We've noticed a strong trend over the past year. Many consumers assume that the best-value notebooks are the 15.6" "doorbuster" models often advertised during the holidays or in local weekly advertisements. While there are some notebooks that serve up good value at low price points, there are also many duds.
When it comes to the competitive landscape, this slide, which AMD presented back when it previewed Brazos, is entirely too optimistic. According to AMD, its marketing strategy hasn't changed, which why Brazos is going to come under fire. The Zacate APU can go head's-up against Intel's lowest-wattage Core 2-based Celeron processor, but we can't imagine it faring well against competitively-priced Arrandale-based ULV parts. It only matches a Core 2 Duo SU3700 in the amount of power used. In reality, AMD needs to shift the Intel column up a notch to more accurately reflect even the E-series' performance.
|Model||NV51B08u||Pavilion dm1z||Satellite C655D|
It turns out that the dual-core, 1 GHz C-50 outperforms the single-core 1.5 GHz E-240. This shouldn't have been a surprise considering many applications are threaded. And even in those that aren't, most of us multi-task fairly well now, presenting our processors with parallelized workloads. However, this hierarchy also applies to gaming performance. Even with a GPU running half as fast, the C-50 benefits from its two cores, which is why it surpasses the E-240 in our gaming benchmarks. This is another stark reminder of how many of our games are CPU-limited.
|Zacate||AMD E-350 (dual-core 1.6 GHz)||AMD Radeon HD 6310 (500 MHz)||18 W|
|Zacate||AMD E-240 (single-core 1.5 GHz)||AMD Radeon HD 6310 (500 MHz)||18 W|
|Ontario||AMD C-50 (dual-core 1.0 GHz)||AMD Radeon HD 6250 (280 MHz)||9 W|
|Ontario||AMD C-30 (single-core 1.2 GHz)||AMD Radeon HD 6310 (280 MHz)||9 W|
Overall, Brazos has one clear advantage: price. But "doorbuster" models aren't the fast track to big profits. At best, companies break even when they sell these notebooks. The high volume of budget notebooks sales is hard to ignore, though. As a result, there has been a big push in the retail market to maintain those low price points, which is why we see system vendors choose cheaper parts to stay profitable. AMD's Brazos platform facilitates notebooks in the $400 range without the negative connotation often associated with Intel's Atom processor.
The problem is that Brazos is competing against other notebooks that offer far better performance. Gateway's NV50A02u is a 15.6" notebook that uses a triple-core Phenom II N830 and sells for $399.99. Even though this is only $50 more than the NV51B08u and the C655D, performance is suddenly pushing the upper-end of Arrandale territory.
Brazos makes a lot more sense in the netbook form factor. For $449.99, the dm1z's retail price tag is competitive with dual-core Atom/Ion2 configurations like the $480 Asus's Eee PC 1215N. The problem is that a $30 price difference doesn't really take the fight to Intel. And it's not immediately clear who wins that face-off either, especially when you consider that an Atom D525/Ion2 combo isn't that far off from the E-350.
We were hoping to see an E-350 netbook under $400 because that would be a real winning piece of hardware. A few C-30-based notebooks were recently announced for less than $300. But keep in mind that CPU performance will likely be below the Atom N455.
When it comes to the entry-level space, we're always going to end up nitpicking smaller performance differences. That's the nature of tiny gaps in pricing. And we're Tom's Hardware, after all. This means that until AMD brings out Llano, Brazos still has a challenge on its hands. Brazos isn't the steamroll AMD was probably hoping for. If AMD really wants to dominate the thin-and-light space, CULVs, and netbooks, it's going to need to help system vendors slash prices another $50 to give Intel's Atom a sound thumping.