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Power Usage And Battery Life

The AMD A8-3500M APU Review: Llano Is Unleashed
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Given AMD’s improved power efficiency claims, we’re naturally interested in Llano’s alacrity here. After all, AMD’s presence in the mobile space is modest. So it’ll take demonstrations of solid battery life to complement respectable performance if the company hopes to make inroads with mobile vendors perpetually pushing smaller form-factors and more run-time.

Our first test is the Tom’s Hardware Real Life Usage (RLU) benchmark, something our own Andrew Ku created. This test simulates actual use by Web browsing, performing Microsoft office tasks, and viewing a DivX movie.

Because we’re benchmarking two laptops with different batteries and screens, we’ve removed those variables by simply measuring power use when outputting to an external monitor.

Based on the chart, you’d expect that the A8-3500M APU would have the advantage over Intel’s Core i5-2520M in general power usage.

But Intel’s processor dips into a low power state more often. This mode-switching results in very similar power numbers. The Core i5-2520M averaged 12.8 watts during Web browsing, 17 watts during office tasks, and 19.4 watts in movie playback. In contrast, the A8-3500M averages 15.2 watts, 16.3 watts, and 19.5 watts, respectively. And while the Core i5 demonstrates faster CPU performance in our benchmarks, that isn’t as much of a factor when you’re surfing the net, typing a document, or playing back a movie. The experience is the same.

Now let’s see how these platforms handle a graphics load: 

The power use in the above graph is a result of a controlled test on an external monitor, so we repeated this metric again, this time using the laptop’s own display. The A8-3500M laptop lasted two hours and 12 minutes. Assuming the Intel laptop used the exact same battery, it would run for one hour and 22 minutes.

This is very impressive. Not only does the A8-3500M get about twice as much time out of its battery, it does so while delivering far better graphics performance. The implications of this are profound: a Llano laptop user might be able to play a mainstream 3D game for an entire two-hour flight with decent frame rates, while the Intel Core i5-based platform would only last for half of the flight with choppy performance. There does, in fact, seem to be validity in AMD’s excitement over its improved power story, and of course this is a real advantage when it comes to mobile devices.

Finally, we wanted to look into the company’s claims about AMD AllDay power. Now, AMD defines “All Day” battery life as 8+ hours in Windows, idling. This is ridiculous, plain and simple. Nobody powers on their system and lets it sit there just to claim it was on from nine to five at work. AMD needs to sit down and let the engineers do their thing. The real-world power figures tell a compelling-enough tale without some marketing-driven buzzword.

On our A8-3500M-based test mule, we did try to see how long the battery would last using the lowest monitor brightness and a very simple workload: document reading. We used the Battery Eater Pro benchmark to simulate someone browsing through a document and the machine lasted 7 hours and 40 minutes. That’s quite a feat for a full-sized laptop running an AMD processor, given the company's track record in the mobile space. The Sabine platform brings the fight to Intel's turf.

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Top Comments
  • 24 Hide
    stingstang , June 14, 2011 4:23 AM
    Good job, AMD. You finally made a better cpu/gpu combo than intel in terms of graphics power.
    ....big win there...
  • 23 Hide
    gmarsack , June 14, 2011 5:09 AM
    This looks like a fantastic solution for notebooks. Can't wait to finally see more of these systems in the wild. :)  Good job AMD. I would think this will help boost the company along until Bulldozer arrives. Way to survive! :) 
  • 23 Hide
    billj214 , June 14, 2011 4:35 AM
    This APU being somewhat low power and good graphics almost deserves to be in a tablet PC since CPU processing is not critical in tablet PC's and graphics is something that can help with media and games.

    Ditto on the "Good Job AMD" definitely on the right track.
Other Comments
  • 3 Hide
    vz7 , June 14, 2011 4:11 AM
    Do you know when the desktop review for llano will be out?
  • 24 Hide
    stingstang , June 14, 2011 4:23 AM
    Good job, AMD. You finally made a better cpu/gpu combo than intel in terms of graphics power.
    ....big win there...
  • 23 Hide
    billj214 , June 14, 2011 4:35 AM
    This APU being somewhat low power and good graphics almost deserves to be in a tablet PC since CPU processing is not critical in tablet PC's and graphics is something that can help with media and games.

    Ditto on the "Good Job AMD" definitely on the right track.
  • 18 Hide
    cangelini , June 14, 2011 4:38 AM
    vz7Do you know when the desktop review for llano will be out?


    The NDA is up on the 30th.
  • -4 Hide
    niceview , June 14, 2011 4:43 AM
    two things:

    1) What happened to the Game Charts results for the Radeon HD 5570, when the games were benchmarked? I thought you made a point to say you were going to compare the APU's 6620G with a discrete card (that has the same number of SPs and same clock). So much for that, unless you thought only comparing the two with a synthetic test was enough. Oh well. Tom's can be such a tease!

