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The time of Zacate is almost at hand.  (Source: Anandtech)

Brazos destroys Intel Atom in performance, but only earns a draw in performance with Atom+Ion. If it can beat Ion-based Atom netbooks like the Eee PC in price, Brazos will be the best option. Otherwise, Intel may retain a slight edge -- thanks to NVIDIA.  (Source: Asustek via Register)
If it can beat Atom+Ion netbooks in cost AMD will have this round in the bag

AMD several years back entered a phase where it was full of big talk, but delivered very little.  Then a couple of years ago it began to turn the corner, with its aggressive delivery of the Radeon 4000 series, 5000 series, and 6000 series allowing it to regain the lead in the discrete GPU market.

Now the company looks to follow-up on those successes, unleashing an intriguing new platform the netbook/ultra-mobile market.  Intel's Atom processor has long dominated this segment thanks to its low price Atom processors.  Atom's CPU performance has always been relatively good, but the performance of Intel's integrated GPUs is pretty abysmal.

AMD's new low-power platform Brazos goes for the throat, attacking Atom where it's weakest -- graphics.  AMD has announced four upcoming models, which are already shipping to OEMs and should pop up in netbooks, notebooks, and other form factors by January/February 2011 at the latest.

To recap from our last piece:

The E-xxx processors are parts in the Zacate series, while the C-xxx parts belong to the Ontario series, which is more heavily aimed at ultraportables.  Together these parts collectively belong to the Brazos family.

Prices have not been announced, but AMD is rumored to be targeting the cheaper dual-core D510 part ($63/unit @ 1k) with its E-350.  Costs for a Brazos notebook are estimated by AMD to be well under $500, with rumors that they might be in the sub $400 range, even.

Both models are built on the Bobcat core design, the low power counterpart to AMD's upcoming Bulldozer core.

So does AMD have the performance edge?


When comparing between architectures clock speed and core counts are generally poor judges of performance.  The E-350 is 1.6 GHz, but it is actually slower than the dual-core 1.3 GHz Athlon Neo K325 or a single-core Athlon V120 2.2GHz with a 512KB L2 cache.  But according to Anandtech, AMD's E-350 has cut the average core power draw when active by 40 percent from its previous gen Nile (Athlon V120) platform.

When it comes to the GPU, though, the comparison to the integrated GPUs on AMD's previous platforms -- Nile (Athlon V120) and Danube (Athlon Neo) -- isn't even close.  The Brazos GPU blows away the past competitors.

In a variety of "practical" benchmarks -- compression, photoshop, etc.  the E-350 constantly beats Intel's Atom D510 with Intel integrated graphics.

And in gaming benchmarks it beats Intel's desktop Clarkdale integrated graphics platform in many games, outperforming a Core i5 processor.  Of course, this only applies to GPU-limited titles like Modern Warfare 2 and BioShock.  CPU limited titles like Dragon Age see far worse performance.  Again, this just goes to show that Brazos has one clear strength -- graphics.

The E-350 also blows away Intel's mobile i3 (2.2 GHz) platform, in gaming tests.

What About Ion and VIA?

So up until now the picture looked pretty clear -- the E-350 blows away Intel's similarly priced offering in real world tests.  But what about the new VIA Nano DC or NVIDIA Ion based systems?

Well it turns out both of those outperform the E-350 in CPU-oriented tests.  But in gaming and other GPU-intensive tasks the E-350 holds a slight edge over an Intel SU3200-based Ion system (Celeron dual-core 1.2 GHz), and a larger edge over the VIA system, according to PC Perspective's benchmarks.

Hot Hardware, though, put it up against a D525+Ion system, which blew it away in the CPU limit Quake Wars and earned roughly a draw at the GPU-limited Left 4 Dead.

What We've Learned...

AMD potentially has a winner on their hands, but it all depends on price.  There's plenty of $420 Ion-based notebooks in the 10" category, such as the Eee PC 1015 (Atom N550).  To make headway in the embedded sector, AMD must beat the price of Atom+Ion systems.

If AMD can deliver on rumors of a sub $400 netbook with E-350 onboard, it will definitely be the best value in the netbook market.  If it can deploy a $420 model it will have earned a draw.  And if it's much above that, it will be slightly behind.

