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Asus' A53T Llano-powered notebook


AMD's A-series APU takes to the streets
— 3:11 PM on September 27, 2011

We had good things to say this summer about the mobile incarnation of AMD's A-series APUs, otherwise known as Llano, after we picked apart the review notebook AMD sent us. Oh, sure, the Llano system wasn't quite potent enough to knock out a competing Intel notebook in our CPU tests. The Llano rig's integrated graphics performance was excellent, however, and its battery life was surprisingly competitive—better than an equivalent Intel config when playing movies or games, and only a little bit behind with web browsing.

Alas, the AMD notebook we tested was a "whitebook" put together by Compal and supplied by AMD with no trace of a PC vendor's brand or equivalency to a retail product. We got a good feel for the silicon, but not necessarily for the kinds of systems that would ultimately end up in stores—and in consumers' laps.

Now that the dust is settling, we have a chance to rectify that omission. We're going to be looking at the Asus A53T: a genuine, honest-to-goodness consumer laptop powered by AMD's latest and greatest accelerated processing unit.

Now, this is no ultrabook. It's a productivity workhorse with a 15.6" display, a quad-core Llano CPU, and discrete graphics. The A53T weighs in at over five pounds and has a beefy 1.3-inch-thick chassis. More likely than not, it's going to spend much of its life sitting on some sort of table or desk. Folks seeking a couch computer will probably want to look elsewhere.

Asus has shoved a rather well-rounded set of parts into the A53T's ample enclosure, as the full spec sheet below can attest:

Processor AMD A6-3400M 1.4GHz
Memory 6GB DDR3-1333 (2 DIMMs)
Chipset AMD A70M
Graphics Radeon HD 6720G2 1GB
(Radeon HD 6520G and Radeon HD 6650M)
Display 15.6" TFT with 1366x768 resolution and LED backlight
Storage 500GB Seagate Momentus 7,200-RPM hard drive
Matshita UJ8B0 DVD "super multi" drive
Audio HD audio via Realtek codec
Ports 1 USB 3.0
2 USB 2.0
1 HDMI
1 VGA
1 RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet via Realtek controller
1 analog headphone output
1 analog microphone input
Expansion slots 1 SD card reader
Communications 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi via Atheros AR9285
Input devices Keyboard with numeric keypad
ElanTech Smart Pad
Internal microphone
Camera 0.3-megapixel webcam
Dimensions 14.9" x 10.0" x 1.1-1.3" (378 x 253 x 28-34 mm)
Weight 5.41 lbs (2.45 kg)
Battery 6-cell Li-ion 5200 mAh, 56 Wh

We have USB 3.0 connectivity, a 7,200-RPM hard drive, a six-cell battery with a decent watt-hour rating, and of course, AMD's A6-3400M APU accompanied by a Radeon HD 6650M discrete graphics module. The discrete GPU and the APU's integrated graphics team up in a CrossFire... er, Dual Graphics configuration, forming what AMD calls the Radeon HD 6720G2, in what's probably the most bizarre branding system we've yet to encounter. You'll find the decoder ring on this page, but look at your own peril. Prolonged exposure may cause vertigo, dizziness, hives, and exploding cranium syndrome.

Asus does lose a few points for saddling the 15.6" screen with a 1366x768 resolution. We realize that this is no upscale gaming rig, and that 1366x768 is about the most common resolution there is among laptop displays, but a few extra pixels would have been much appreciated. There's a silver lining, though: you should be able to play games at the display's native resolution without having to turn down detail levels too much. We'll find out in our gaming tests.

How does this machine compare to the review notebook AMD sent us this spring? Well, the A6-3400M inside the A53T has four cores clocked at 1.4GHz, a peak Turbo speed of 2.3GHz, and 320 graphics ALUs (a.k.a. stream processors) running at 400MHz. The A8-3500M in the AMD rig, meanwhile, has a 1.5GHz base speed, a 2.4GHz Turbo speed, and 400 ALUs clocked at 444MHz. On the discrete graphics front, the AMD review notebook packed a slightly slower discrete GPU: the Radeon HD 6630M. Asus' A53T, by contrast, features a Radeon HD 6650M. As far as I can tell, the only difference between those two graphics processors lies in their clock speeds—the 6650M's GPU and memory are both clocked 100MHz higher than on the 6630M.

The benchmark numbers on the following pages will illustrate how these two APU-and-graphics configurations compare. Before getting into that, we'll focus on the real story, which is the notebook itself. Let's take a closer look at the build quality, display, touchpad smoothness, keyboard responsiveness, and other critical characteristics of Asus' $600 Llano laptop.