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

Displays

We’re presenting the information about displays differently now that we are discussing larger notebooks. From this point forward, we are using a Spectracal-calibrated X-Rite i1Display 2, along with CalPC to report color gamut and color accuracy. For those unfamiliar with the terms, color gamut refers to the range of colors that a display can reproduce, and color accuracy refers to the display's ability to output the color requested by the GPU. Typically, professionals represent these values by showing a gamut and a delta E value, which is a mathematical representation of how far apart the display's output was to the original source. The higher the delta E value, the more inaccurate is the color representation. An uncalibrated delta E is largely a worthless number. Delta E is dependent on the black and white luminance levels, contrast ratio, color temperature, and target gamma. 

Suppose there are two displays. One has an uncalibrated delta E value of 3.0 and the other 2.1. It is hard to make a comparison without first calibrating the color space because it's almost like benchmarking a GeForce GTX 580 at 2560x1600 with anti-aliasing enabled against a Radeon HD 5870 at 1920x1080 without AA. Do the results of that mean the 580 performs better? Not necessarily. Monitor calibration is what quality settings are to game benchmarks. By calibrating a display, we are able to normalize the settings such that we can see how one display compares to another.

For this reason, we’re going to provide information in the form of a color gamut map, along with a gamut luminance chart to give a better picture of how a display performs fresh out of the box, and then once it's calibrated. Additionally, we are running a nine-point white luminance test with a Spyder3 to give an idea of a screen's white balance uniformity.

Before you are shocked by the low brightness values, we want to discuss mobile performance. Just about every review we've analyzed reports performance when a notebook is running on AC power. But notebooks aren't intended to be stationary. Even the larger 15.6" form factor does its fair share of traveling. Budget notebooks like the three we are reviewing use cheap LED LCDs. On battery power, these notebooks have BIOS settings that prevent you from running the display at the same brightness you'd see on AC power. Otherwise, battery life would suffer. Displays circumvent this by using dynamic contrast or an unchangeable battery-specific OSD setting. This is often visually deceptive, because the LCD will lower brightness and turn up the gain for contrast, resulting in poor color representation. However, we want to emphasis mobile performance, so all LCD are measured and calibrated on battery power.

Color Gamut and Accuracy

CalPC uses specific targets displayed as squares in the gamut XY map. The dots are the actual measured values. Gamut luminance expresses how bright the primary and secondary colors are in relation to the source color requested by the GPU (gray bars are target values). 

Gamut CIE XY Map

Gateway NV51B08uGateway NV51B08uHP dm1zHP dm1zToshiba C655DToshiba C655D

Gamut Luminance

Gateway NV51B08uGateway NV51B08u

HP dm1zHP dm1z

Toshiba C655DToshiba C655D

The Toshiba C655D appears to get closest to a true white. While all of the displays have a slight blue tendency, this is fairly normal for today's LCDs. Overall, the dm1z has the worst display. On battery power, the display chooses an extremely aggressive battery-friendly OSD setting. The contrast rises and the luminance falls (mainly in the red and green primaries). Once you factor in the gamut map, the yellows and reds begin to appear more tan, while the blues appear duller.

If you were window-shopping, the NV51B08u and the C655D would make acceptable buying choices. The colors are satisfactory without there being any strange imbalance, and the battery OSD setting doesn’t differ greatly from the one for AC power. The same cannot be said for the dm1z. When you unplug HP's newest netbook, the even color balance you see on AC power makes it appear as if you are looking at the display through sunglasses, with yellow most affected.

Black and White Contrast

We’re switching up to a Spyder3 for our white and black testing because we like its higher sensitivity for contrast ratios.

Gateway NV51B08u
Brightness
White Luminance (cd/m2)
Black Luminance (cd/m2) Contrast Ratio
Color Temp
Min
11.5
0.11
102.6:1
6800
Max
155.6
1.69
91.9:1
7000
HP Pavilion dm1z
Brightness
White Luminance (cd/m2)
Black Luminance (cd/m2) Contrast Ratio
Color Temp
Min
9.6
0.12
78.8:1
6700
Max
146.0
1.52
96.2:1
6700
Toshiba Satellite C655D
Brightness
White Luminance (cd/m2)
Black Luminance (cd/m2) Contrast Ratio
Color Temp
Min
8.6
0.14
62.1:1
6000
Max
149.5
1.99
74.9:1
6200


In an uncalibrated state, the NV51B08u and dm1z produce cooler colors than the C655D. However, the latter generates poorer contrast ratios on battery power. Gateway's NV51B08u color performance isn't stellar, but overall, it's our preference due to the higher contrast ratio and deeper black tones.

100% White Screen Uniformity (cd/m2)

Gateway NV51B08u
143.9
131.0
130.7
145.0
142.6
136.4
152.0
144.5
143.2
HP Pavilion dm1z
141.8
134.0
138.0
129.9
132.6
128.1
128.2
130.0
133.4
Toshiba Satellite C655D
122.0
132.0
138.0
125.6
135.5
141.4
118.8
119.7
132.9


The NV51B08u and dm1z show a more even white across the entire screen, though both have a bit of a high white luminance in the top-left corner. Comparatively, the C655D has a wider range of values. There is a single white bias toward the center-right, but the panel also exhibits low brightness values toward the bottom-left corner.

Viewing Angles

The dm1z uses a glass panel in order to display deeper black tones and more vivid colors. However, the pairing with a lower-cost LCD panel results in poorer viewing angles. At extreme angles, only Gateway's NV51B08u appears to yield a decent image.

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71 comments
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  • they should have put a larger battery on these!
    3
  • I got my acer E-350 for $399 w/ 3gb ram, and 320G hd from hhgreg
    0
  • 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.
    1
  • 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
    0
  • 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.
    2
  • 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.
    3
  • Strange how the first picture(from AMD) in the conclusion puts i7 higher than BULLDOZER!
    0
  • 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.
    1
  • 267389 said:
    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.


    402325 said:
    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.
    0
  • Yes, I also think that Brazos belongs to notebooks and not normal laptops.
    2
  • 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
  • 442468 said:
    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
  • 442468 said:
    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
  • 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.
    0
  • 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
  • 267802 said:
    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.
    -1
  • 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
  • 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.
    0
  • 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.
    1
  • 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.
    -3