6620g with a 6450 i belive can i buy an hd 6770 and put it in my notebook? would it work?

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