Empirical benchmarks tell us a lot, but they don't communicate how quick and responsive a system feels when running day-to-day tasks. After completing our suite of empirical tests, we spent some time using the A4-5000 whitebook in order to get a feel for it.
Since slow storage plays a huge part in perceived responsiveness, we swapped out the A4-5000 whitebook's 5,400-RPM hard drive and replaced it with a 256GB Crucial m4 solid-state drive. The idea was to see how snappy a Kabini system could be under ideal conditions.
Our verdict: the A4-5000 whitebook is noticeably slower than our premium ultrabook, the Zenbook Prime UX31, but the difference is small—much smaller than you'd imagine.
Oh, sure, we noticed some slightly longer pauses when skipping from page to page across the web. And there were other minor slowdowns, such as when scrolling down content-rich pages or opening applications. However, we never had the impression that Kabini was struggling to keep up with input, which is often the case with slower, Atom-powered systems—and with machines based on Kabini's predecessor. More importantly, the Kabini system never felt slow to the point of frustration; it just wasn't quite as snappy as a $1,100 ultrabook.
Out there in the real world, A4-5000-powered laptops probably won't come fitted with 256GB SSDs, and they certainly won't compete head-on with premium ultrabooks. Instead, they'll be saddled with mechanical storage and made to fight it out with similar machines powered by Intel's Core i3 and Pentium CPUs. In those matchups, the responsiveness difference may be imperceptible. We certainly didn't get the impression that the A4-5000 whitebook was noticeably slower than our Core i3-powered VivoBook X202E, despite what the benchmark numbers on the previous pages indicate.
What about gaming? Well, after the promising showing in Skyrim and the, er, somewhat less promising results in Battlefield 3, we thought we'd try some more casual titles to see if the A4-5000 handled those any better. We didn't really have time to benchmark these games, but we did load up Fraps and keep an eye on reported frame rates while playing.
Our first candidate was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a snazzed-up sequel to Counter-Strike: Source. At 1280x720 using the lowest possible detail settings, frame rates hovered between 20 and 50 FPS, and the game ranged from smooth and playable to choppy and not-really-playable. Heavy combat saw frame rates drop into the teens, which had a direct impact on our kill-to-death ratio.
You can play CS:GO on the A4-5000, but the integrated graphics will drag you down in serious multiplayer skirmishes.
Next up was Dyad, an abstract indie game that's a favorite of our own Geoff Gasior. Dyad has oodles of kaleidoscopic eye candy, but it ran better on our Kabini whitebook than CS:GO. Frame rates hovered in the 30-50 FPS range at 720p, which was playable, albeit somewhat less buttery-smooth than on a desktop gaming PC. Dyad is definitely a game you can enjoy on the A4-5000.
We rounded out our subjective gaming tests with Ilomilo, an Xbox Live port that's now available through the Windows 8 app store. This game runs from the Modern UI environment, and unfortunately, Fraps isn't able to monitor frame rates inside it. Playing the game, however, it was clear that the A4-5000 had no problems maintaining a smooth, fluid experience. A touch screen would have made things even better... too bad our whitebook doesn't have one.
Based on our results so far, I'd say the A4-5000 is more than qualified to handle casual games, and it treads close to the playability threshold in more serious titles. In some of those, it's fast enough at the lowest detail settings; in others, like Battlefield 3, performance isn't sufficient to make the game playable.
Considering this chip is expected to appear in sub-$500 notebooks, I'd say that's a pretty good overall showing.
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