If there's one lesson from Brazos it's that Intel should perhaps drop its IGPs and adopt Ion as its integrated GPU solution.  That'd be a bitter pill for Intel to swallow, considering its recent clashes with NVIDIA, but let's face it, Intel's integrated graphics efforts are horrendous.

If there's two lessons, the second would be that in many ways Brazos is a Radeon 4000 series sort of launch for AMD.  It's not going to jump ahead of its strongest competitor (Atom+Ion), but it looks to pull even in performance and hopefully in price.  In the hardware world catching up is always the hardest part, so the future looks bright for AMD and its "Accelerated Processor Units", aka "Fusion processors".

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Ion saves the day
By kontorotsui on 11/16/2010 10:19:53 AM , Rating: 2
So, like at Hoth, a Ion-system saves the day.

Without a giant boob nipple gun, too.

RE: Ion saves the day
By phatboye on 11/16/2010 10:29:13 AM , Rating: 2

But from what I have been reading lately is that Nvidia is pulling out of the chipset market to focus on Tegra. So Intel really fscked themselves over by not allowing Nvidia to make chipsets for it's platforms anymore you won't be seeing Ion based systems for long.

RE: Ion saves the day
By therealnickdanger on 11/16/2010 11:07:03 AM , Rating: 1
So Intel really fscked themselves over

In a way, that's kind of like saying Burger King got fscked over by not buying booth space inside Trader Joe's. Who's going to eat there?

Atom sucks on the graphics front, no denying that, but the only reason Atom exists at all in the consumer space right now is to that Intel can use the massive profits to help pay for the R&D to shrink Atom down to smartphone/mid size. Intel probably doesn't care if AMD or NVIDIA makes competetive netbook CPUs, because the next Atom is heading to your pocket and Arrandale is and Sandy Bridge will take over and dominate notebooks and sub-notebooks. On top of that, the netbook market is going to fizzle more and more as tablets continue to rise.

Zacate and Ontario look like great alternatives to Atom - slightly faster in CPU functions, multitudes greater in GPU functions, but that still only results in a "barely playable" experience for modern games. The only real benefit I can see would be from the HTPC angle, assuming the full UVD3 experience translates.

If AMD can sell them cheaply enough, they will probably displace some Atom sales, but they still won't be able to meet performance of Arrandale-ULV and most certainly not the coming Sandy Bridge. Add a discrete GPU to any Intel system (Pentium, Celeron, i3, Core 2 Duo, etc.) and AMD no longer becomes an option at any level if you truly want mobile PC gaming.

I'm excited to see a full review of Bobcat'n'friends, but it kinda seems like AMD is about 2 years too late to the netbook party. Bulldozer/Fusion seems like AMDs next legitimate shot at dethroning Intel, at the very least it will start another price-war.

RE: Ion saves the day
By Da W on 11/16/2010 11:51:40 AM , Rating: 2
Ontario could power a windows 7 tablet. Nough said.

RE: Ion saves the day
By therealnickdanger on 11/16/2010 12:43:00 PM , Rating: 1
True, but then so could a ULV Sandy Bridge variant. Could, woulda, shoulda. I guess we'll see what happens when the future arrives!

RE: Ion saves the day
By weskurtz0081 on 11/16/2010 1:24:54 PM , Rating: 3
With Intel integrated graphics? Sure, I guess it will run Windows 7, but nothing has changed with Intel Integrated GPU's, they still suck no matter how they are packaged.

RE: Ion saves the day
By therealnickdanger on 11/17/2010 10:04:18 AM , Rating: 2
Current Intel HD graphics is on par and sometimes better than Ion. Sandy Bridge IGP is supposed to be up to double that performance. That's plenty good for such small and mobile devices. Not to mention perfect Blu-ray playback with bitstreaming.

RE: Ion saves the day
By Lugaidster on 11/17/2010 11:00:56 AM , Rating: 2
Sure, they are probably pretty close but, you are comparing a desktop level IGP with an ultra mobile level IGP. When Intel brings that level of performance to market ION competes, then we could probably compare them.

When we look at the market today, Atom's IGP does not come even close to ION (And ION is about two years old). But more important than that is that current Intel HD graphics can't touch current AMD zacate level graphics.

RE: Ion saves the day
By Lugaidster on 11/17/2010 11:06:20 AM , Rating: 2
Show me some Sandybridge ULV variants and I will believe you. Zacate and Ontario are here right now as AMD is already shipping them. Sandybridge ULV variants are at least 4 months away. And whenever they come, I'm pretty sure they will cost Intel about three times as much as Zacate costs to AMD. Meaning they will never compete on the same price segment.

