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Power And Final Words

Core i7-2820QM: Sandy Bridge Shines In Notebooks
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Before we wrap up, we need to clarify a few points. We made this clear before, but we need to go over it again. When people travel, they travel with computers smaller than desktop replacements (by that I mean screens smaller than 15.6"). The whole tablet, netbook, and CULV notebook trend makes the footprint "norm" even smaller. We should also consider that a battery for a DTR functions more like a UPS and less like a power plant away from a wall socket. When a professional or gamer carries his mobile workstation around, he isn't going to use that system between power plugs.

That is part of what makes talking about a desktop replacement somewhat unique. We still care more about the performance aspect of the hardware. The new 55 W and 45 W Core i7s bring the latest in desktop-class performance at a fraction of the power consumption. In many cases, this will still translate to bulky enclosures to lug around. But lower TDPs will be much better suited to sliding into svelte chassis.

If there is a point that Intel is going to make, it's that mobile workstations no longer necessarily need a discrete graphics in order to get adequate performance. The HD Graphics 3000 engine delivers everything a mobile workstation needs. Professionals who use desktop replacements for productivity work, this is a huge benefit, as discrete graphics can account for a large portion of a notebook's power profile. For gamers, this means that systems bordering on the DTR classification can get by more efficiently in tasks like Flash playback without having to resort to switching graphics (provided you have a notebook capable of switchable graphics).

But the big story here actually isn't the incremental bump in 3D performance Intel is pushing with its Sandy Bridge architecture. We naturally assume that a next-generation product will deliver better performance, so it's understandable that we'd be looking for Sandy Bridge to beat the Arrandale, Clarksfield, and Clarkdale designs we tested.

What we wouldn't necessarily expect, though, would be better performance and lower power consumption at the same rated TDP levels.

We were naturally curious about power, so on a whim we ran the IE8 workload of our own RLUMark 2010 benchmark. We only recently have had time to update the test's code to account for the latest IE8 and Office 2010 patches. If you read our Fall 2010 netbook roundup, then you know this test is like MobileMark, except that it is scripted in what I call "user time."

We want to stress real-world usage, which is perhaps one of the biggest reasons we decided to have an in-house-developed benchmark. This benchmark mimics what you should expect from everyday life. Right now, the battery life metric is programmed to simulate a user typing at ~45 WPM and reading at ~200 WPM. So, this is a “Real Life Use” benchmark, hence the name--RLUMark (at least until I think of a better name or the Tom's community recommends one).

Remember that IE8 is threaded (one tab, one thread). So, this multi-threaded benchmark includes navigation of Web sites, including scrolling calculated to a reading speed of ~200 WPM. On Amazon, we shopped for GPS units and common Biology textbooks.

This session consists of the following run sequentially in the order listed:

  • 24 minutes of Wikipedia Reading (4 Entries): one tab per entry
  • 4 minutes of Amazon.com: two tabs
  • 3 minutes of CNN.com: two tabs
  • 2 minutes of Google Finance: one tab
  • 2 minutes of Accuweather: one tab
  • 25 minutes of Flash 10.1 (YouTube 360p, H.264, hardware acceleration enabled): one tab


We should point out that we are isolating platform power consumption here. Both notebooks had their video output via HDMI to a desktop monitor at 1680x1050, factoring out each system's LCD. The notebook's AC power adapter is only powering the SSD, motherboard, processor, and wireless card.

We initially ran the battery analysis measuring DC numbers, but the results totally caught us off-guard: the clear winner was Intel's Core i7-2820QM. How could the 45 W high-end mobile Sandy Bridge-based chip use less power than the 35 W mid-range mobile Arrandale? We reran the benchmark by measuring AC power use without the internal battery. These figures confirmed the 7 W margin (average) that we were seeing on the DC side.

With an average power consumption of 17.3 W, the Arrandale-based Core i5 almost doubles the power consumption of the new Core i7's power consumption (10.1 W) in our real-world workload. Even when both processors see a power use spike mid-way through the benchmark due to the start of YouTube video playback, the Core i7 still sees a comparatively small increase. We can't even imagine how lopsided this benchmark would have looked with a Core i7-920XM (Clarksfield).

These findings go a long way to explain the momentum behind Intel's mobile Sandy Bridge launch. Remember that TDP is Thermal Design Power. Per Wikipedia: this represents the maximum amount of power the cooling system in a computer is required to dissipate. Of course, when we're trying to deliberately tax a system in the benchmarks, power use is high. But in the real-world usage that RLUMark represents, Sandy Bridge doesn't come anywhere near its TDP.

