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Conclusion

Three Sub-$500 AMD Brazos-Based Notebooks Rounded Up
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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.

Market Price349.99449.99349.99
BrandGatewayHPToshiba
ModelNV51B08uPavilion dm1zSatellite 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.

Code Name
Processor
Graphics
TDP
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.

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  • 3 Hide
    tacoslave , April 8, 2011 4:20 AM
    they should have put a larger battery on these!
  • 0 Hide
    matthewspencershell , April 8, 2011 4:43 AM
    I got my acer E-350 for $399 w/ 3gb ram, and 320G hd from hhgreg
  • 1 Hide
    one-shot , April 8, 2011 4:46 AM
    I ordered a Lenovo X120e E350 4GB RAM Win 7 Pro for $529. Lenovo's build quality and matte screen made the deal for me. Personally, I think the DM1Z is hideous.
  • 0 Hide
    hp79 , April 8, 2011 5:55 AM
    Yeah, I also had a lenovo x120e. Build quality is excellent on those. I wasn't impressed with the performance too much though. It's was little bit slower than my thinkpad x61t core2duo L7500 which was from 4 years ago. But video playback was really smooth. It played 1080p mkv videos with only 30% cpu usage.

    Since I got my x120e with e-350 for $305, I eventually sold mine for a small profit.

    ---unrelated to the article---
    Toms, please fix the navigation menu!!!
    Everyone that is annoyed at the navigation menu, please vote this suggestion.

    http://feedbacks.tomshardware.com/forums/14581-site-forum-ideas/suggestions/1297969-page-navigation-really-sucks?ref=title
  • 2 Hide
    bobdozer , April 8, 2011 8:32 AM
    The D525 can only go toe-to-toe with the 3-350 if you only look at the results of multi-threaded benchmarks.

    Use the D525 then use the E-350 and you will not go back to the D525 and it will be obvious why.
  • 3 Hide
    juliom , April 8, 2011 10:16 AM
    Impressive how much bias Tom's has these days... E-350 performs quite a bit better than Atom in pure CPU power and don't even get me started on the GPU performance. All in just ONE chip! As much as it hurts you Tom's, Brazos is a much, much better platform than Atom is.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 8, 2011 10:17 AM
    Strange how the first picture(from AMD) in the conclusion puts i7 higher than BULLDOZER!
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 8, 2011 10:22 AM
    They wont put a large battery nor will they price it lower.Know why ,bcos the blue monster has found a new and novel way to continue its monopoly.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , April 8, 2011 11:01 AM
    Quote:
    Impressive how much bias Tom's has these days... E-350 performs quite a bit better than Atom in pure CPU power and don't even get me started on the GPU performance. All in just ONE chip! As much as it hurts you Tom's, Brazos is a much, much better platform than Atom is.


    Quote:
    The D525 can only go toe-to-toe with the 3-350 if you only look at the results of multi-threaded benchmarks.

    Use the D525 then use the E-350 and you will not go back to the D525 and it will be obvious why.


    I'll admit that is a bit of stinging indictment. :)  Can't we play nice? But I understand the sentiment. I really was after the point that the E-350 isn't all that different from the D525/Ion2 combo. It is better in graphics but in terms of CPU it is probably the closest to SU3700. And to be fair, many applications and tasks we preform on a daily basis continue to be multi-threaded.

    I completely agree that Brazos is much better than Atom, but I don't think it's one of those automatic game changers, unless you're talking about a netbook. Now if AMD wants to completely and utterly destroy Intel in the the low-end market, I say drop the price another $50 bucks. Price per performance is where AMD historically has had an advantage. Remember X2? But right now, the company is benefiting from Intel having not released a successor to Pine Trail. For the netbook market, Brazos is great, but that isn't what is going to help AMD dominate the market. The lack of products in the mainstream mobile space is why AMD fired Dirk Meyer.

    On a side note, I'm a hardware agnostic. That's the way it should always be. I believe in competition and Brazos is delivering it. I just want AMD to bring a bigger fight to the table. They talked so much about Fusion, it's time to deliver. At the moment, I tend to cringe every time Gartner or IDC talks to me about market share.

    I think part of the disappointment is that AMD promised me an epic gunfight and I'm watching two people duke it out with peashooters. Ooo so Ion2 does 9 fps Brazos does 12 fps.
  • 2 Hide
    juliom , April 8, 2011 11:04 AM
    Yes, I also think that Brazos belongs to notebooks and not normal laptops.
  • 0 Hide
    pelov , April 8, 2011 11:11 AM
    juliomYes, I also think that Brazos belongs to notebooks and not normal laptops.


    It does. My understanding is that brazos is their attempt at making at an APU that can compete with the atom in the netbook or low-powered-notebook market. The future llano APUs will be desktop/laptop APUs and bulldozers are server/high end desktop CPUs.