RE: Ion saves the day
By smilingcrow on 11/17/2010 6:52:30 PM , Rating: 2
"Show me some Sandybridge ULV variants and I will believe you. Zacate and Ontario are here right now as AMD is already shipping them. Sandybridge ULV variants are at least 4 months away."

They aren't here right now; the system being tested wasn't even at production level.
As for Sandybridge ULV I have no idea on its availability. When will Zacate actually be available to buy at retail?

“And whenever they come, I'm pretty sure they will cost Intel about three times as much as Zacate costs to AMD. Meaning they will never compete on the same price segment.”

Sandybridge is on 32nm whereas these will be at 40nm I believe so it seems highly unlikely that the cost will be 3x greater for Intel especially when you consider their record on yields versus AMD.

Regardless of your nonsense it’s good to see AMD make a positive move in this market sector.

RE: Ion saves the day
By sleepeeg3 on 11/16/2010 1:57:31 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I want to support AMD, but Atom has been the whipping boy of processors for awhile. If AMD fails to beat Atom in both processing and power consumption, it sounds like a big loser to me. If the GPU makes the difference between being able to play HD content or not, then it won't be a total loss.

Arrandale would have been a great replacement for Atom, but intel failed to keep the power consumption down, the turbo seems to have little performance advantage and the price is still too high. Penryn is a better mobile platform, but they seem to be phasing it out.

Sounds good to me
By nafhan on 11/16/2010 11:00:02 AM , Rating: 2
What I've seen in reviews:
-well threaded CPU limited: similar performance to dual Atom
-poorly threaded CPU limited: about double performance of dual Atom/similar to CULV DC Celerons
-GPU limited: similar to i3/i5

If these really sell in the same price range as Atom, I think they've got a real winner on their hands, at least until the next gen Atoms come out. I'd be very hesitent to get a VIA APU and expect to do any gaming on it, because of the possibility of driver issues.

RE: Sounds good to me
By bryanW1995 on 11/16/2010 11:08:13 AM , Rating: 2
It seems that the author forgot that intel can make pretty decent graphics now (sandy bridge), it just might take them a year or two to filter that down into the low end.

RE: Sounds good to me
By Goty on 11/16/2010 1:21:45 PM , Rating: 2
Even IF Intel manages to get the cut-down version of the Sandy Bridge IGP (the 16 EU version, not the 32 EU version seen by AT) into the same power envelope as Zacate, AMD will still have a huge price advantage.

RE: Sounds good to me
By Goty on 11/16/2010 1:29:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yike, I really messed up those numbers didn't I? 16 -> 6 and 32 -> 12.

RE: Sounds good to me
By Da W on 11/17/2010 8:58:05 AM , Rating: 2
Zacate size GPU outperform Clarkdale 661. Even IF Sandy bridge has twice the GPU power of Clarkdale, what do you think the Bulldozer GPU will be???

I'd be very surprised if Intel can beat 20 years of graphic experience grown at ATI. They whooped Nvidia's ass all over the place.

RE: Sounds good to me
By f1whitewall on 11/19/2010 5:58:42 AM , Rating: 2
it beat clarkdale in only one game.


it's sad, cause out of the three games anand threw at zacate, it could only beat intel in just one?

really, has no site other than anand compared zacate's graphics to intel's Clarkdale graphics?

RE: Sounds good to me
By Lugaidster on 11/17/2010 10:52:40 AM , Rating: 2
That is an unfair comparison. You assume Intel will be going forward while AMD won't. Whenever Sandybridge's IGP reaches the Atom, AMD should've brought similar improvements to its APU.

Besides, Sandybridge's IGP uses the L3 cache to reduce it's dependency on the memory controller, I don't see Intel adding 2MB to 3MB of cache (or even one for that matter) to the Atom as that would increase the costs and not benefit as much (remember 2% perf. for 1% die incr.). Take that cache away and I'm pretty sure the performance will suffer.

By kattanna on 11/16/2010 11:07:23 AM , Rating: 2
in an article talking about low levels of power usage, you got a pic of some girl drinking a glass of wine with the fridge door left open


RE: humorous
By Reclaimer77 on 11/16/2010 11:13:21 AM , Rating: 3
lol yeah.

