The test systems
Our attempts to place Llano in context involve a couple of very similarly configured laptops—one based on an A8 APU and another based on a Sandy Bridge Core i5—and a host of data from other sources. Our Llano test system is a pre-production Compal whitebook supplied by AMD.
This system is equipped with an A8-3500M APU. That's one of the more desirable Llano-derived APUs, since it has a 35W TDP, quad cores at 1.5GHz with a 2.4GHz Turbo peak, dual channels of DDR3 at 1333MHz, and the fastest version of the IGP, the Radeon HD 6620G. This laptop is also equipped with a discrete GPU, a Radeon HD 6630M, and is capable of running in a Dual Graphics config. AMD would call this GPU tag team the Radeon HD 6690G2.
For comparison to the Llano review unit, we ordered up the closest analog we could find in stock at Newegg, the HP ProBook 6460b pictured above. Like the Llano system, the ProBook has a 14" 1366x768 display with a matte coating, a Hitachi 7K500 mobile hard drive, 4GB of RAM, an optical drive, and Windows 7. The processor in the ProBook is a Core i5-2410M, which we believe to be the closest competitor to the A8-3500M APU. Like the A8, the Core i5-2410M has a 35W TDP rating, but the i5-2410M has only two cores to Llano's four. Thing is, these are much more potent cores, with a base clock of 2.3GHz, a Turbo peak of 2.9GHz, and quad threads thanks to the magic of Hyper-Threading. The i5-2410M also has the full-fledged HD Graphics 3000 edition of the Sandy Bridge IGP.
Although we couldn't find a system with the exact same battery rating as the Llano test unit, we did get awfully close. The Compal whitebook has a 58 Wh battery, while the HP ProBook's battery is rated for 55 Wh.
One major place where the ProBook differs from the Llano whitebook is its lack of a discrete GPU. We wanted to focus primarily on Llano and Sandy Bridge, so we didn't bother with discrete graphics on the Core i5 system. We then disabled the discrete GPU in the BIOS on the Llano system for most of our tests. Both discrete and dual graphics will make an appearance, though, as you'll see.
Oh, and I suppose this is as good a place as any to talk about the follies that went on behind the scenes as we prepared this article for publication. One of our major show-stoppers was the fact that we didn't realize until after practically all of our testing was ostensibly complete that the HP ProBook had shipped with a single 4GB DIMM. That configuration robs its Core i5 processor of the bandwidth supplied by a second memory channel, reducing performance at times. We were forced to re-test everything, but since we already had results for the single-channel config, we've included those throughout the review, as well. That is, after all, apparently a valid, shipping configuration in pre-built systems.
We also ran into some rather grievous problems with the Compal whitebook's power consumption. We think the primary problem was simply having used the wrong combination of BIOS settings in an attempt to disable the discrete GPU for battery life tests. Finding the correct setting, using careful observation on a watt meter, nearly doubled the Llano system's run times in our battery life tests. We believe the scores we've finally reported are valid and reflect what you could likely expect from a similarly configured production system.
Our testing methods
With the exception of battery life, all tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median of those runs.
The test systems were configured like so:
|System||AMD A8-3500M test system||HP ProBook 6460b|
|Processor||AMD A8-3500M APU 1.5GHz||Intel Core i5-2410M 2.3GHz|
|I/O hub||AMD A70M FCH||Intel HM65|
|Memory type||DDR3 SDRAM||DDR3 SDRAM at 667MHz|
|Memory timings||N/A||9-9-9-24 1T|
|Audio||IDT codec||IDT codec with 6.10.6328.0 drivers|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 6620G + AMD Radeon HD 6630M
with Catalyst 8.862 RC1 drivers
|Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 22.214.171.1241 drivers|
|Hard drive||Hitachi Travelstar 7K500 250GB 7,200 RPM||Hitachi Travelstar 7K500 320GB 7,200 RPM|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium x64||Windows 7 Professional x64|
|OS Updates||Service Pack 1
DirectX Runtime (June 2010)
Service Pack 1
DirectX Runtime (June 2010)
As I said, our comparative results for this article came from multiple sources. For our comparisons to desktop systems, you can see our test configurations on this page of our Core i7-990X review. For the configurations of the other mobile systems, see our review of the Asus K53E laptop.
Many of our performance tests are scripted and repeatable, but for some of the games, including Battlefield: Bad Company 2, we used the Fraps utility to record frame rates while playing a 60-second sequence from the game. Although capturing frame rates while playing isn't precisely repeatable, we tried to make each run as similar as possible to all of the others. We raised our sample size, testing each Fraps sequence five times per video card, in order to counteract any variability. We've included second-by-second frame rate results from Fraps for those games, and in that case, you're seeing the results from a single, representative pass through the test sequence.
The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.