As a result of power saving technologies and lithography advances, we see that, despite the Core i7-2820QM's 45 W TDP, it turns out to be a faster and more power-conscious processor during general-use scenarios. Why is there a different power consumption increase when Flash video playback kicks in?

This is where the architecture comes into play. Remember that the Arrandale design employs a 32 nm dual-core processor and a separate 45 nm die containing the graphics core and memory controller. That's not ideal, either from a performance or an efficiency standpoint. Sandy Bridge was purpose-built to enable the best of both worlds using a single die manufactured at 32 nm. Talk about a nearly unprecedented improvement, considering this processor is Intel's second-fastest Core i7, while the Core i5-540M is the third-fastest mobile Core i5 from the Arrandale-based family.

If this reference build that Intel sent us is representative of what we can expect to see from the entire mobile Sandy Bridge lineup, then we're super stoked about what those low voltage and ultra-low voltage Core i7s should be able to deliver. If you're in the market for a full-sized notebook, hold off until you can get your hands on a Sandy Bridge-based platform. You are going to get better performance, along with a substantial increase in battery life compared to Clarksfield/Arrandale-class processors. Once you add the benefits of Quick Sync into the mix (covered in our earlier Sandy Bridge review), the platform gets even more impressive (so long as you aren't a gamer needing discrete graphics).

If AMD is paying attention, it needs to get its act in order. Brazos is one step up from being a pawn in the AMD Fusion chess set. It's not that pawns can be tossed away willy-nilly, and we don't mean to take away from the platform's potential. However, taking over the netbook space, if that even happens, isn't going to be what puts AMD in the position it wants to assume. Let's put things into perspective. The 2010 Danube platform has been out since last May. If you look at AMD's official 2010 platform lineup, the most powerful mobile CPU available seems to be the 35 W Phenom II quad-core N950 (2.1 GHz) on the Acer AS7552G-6061. This is the fifth most powerful mobile CPU listed, and to be fair was part of the Danube refresh rolled out in October (there was another batch announced earlier this month, including the X940). Notebooks that ship with mobile quad-core AMD processors are extremely rare. Its mobile Phenom II Black Edition chips are virtually nonexistant. So, the mobile space is decidedly dominated by Intel, and AMD has a lot of work to do in order to change that.

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  • -3 Hide
    cmartin011 , January 28, 2011 5:40 AM
    Second!!! really a thousand dollars for a mobile cpu
  • 0 Hide
    one-shot , January 28, 2011 5:53 AM
    What are the numbers for battery life for idle, surfing the web, and watching HD video? Several reputable sites have posted up numbers and I'm not seeing a chart that states these numbers, just lots of performance numbers to reiterate the obvious that it's more powerful and more efficient than Arrandale CPUs.
  • -1 Hide
    acku , January 28, 2011 5:59 AM
    This isn't a production notebook so battery life pertaining to this specific notebook is rather pointless in relation to other models. There are other factors at play: LCD panel, battery density, etc... However, platform power consumption numbers are posted on the second to last and last page.

    Andrew
    TomsHardware
  • 2 Hide
    one-shot , January 28, 2011 6:04 AM
    ackuThis isn't a production notebook so battery life pertaining to this specific notebook is rather pointless in relation to other models. There are other factors at play: LCD panel, battery density, etc... However, platform power consumption numbers are posted on the second to last and last page.AndrewTomsHardware


    That isn't what I was looking for. On Anandtech and Tech Report, a Compal notebook with a Core i7 2820QM achieved between six and seven hours of battery life when web browsing. I was looking for a comparison to help me make a more informed decision.

    Something like these is what I was referring to.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4084/intels-sandy-bridge-upheaval-in-the-mobile-landscape/9

    http://techreport.com/articles.x/20294/8

    Battery life is not pointless in any way. A pre-production model or not, it's relevant. If helps give us, the consumers, a better perspective to how laptops with these CPUs will perform with regards to battery life.

    I'm surprised it wasn't included.
  • 3 Hide
    acku , January 28, 2011 6:14 AM
    Fair point and I completely agree that battery life is not pointless. But on our point, we did go over power as far as browsing and Flash video if you read our conclusion.

    On an platform level, you can expect a new Sandy Bridge Core i7 to achieve roughly double the battery life of a notebook with an Arrandale Core i5.