I think she could stand with opening the fridge a lot more. She's anorexic! Possibly bulimic.

RE: humorous
By bupkus on 11/16/2010 8:04:29 PM , Rating: 2
Not every girl is as fat as my gf.

RE: humorous
By Strunf on 11/17/2010 7:31:26 AM , Rating: 2
"She's anorexic! Possibly bulimic."

That or she's French!

AMD's Corporate Slogan
By The Insolent One on 11/16/10, Rating: 0
RE: AMD's Corporate Slogan
By mino on 11/16/2010 6:25:03 PM , Rating: 2

Zacate/Ontario were initially Q1 2011 products that are shipping for revenue as we speak.

RE: AMD's Corporate Slogan
By The Insolent One on 11/16/10, Rating: -1
RE: AMD's Corporate Slogan
By SPOOFE on 11/16/2010 11:55:54 PM , Rating: 2
after all it keeps Intel from raising their prices too high.

Eh. If Intel raised their prices too high, that would just create a scenario in which they'd be competing with their existing products, and over time it would leave the market open to a new entrant.

I don't get these "we need AMD!" doomsday scenarios.

RE: AMD's Corporate Slogan
By The Insolent One on 11/17/2010 2:43:02 AM , Rating: 4
I would bet a lot of money that the executives at Intel are saying "we need AMD."

You see, if AMD ceases to exist, Intel is the sole *real* provider of the chips that run the majority of the computers in the world. The US government would slice and dice Intel up faster than you could say "Iron Chef."

Did you ever play "Monopoly" and have all the yellows, greens, reds, and the dark blues? Yeah, that's right, you've basically won the game. The guy that has the purples and the light blues knows it's over, but both of you want him to keep playing because when he's broke, the game is over and the fun stops.

RE: AMD's Corporate Slogan
By Amiga500 on 11/17/2010 7:30:01 AM , Rating: 2
nd over time it would leave the market open to a new entrant.

Yes, because it is a simple and straightforward matter to enter the x86 semi-conductor market....

Goddamn Single Channel
By XZerg on 11/16/2010 1:02:44 PM , Rating: 2
I feel that these CPUs (APUs fine) are severely crippled by going with Single Channel memory controller. You are catering data to CPU and GPU over a measly single channel and that too slower speed than most cpus out there barring Atoms. How do you expect to deliver 90% performance to mainstream processors of today? You can't!

RE: Goddamn Single Channel
By Taft12 on 11/16/2010 1:46:39 PM , Rating: 1
You may "feel" the CPU is crippled but it is not

Dual-channel memory has maybe a 5% performance advantage over single-channel AT BEST, but it is usually more in the 0-1% range.

It was a scam from the get-go, so please stop propagating a myth.

RE: Goddamn Single Channel
By XZerg on 11/16/2010 2:11:58 PM , Rating: 2
Please re-read my comment. The review that you linked is specifically for CPU only using main memory for the data. This is about both CPU and GPU using main memory for the data. Any applications that hit both the CPU and GPU will definitely have severe performance hit imo - much more than the CPU only memory case.

RE: Goddamn Single Channel
By LordanSS on 11/16/2010 6:29:00 PM , Rating: 2
I would like to point out a couple things that should be noted.

That test was run in 2007, on a dual core processor.

Fast forward 3 (almost 4) years, and now you have quad+ core processors plus software that has been further optimized to make use of the extra cores.

Yes indeed, when it gets to just a single (or dual) core processor, one channel is supposed to be enough (for most things). But that is pretty much the basic idea though, one channel servicing up to two (or perhaps three) cores. As the count goes up, and we are more and more able to keep them working full burn, the need for bandwidth also goes up.

It's a matter of keeping the processors fed. I remember several years ago an article in Anandtech, comparing the then Opterons with their on-die memory controllers plus HT and Pentium-based Xeons, who were constrained by their front side bus, on a quad-socket build. The Opterons won, and the difference was greater the more number of processors (and cores) you added, as the usable bandwidth would just increase.

So in the end yeah, dual (and triple) channel are no myths. It just depends on what you're going to use them for, and how many mouths you have to feed.

By Ammohunt on 11/16/2010 2:14:56 PM , Rating: 2
So what if i don't want a GPU integrated into the CPU? Seems like a limiting factor. Perhaps i want a low power server with basic video AMD doesn't have an offering?

