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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  • flyck - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    i withhold my comment on that until we see the ontario product competing with a single core atom... which will be a 9W single core 1.2Ghz and not zacate.
  • ltcommanderdata - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    So based on these results, despite a bit of excitement of AMD showing Apple computers on their recent press slides, it doesn't seem like Fusion is Apple's ideal CPU/GPU solution. Brazos has neither the CPU or GPU power to replace the current CULV Core 2 Duo + 320M solution in the 11.6" MacBook Air. For 13.3" MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, Llano looks to have the GPU power, but not the CPU power to go against Sandy Bridge, but the bigger problem is timing since it looks like volume shipments won't be until H2 2011 which will be close to Ivy Bridge. As such, Apple's best solution for their 11.6" and 13.3" models seems to be to stick with Intel processors for best CPU performance and figure out how to fit a discrete GPU, which could be an AMD one if they can get an acceptable hybrid switching implementation.

    For the rest of Apple's lineup, they'd probably stick with Sandy Bridge over Bulldozer since Sandy Bridge looks to have the stronger AVX implementation which should be useful for their multimedia and content development applications.
  • flyck - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Didn't you look at the power consumption at all?

    Brazos system consumer 9watt idle, the SU 20W and atom single core 15W

    the SU is always 10W higher than Brazos. Only the Atom can be lower with some loads (altough in gaming the atom is not fast enough)
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Idle power consumption on CULV 11.6" is down around 9W for the entire platform, and for 10" Atom it's about 6W. Then along comes Apple's MacBook Air and their idle power consumption is apparently in the realm of 5W. Yes, that's FIVE watts for CULV, based on the Air 11 review (http://www.anandtech.com/show/3991/apples-2010-mac... That's a 35Wh battery lasting basically seven hours for light web browsing. Damn!

    I hope Microsoft can do something with Windows 8 to finally get C-state use to improve. Right now, it's like Windows 7 (which is better than Vista and XP in my testing) still goes around waking up devices and applications. "Hey hey hey! Excel! Yes, I'm talking to you! I haven't seen you request any resources for a while and you look idle, but I'm just making sure. Do you need the CPU? I just woke him up to help out. No? Are you sure? Okay... go back to sleep CPU and Excel. I'll be back in a few milliseconds to see if you've changed your mind! Oh, hey! Word... how ya doin'!? ...."
  • softdrinkviking - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Is this level of performance even relevant in the notebook form factor?
    It doesn't do anything I wont be able to do on the next years smart phones.

    Sure, bobcat will do it all faster, but I'll have to lug around a notebook!
  • haukionkannel - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Well, actually this is guite good. It seems not eat too much power. It can be used to read web pages like, atom. You can even use word prosessor on it. And when you play, it seems to beat atom.
    It is not mean to be gaming prosessor. It is very low end mainstream CPUGPU that has reasonable graphic power, and it can delivere just that.
    If you want gaming laptop, you have to go to i3 or i5 and from 350 (5650) to 460 (5870). They are in very different league.
    I would be nice to see for example a "gaming" tablet made around this product!
  • beginner99 - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    I really don't get the benefit of this gpu. Does anyone really play starcraft 2 or an FPS on a netbook? No, at least not with these results. IMHO this gpu thing is overrated for netbooks. It should play media files including 1080p (for attaching the netbook to the TV) and also be able to play flash video flawlessly and render flash-heavy web-pages. All of it not really needing a gpu but mainly the video decode engine. Browsing mainly needs (single-threaded) cpu power.

    And then think it's funny you say the platform felt snappy when it has a crucial ssd and most atom systems ship with a crappy 5400 rpm drive at best. probably 99.9% of the good experience was due to the ssd. I must say pretty smart move from AMDs side.

    So an ideal netbook has a semi-decent ssd (even JMicron based ones will be good enough), good single-threaded performance ( I mean video encoding on netbooks is very important,,..NOT) and a video decode engine for the common stuff including software (driver, apps) supporting it.
  • Calabros - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Steve should buy this company.. its the only solution :-)
  • ET - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    I do like that different sites use different benchmarks, and it's a good way to get a better overall picture, so even though some other sites have benchmarks that I find more interesting I have no problem with that.

    Even looking at other reviews, the Brazos looks disappointing from a consumer point of view. It loses in performance to Intel CULV CPU's and isn't much better than available Atoms. It even lost to an Atom D525 + Ion2 in some cases. Extrapolating to the 9W variants suggests that performance will be pretty low.

    That said, from an OEM point of view it should be a good replacement for some Intel platforms, because while it doesn't break new ground it should replace the Atom+Ion combination with something smaller and cheaper, and the lower power versions will likely still compete with the Atom while providing better graphics.

    Still from my POV I'm pretty disappointed. I had really hoped for something that's game changing.
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    perhaps read that review again...


    in some cases it loses and most it wins to a 525 yes which has 2 cores 4 threads and a 1,8ghz, and yes some gpu are better because of the ion2 but it also requires 60% idle power and 30% less load power, say again where it fails? for only being released few months after on first revision...

    it makes the competition harder so better for us.

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