    What I disliked about the previous benchmarks (including the ones you referenced) was that they automatically handicapped the benchmark against the Sandy Bridge mobile platform. Forget the whole DTR argument. A 17.3" panel will generally consume more power than a 15.6" (Look at the notebooks it was compared against.) When you isolate it down to the platform level then you can say all-else-being-equal (LCD, hard drive, wireless card, etc...), a notebook based on a Sandy Bridge mobile processor will ~ double battery life. Those other sites showed a roughly 33% improvement because of the other variables at play.

    Remember though that when you are talking about H.264 playback, this is all run through the hardware decoder. You are getting very little battery burn no matter what hardware you are running. What really matters then is the total platforms power consumption and the density of your battery (2.6AH vs 2.9AH cells).

    But back to your main point, if that is what you want to see on a DTR, then we will include it next time. Frankly, I'm more interested in the battery life of non-DTR mobile CPUs. "Normally" people don't care about battery life on a 17.3" mobile workstation.
  • 0 Hide
    bearclaw99 , January 28, 2011 6:35 AM
    Damnnnnn...those are some amazing benches for a laptop CPU. Beats some of the desktop i7s and probably all of AMDs desktop chips
  • 1 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , January 28, 2011 7:05 AM
    Quote:
    If AMD is paying attention, it needs to get its act in order. Brazos is one step up from being a pawn in the AMD Fusion chess set.


    AMD's Brazos platform is very impressive especially the E-350 series that's paired with an Radeon HD 6310 in gaming performance. Soo impressive in fact that the gaming performance rivals that of Core i5 661 in a lot of games and even goes toe to toe with the Core i5 2500k in some games like Call OF Duty Black Ops! As show here....

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4134/the-brazos-review-amds-e350-supplants-ion-for-miniitx/5
  • -1 Hide
    _Pez_ , January 28, 2011 7:38 AM
    amd is losing ground.. they are taking too long releasing new products.. Intel is expensive.. damm!
  • 0 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , January 28, 2011 7:55 AM
    I think bulldozer will be able to compete in terms of TDP because of the two integer units / core
  • 0 Hide
    Vadim_79 , January 28, 2011 8:56 AM
    I just bought myself an Asus N53SV a couple of days ago, so far it's been great, it can handle any game i throw at it due to the combined intel 3000 and gf540m. Whenever i use the notebook for things like surfing the web it uses the intel 3000, so i get better battery life. I game with the notebook plugged in and set to maximum performance on a 42 inch plasma through hdmi. And it beats my desktop as far as framerates are concerned
  • 1 Hide
    acku , January 28, 2011 9:26 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    If AMD is paying attention, it needs to get its act in order. Brazos is one step up from being a pawn in the AMD Fusion chess set.


    AMD's Brazos platform is very impressive especially the E-350 series that's paired with an Radeon HD 6310 in gaming performance. Soo impressive in fact that the gaming performance rivals that of Core i5 661 in a lot of games and even goes toe to toe with the Core i5 2500k in some games like Call OF Duty Black Ops! As show here....

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4134/the-brazos-review-amds-e350-supplants-ion-for-miniitx/5



    Do you really want to play Call of Duty Black Ops at 1024 x 768 at low quality? I wouldn't ever want to punish any TomsHardware reader that harshly. :) 

    Andrew
    TomsHardware
  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , January 28, 2011 9:59 AM
    I'm really not sure that's the intention. Sure, it supports DirectX 11, but we all know that below the 5700 series, there's little point using it. The true strength of Brazos' GPU is slightly older games or ones that don't require masses of bandwidth because that single channel memory interface will strangle it in the end.
  • 1 Hide
    acku , January 28, 2011 10:02 AM
    Quote:
    I'm really not sure that's the intention. Sure, it supports DirectX 11, but we all know that below the 5700 series, there's little point using it. The true strength of Brazos' GPU is slightly older games or ones that don't require masses of bandwidth because that single channel memory interface will strangle it in the end.


    I think you hit the nail on its head right there. AMD never really positioned the Brazos platform as a "gaming platform." It can't handle it. It works better as a more powerful enhancement over an Atom.

    Same thing goes for the HD Graphics 3000. If you have a DTR, it is likely you are going to get a discrete chipset anyways.
  • 0 Hide
    silverblue , January 28, 2011 10:11 AM
    It can play modern games without textures flickering all over the place, but most won't be too smooth, and you certainly wouldn't want to enable AA thanks to the bandwidth issue unless you're really limited by CPU performance (and even then...).

