Laptop Review 2011- Laptops using the AMD Fusion APU Processor

AMD Fusion Chips

AMD is releasing a series of chips based on their new Fusion design. The Fusion design incorporates both CPUs and GPUs on the same chip. AMD is naming these chips APU, which stands for Accelerated Processing Unit. AMD's first APU was demonstrated at the Computex trade show on June 1, 2010. One of these APUs is the Ontario design and is built using a 40 nanometer process. AMD plans to release another low power APU built on 28 nanometer process in 2012 called Krishna.

The Ontario APU uses two Bobcat CPU cores and a DirectX-11 capable GPU core. The Ontario chip is expected to have about 90% of the performance capabilities as AMD's other desktop processors, while using about nine watts of power.The Ontario APU is meant to compete against Intel's Atom chip, which also combines a CPU and a very limited GPU. This is the C series.

*** Bobcat Laptop CPU cores (2011) ***
Ontario C-30: 1 CPU @1.2 Ghz, 40 nm process, 9 Watts
Ontario C-50: 2 CPU @1.0 Ghz, 40 nm process, 9 Watts
Zacate E-240: 1 CPU @1.6 Ghz, 40 nm process,18 Watts
Zacate E-350: 2 CPU @1.5 Ghz, 40 nm process,18 Watts
*** Llano Laptop CPU cores (2012) ***
Krishna: 2 CPUs, 28 nm process, 9 Watts
Wichita: 4 CPUs, 28 nm process, 18 Watts


The AMD fusion chip is about the size of a nickle.
The AMD fusion chip is about the size of a nickle.

Fusion APU versus Intel i5

Fusion Chip Performance

AMD gave a performance review of its new Fusion processor June 3, 2010. They compared it against the Intel Atom using Internet Explorer, showing approximately a 25 fold improvement on graphic intensive web pages (50 fps vs. 2 fps).

Some gaming tests (1280 by 768) showed Call of Duty at 17 fps, Far Cry at 16 fps. Left 4 Dead 2 was unacceptable at only 12 fps during heavy zombie action.

The video to the right compares the new AMD fusion APU performance versus an Intel i5 using Intel's integrated graphics. At the beginning of the video they compare City of Heroes, later they compare browser performance.

Even more impressive is the next video showing the ability to actually run Starcraft 2 with a C-50 APU. This is on the Acer Aspire One AO522. Resolution is 1280x720 and the game video and physics are set to the minimum settings, but this is still an impressive performance for this complex game. Starcraft 2 is done by Blizzard and so we can probably expect this little laptop to run Diablo 3 when it is released.

Although Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 will run on the C-50 processor, I would get a laptop with the Zacate E-240 or E-350 for these games. Later scenarios use a lot more units and require more processing power.

With performances like these, AMD will be giving Intel some serious competition in 2011 and 2012. As a consumer, we will be seeing lower prices and better laptops and low cost gaming netbooks.


AMD Fusion Chip Laptops

These laptops use the AMD Fusion chip processor and are available now:

  • Acer Aspire One AO522: This netbook uses the AMD C-50 Processor, 10.1" display, 1 GB DDR3 memory, 250 GB (5400 RPM) HD, Digital Media Card Reader, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, built in 1.3 Megapixel camera, 3 USB 2.0 ports, 6 Hour Battery life. $330 through Amazon.
  • Acer AS5253: This notebook uses the AMD E-350, the most powerful Fusion based processor available. Uses a 15 inch LED display (1366 x 768 pixels), 3 GB DDR3 memory, 320 GB (5400 RPM) HD, CD/DVD-RW drive, built in 1.3 Megapixel camera, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Media card reader, 3 USB 2.0 ports, 3 hour battery, HDMI output allows you to hook this notebook up to an entertainment system and get high definition video and audio. $448 through Amazon.
  • Toshiba Satellite C655D: This laptop uses the AMD E-240 processor, 15.6" LED display with 1366 by 768 pixels, DVD/CD drive, 2 GB DDR3 memory, 320 GB (5400 RPM) HD, Media card reader, 2 USB ports, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3 hour battery. $450 through Amazon.
  • HP Pavilion DM1Z: HP insists that this isn't a netbook even though it has a 11.6" screen (1366 by 768 pixels) and no CD/DVD drive. It does sport an E-350 APU though, 320 GB 7200 rpm HD, 3 GB RAM, 2 USB ports, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3 hour battery. The most spendy at $699.

The above are the best AMD Fusion based laptops available so far. They will meet most needs, but if not, then try the Alienware M11X Gaming Laptop.

More on AMD Fusion APU and also check out Starcraft Capable Netbooks

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