Zacate, Sandy Bridge square off in low-power showdown

— 10:23 AM on April 18, 2011

The arrival of AMD's Brazos platform has made low-power computing platforms much more interesting. So has Intel's Sandy Bridge lineup, which has spawned a Core i3-2100T CPU with a 35W TDP. Like the Core i3-2100, the T variant serves up dual cores, Hyper-Threading support, and 3MB of L3 cache. Despite its similar model number, the 2100T has a 2.5GHz clock speed, while the 2100 runs at a much faster 3.1GHz. The 2100T's integrated GPU also has a lower base frequency—650MHz versus 850MHz on the 2100.

To get a sense of the performance offered by the latest low-power platforms, Xbit Labs has tested an E-350 Zacate APU against the Core i3-2100T, a dual-core Atom, and a couple of older budget Intel CPUs. In application benchmarks, the E-350 is simply outclassed by everything but the Atom. Seeing Sandy Bridge so far ahead isn't a big surprise, but I didn't expect the old Pentium G6950 and Celeron E3500 to have their way with the fastest Zacate APU on the market.

Things look a little better for the E-350 when the testing moves to games. The APU's integrated Radeon delivers higher frame rates than most of the Intel setups, but it's still slower than the 2100T with most titles. The 2100T also consumes less power than the E-350 at idle and with a couple of different loads.

Against a dual-core Atom, Zacate still looks like a champ. Building a system based on the APU should be considerably cheaper than tapping the 2100T, too. But the 2100T looks much faster, giving prospective system builders one more option to consider when picking parts for a low-power build.

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