    It's fantastic that you can play some modern games in low detail with a decent framerate with something as small as your fingernail and use very little power doing it, but people shouldn't get their hopes up that this is, say, a console killer. Let's wait and see what Enhanced Bobcat is like for that sort of thing.
  • 0 Hide
    marraco , January 28, 2011 10:16 AM
    The 7-zip chart needs to be fixed.
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , January 28, 2011 10:54 AM
    On a lighter note, "RLUMark" is unpronounceable. I would like to suggest "IRLMark," (pronounced "Earl-Mark") for "In-Real-Life" for your realistic benchmark.
  • 1 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , January 28, 2011 11:13 AM
    Quote:
    Do you really want to play Call of Duty Black Ops at 1024 x 768 at low quality? I wouldn't ever want to punish any TomsHardware reader that harshly.


    Well the same can be said when benchmarking an Intel Core i7/5/3 2xxx using its integraded graphics unit on game like Call Of Duty Black Opts. But I think you are missing the point in regards to the AMD's E-350 and the Call of Duty Black Ops benchmark. Of course no one is really going to play a game like Call Of Duty Black Opts on a integrated graphics unit with everything on low settings unless they are really that desperate. The point of doing that benchmark was to show the capabilities of the E-350's integrated graphics unit and for a processor aimed at the budget and ultra budget markets that can compete with mid-range processors with integrated graphics units built in, that's pretty impressive to say the least.
  • -1 Hide
    acku , January 28, 2011 11:50 AM
    SteelCity1981Well the same can be said when benchmarking an Intel Core i7/5/3 2xxx using its integraded graphics unit on game like Call Of Duty Black Opts. But I think you are missing the point in regards to the AMD's E-350 and the Call of Duty Black Ops benchmark. Of course no one is really going to play a game like Call Of Duty Black Opts on a integrated graphics unit with everything on low settings unless they are really that desperate. The point of doing that benchmark was to show the capabilities of the E-350's integrated graphics unit and for a processor aimed at the budget and ultra budget markets that can compete with mid-range processors with integrated graphics units built in, that's pretty impressive to say the least.


    I'll agree with that sentiment. However, simply stating that it the E-350 can perform similarly still doesn't address how similar it is in higher resolutions or a realistic quality setting. Or even in real life. It's a different market altogether. As Chris has often said, "Sorry your princess is in a different castle."

    That said, he actually covered all of this in his original desktop Brazos review. And it isn't right in my mind to make that type of comparison anyways. On the i7-2820QM, it's a mobile CPU that is going into a DTR notebook and is almost guaranteed to have discrete chip. On the mobile side things come out as systems, rarely do you get to simply pick and choose CPU + Graphics. What is the point about talking about the graphic short comings on this CPU when it is certainly always going to be paired with a powerful GPU?

    With the E-350, you are talking about nettops and netbooks. You won't be able to game anything larger than 1366 x 768 even at the most optimistic notebook configuration. So 1024 x 768 is a reasonable expectation given that is the resolution most often seen on the netbook side. Remember, AMD is hitting low prices with their 100 CPU/mobo combo, so this it is truly meant as a budget option.

    Meanwhile the i7-2820QM is certainly always going to be in a 15.6" LCD system or larger. Brazos is $500 and under. That is the target. With the i5-2820QM you are looking at systems that are going to be priced at least $1,000 plus its going to come with a discrete chip. Realistically, we are talking about at least $1,500. The i7-2630 is down the ladder on the Asus N53SV and probably ran around 1k, but I'm sure vadim_79 can jump and share the final price tag.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , January 28, 2011 11:54 AM
    Quote:
    It can play modern games without textures flickering all over the place, but most won't be too smooth, and you certainly wouldn't want to enable AA thanks to the bandwidth issue unless you're really limited by CPU performance (and even then...).

    It's fantastic that you can play some modern games in low detail with a decent framerate with something as small as your fingernail and use very little power doing it, but people shouldn't get their hopes up that this is, say, a console killer. Let's wait and see what Enhanced Bobcat is like for that sort of thing.


    That Enhanced Bobcat will be a 2012 move. And that would be "some modern games." CodBO isn't DX11. And I doubt anyone wants to attempt to play Crysis on a Brazos system even at 1024x768

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-fusion-brazos-performance,2790-7.html

    You will be wanting to look toward Krishna. Ontario and Wichita will still be ala Atom flavors.

    AMD's mobile plans hang on Llano and the Sabine platform. I'm teething to see them in action.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , January 28, 2011 11:55 AM
    Quote:
    On a lighter note, "RLUMark" is unpronounceable. I would like to suggest "IRLMark," (pronounced "Earl-Mark") for "In-Real-Life" for your realistic benchmark.

    I may just have to steal that idea! Thanks
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