    Good writeup. I was leaning towards the ASUS e-350 but it didn't make it into the test :( 
  • 0 Hide
    acku , April 8, 2011 11:16 AM
    Quote:
    It does. My understanding is that brazos is their attempt at making at an APU that can compete with the atom in the netbook or low-powered-notebook market. The future llano APUs will be desktop/laptop APUs and bulldozers are server/high end desktop CPUs.

    Good writeup. I was leaning towards the ASUS e-350 but it didn't make it into the test :( 


    So everyone is in agreement? Brazos does better in a netbook. To clarify, AMD's management was a bit too ambitious. It envisioned this as a revolution in computing for thin and light notebooks, budget notebooks, and All-in-One desktops. That's how they initially positioned the product. The fact that we have a 15.6" C-50 system is an example of how crazy it's gotten. That's the agenda they're pushing. I just feel that is a bit too optimistic. Almost every week, Best Buy has a doorbuster 15.6" Phenom that's priced the same as the larger Brazos systems.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , April 8, 2011 11:18 AM
    Quote:
    It does. My understanding is that brazos is their attempt at making at an APU that can compete with the atom in the netbook or low-powered-notebook market. The future llano APUs will be desktop/laptop APUs and bulldozers are server/high end desktop CPUs.

    Good writeup. I was leaning towards the ASUS e-350 but it didn't make it into the test :( 


    OOO... You mean the 1215B? I would recommend that one over the dm1z. I just didn't have the time to put it through the paces.
  • 0 Hide
    lradunovic77 , April 8, 2011 12:37 PM
    These CPU as far as Gaming goes completely useless cause it is unplayable. Only good side is low power usage otherwise Intel ATOM and AMD solution -> not sure why even make it.
  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , April 8, 2011 12:52 PM
    AMD didn't really position Brazos as a low-cost gaming platform. Therefore, I shouldn't be too surprised when it doesn't compete well in newer titles. Older titles should be its natural stomping ground.

    Essentially, I see Brazos more as a general productivity platform with good HD video capability and the ability to play older gaming titles at 720p. If it fulfils this role, then it's serving its purpose, but it should never do so for more than $500.
  • -1 Hide
    acku , April 8, 2011 1:01 PM
    Quote:
    AMD didn't really position Brazos as a low-cost gaming platform. Therefore, I shouldn't be too surprised when it doesn't compete well in newer titles. Older titles should be its natural stomping ground.

    Essentially, I see Brazos more as a general productivity platform with good HD video capability and the ability to play older gaming titles at 720p. If it fulfils this role, then it's serving its purpose, but it should never do so for more than $500.


    Tell that to AMD. The marketing folks cite Wow and Flash/1080p video as what the Brazos should do on a day to day basis. Had they been realistic, I wouldn't be so pessimistic. The fact that there is a 15.6" E-240 proves my point. That's just nuts.
  • 0 Hide
    burnley14 , April 8, 2011 1:10 PM
    Awfully disappointing results. I was really hoping these chips would usher in an age where all new CPU/GPU/APU systems could handle multitasking well and at least make games playable. Not so I guess.
  • 0 Hide
    pelov , April 8, 2011 1:23 PM
    ackuOOO... You mean the 1215B? I would recommend that one over the dm1z. I just didn't have the time to put it through the paces.


    Yep! looks great. $450 on newegg so it's a bit steep but looks fantastic. I am probably picking it up within the next month or so just to see what other companies have to offer.

    burnley14Awfully disappointing results. I was really hoping these chips would usher in an age where all new CPU/GPU/APU systems could handle multitasking well and at least make games playable. Not so I guess.


    It is an attempt, but bear in mind they just released fusion last year and these new e-350's started being sold by OEMs as HTPC combo's or netbooks just earlier this year. 30 FPS for WoW is actually great... it's an MMORPG, you don't need to be tipping >60 so you can hit that headshot. The e-350 can bitstream -- something the atom quite simply stinks at --and play at decent FPS at low/medium settings that are far more playable than what atom alone can offer and better and cheaper than an atom/ion combination.

    Forget bulldozer for a second. This fusion tech has way more potential and brings more to the table for a much larger base of consumers. If you're looking for enthusiast, 1 hour battery life 60FPS modern title games then you need look elsewhere. This product simply isn't made for nor ever advertised to do that. It's in mini-ITX format, and that alone should tell you everything you need to know.
  • 1 Hide
    Wisecracker , April 8, 2011 1:51 PM
    I don't really understand why Brazos gets 'bumped-up' in class from netbook to notebook --- and then 'panned' as insufficient. Especially when 'Llano-mobile' is being shipped to OEMs.

    And when you have to 'explain' yourself in your conclusion --- that's pretty sad.
  • -3 Hide
    stingstang , April 8, 2011 2:36 PM
    What? AMD disappoints again in the note/netbook market? What....But...How...
    "The NV51B-series employs two APUs: Zacate and Ontario."
    Oh, Canada. No wonder.
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