Gaming on mainstream laptops becomes a reality.
The mobile notebook market is currently dominated by Intel, there’s no denying the power of the Sandy Bridge (and its predecessors). AMD used to struggle to get a hold in this highly competitive, but continuously expanding market before; not anymore. With the introduction of the new AMD Llano APUs we have finally entered the next step in mainstream laptops and notebooks powered by a CPU and GPU on a single die that are good for gaming.
While having integrated graphics on a CPU is nothing new, Intel have been doing this for the past 2 generations on their Core i5 and i7 chips with Intel HD 3000 graphics, gaming was never a realistic option before. The best an onboard Intel HD 3000 chips can offer are barely decent framerates with the lowest settings and a measly resolution of 1024×768 in most cases. The game (no pun intended) is about to change with AMD Llano APUs though, as the split of transistors between CPU and GPU is almost 50% on the die, compared to Sandy Bridge with merely 20% dedicated to GPU..
This may come as a strange turn of events to some as it may indicate lower CPU performance compared to other similarly priced processors from Intel, but as you will see later on in the review, the small decrease in CPU for the huge increase in graphical prowess is more than justified.
The AMD Llano APU will be branded as AMDs new A-Series APU for their new Sabine platform of mobile processors.
As you can see from the specs sheet above, the A8-3500M is at the sweet spot for performance vs power; rated at only 35W TDP for both CPU & onboard GPU with 400 Radeon cores. Price wise the A8 processors will compete with Intel’s Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7.
The test unit we received from AMD is an unbranded 14” laptop which seems to have all the bells and whistles of a notebook that would carry an A8-3500M APU. Clocked at 1.5GHz, the four cores on the A8-3500M can go up to 2.4GHz in Turbo mode, while the Radeon HD 6620G on board GPU runs at 444MHz and HD 6630M discrete GPU runs at 485MHz on the core. The discrete HD 6630M GPU also comes with its own 1GB DDR3 memory, combined these two cards are called HD 6690G2 under CrossFire. The ram on our test system was 4GB DDR3-1333 plus 250GB internal HDD running at 7,400rpm with Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit installed.
Another brilliant thing about the A-Series APUs is the onboard AMD Fusion Controller Hub that allows for multiples of SATA III (6Gbps), USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, and dedicated PCIe 2.0 x16 lanes for discrete graphics cards. As such, our test machine came with VGA and HDMI out, plus one USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports. Finishing up the system was a memory card reader on the front and a Bluray/DVD-RW combo drive.