    2) I'm just a little disappointed that the APU's graphics power was not able to double Intel's.... Under the best of circumstances, AMD's latest integrated graphics came close to being twice as fast, but i guess that is ok since we are not playing horseshoes. I just thought it would be nice if it had made a nice even doubling, or more. Now, i'm worried IVY BRIDGE will beat it....
  • 8 Hide
    niceview , June 14, 2011 4:56 AM
    sorry, i guess that should be:

    we ARE playing horseshoes...

    and i have to give credit where credit is due: props to AMD for almost doubling Intel's HD Graphics in the integrated space....
  • 22 Hide
    sinfulpotato , June 14, 2011 5:02 AM
    What I find most exciting is the battery life saved. THIS is what will make this chip a winner. When if Sandy bridge is faster your average consumer won't be able to notice... PERIOD. However battery life... is a HUGE win.

    I don't play favorites, AMD needs market share.... FOR OUR SAKE. If Intel and AMD where on the same terms we would see faster progression and SAVE MONEY.
  • 23 Hide
    gmarsack , June 14, 2011 5:09 AM
    This looks like a fantastic solution for notebooks. Can't wait to finally see more of these systems in the wild. :)  Good job AMD. I would think this will help boost the company along until Bulldozer arrives. Way to survive! :) 
  • 11 Hide
    ikyung , June 14, 2011 5:14 AM
    fstrthnuAMD is kind of in a fix here, the more enthusiast gamers won't even bother looking at the Llano computers while this is kind of overkill for casual gamers. MAYBE money-pressed college students or something, but most people will just skip this and either buy a regular gaming computer or build their own using one of the guides from this very site! Going for good graphics in cheap desktops is kind of a futile exercise, the people who will care will just get the more expensive stuff anyways. Notebooks are more understandable, but the prices on the decent gaming desktops are just too good for Llano to be very competitive (and also, the CPU portion will be a letdown for the average person. Noticeably slower than the comparable Intel Core i5.)

    Well, Llano's market is the mobile space. Not desktop. Yes, they are bringing out desktop Llanos, but just like the article said, Trinity is what the enthusists are waiting for. I honestly don't think Llano's aim in the desktop market is for hardcores. I could see Llano's popularity in HTPC, and casual gaming/workstations though. Lower power, GPU over CPU tradeoff, etc. IF AMD releases the right drivers for the APU+Discrete CPU to work together, I see the market being even bigger.
  • 17 Hide
    striker410 , June 14, 2011 5:23 AM
    I suppose we need to stop suggesting i3-2100 and H67 over in the forums then? Go AMD!
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , June 14, 2011 5:37 AM
    How much for the A8 3500M? and it is a 1.5 GHZ chip with turbo to 2.4. I think its price point is more consistent with the I3 2310M @ 2.1 GHZ. Would have like to see you compare it to that instead of a I5 @ 2.5 GHZ
  • 6 Hide
    cleeve , June 14, 2011 5:49 AM
    SlaughteremHow much for the A8 3500M? and it is a 1.5 GHZ chip with turbo to 2.4. I think its price point is more consistent with the I3 2310M @ 2.1 GHZ. Would have like to see you compare it to that instead of a I5 @ 2.5 GHZ


    AMD didn't supply pricing for the processors, they only supplied pricing for the laptops. Accorsing to the price they gave us, the i5-2520M is fair competition.

    Having said that, does it matter? No matter how you slice it, Llano's GPU will beat Intel HD graphics and Llano's CPU will be beaten by Intel. You'll see different degrees of advantage but this point won't change, not until Trinity at least.
  • 12 Hide
    cleeve , June 14, 2011 5:52 AM
    just another user...modern games that aren't worth playing and CADs that can make use of a GPU...

    ...There is no single reason to prefer Llano over Sandy bridge, and I really cannot understand your excitement about it.


    You just listed two. :) 

    Obviously everyone will have their own priorities, but I think it's safe to say that you will find the majority of people will be more concerned with graphics performance than the ability to encode or render media. That's really what it comes down to; you're not going to notice a difference while surfing the net.
  • 6 Hide
    sparkle_ftw , June 14, 2011 5:57 AM
    How AMD will still be important to gamers: Use Llano profits from mainstream sales to continue funding and improving production of AMD's discrete gpus. Those kick some serious butt.
  • 18 Hide
    AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls , June 14, 2011 6:01 AM
    Decent review, though a bit unfair. What's the point of comparing the performance of a CPU that will be in $600 laptops (A8-3500M) to one that will be in $700 laptops (i5 2520M)? The A8-3500M competes with the Core i3 2310M, while the A8-3830MX competes with the Core i5 2520M. Given that, CPU performance for Llano is better than what is painted in the review.

    With Sandy Bridge, I think you're giving up a lot of GPU performance for some additional CPU performance. I think the choice is clear for most users.
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