RE: Hmmm
By StevoLincolnite on 11/16/2010 2:50:19 PM , Rating: 2
If your an enthusiast it's still an option, just do some good ole' underclocking.

But this chip is pretty much the high-end low power chip, AMD will have single core variants out, some may even come with a 40 Stream processor version of the GPU in the future.

RE: Hmmm
By mino on 11/16/2010 6:22:45 PM , Rating: 2
It does.
There is a 5 Watt, single-core, 1 GHz, no GPU, SKU for the embedded market.

but can it?
By Andypro on 11/16/2010 11:22:42 AM , Rating: 3
If it can beat Atom+Ion netbooks in cost AMD will have this round in the bag

But these performance numbers you're quoting are from the high-end Zacate E350. As you conveniently decided not to mention from the Anandtech article, these chips won't be competing with Atoms - they'll be in $400 to $500 notebooks competing against Pentium dual cores and i3's.

RE: but can it?
By Kiijibari on 11/16/2010 5:13:53 PM , Rating: 2
If it is "high-end" will depend on the price.

As they stated in the article, it seems they want to price Zacate accordingly to the Atom D510. However, performance-wise that chip will compete with Pentium dual cores and i3s.

If that price is true, then Atom would be drop dead, soon.
Because its GPU performance without nvidia ION help is terrible, and its price and power consumption is (much) higher with ION chipset - without better GPU performance, and still quite bad CPU performance.

Maybe Atom can survive in the tablet / mobile market and/or with prices cuts. Otherwise I see personally no future in the long term. But let's wait and see ... intel is always good for a surprise :)

Not worth even mentioning
By Sungpooz on 11/16/2010 2:03:18 PM , Rating: 2
"Hot Hardware, though, put it up against a D525+Ion system, which blew it away in the CPU limit Quake Wars and earned roughly a draw at the GPU-limited Left 4 Dead."

Would like to add a note from that specific comaparison review:

"In the Enemy Territory: Quake Wars test, we see another case of driver optimizations that needs to take place for AMD's unreleased Brazos platform and Zacate processor. You'll also note we're missing some higher resolutions for the other test systems here in spots, due to panel resolution limitations at test time. Regardless, Zacate's GPU trails Ion 2 here by a significant margin, but it's not surprising, given the pre-release stage the system is in and the fact that OpenGL-based game engines are a dying breed now and likely lower on AMD's hit list as a result. "

The E-350 beats the 525+Ion handily in the majority of other CPU benchmarks, gaming and non-gaming, why mention such a bad indicator of performance? Especially since it's most likely not optimized yet.

RE: Not worth even mentioning
By Amiga500 on 11/17/2010 7:32:16 AM , Rating: 2
Also, what is the power draw of a D525 + ION?

I see people quoting all sorts of numbers, from different sides of the market simultaneously, when comparing to Zacate.

GPU is the key
By Mitch101 on 11/16/2010 10:23:35 AM , Rating: 3
What really kills these knock off iPads/portable devices is the lack of a GPU. Even a lowly 300mhz poor IPC cpu comes to life when there is a GPU that can handle the graphics especially when it comes to portable devices. The first thing people seem to try is playing youtube and divx and when a device comes to a crawl because it lacks a GPU the device is basically junk.

By Shadowmaster625 on 11/17/2010 10:07:21 AM , Rating: 3
It costs more just for the nvidia ion northbridge than it will cost AMD to produce this chip. Also, Intel charges more for an atom than it costs AMD to build this chip. Given these basic facts, there is no way an E-350 netbook would cost more than an ION netbook. I would expect to be able to find an E-240 netbook available on sale for under $200 in the next 3 months. $250 for the E-350 and a 6 cell battery.

I know one thing for sure... those idiots buying atom netbooks on black friday, even for $150, are fools.

By inighthawki on 11/16/2010 1:21:29 PM , Rating: 2
In the hardware world catching up is always the hardest part, so the future looks bright for AMD and its " Advanced Processor Units ", aka "Fusion processors".

APU stands for Accelerated Processing Unit.

Brazos has no chance
By mino on 11/16/2010 6:17:20 PM , Rating: 2
Any sane person will prefer that Eee girl to any new Brazos or, whatever, :D

By ChipDude on 11/16/2010 11:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
All I want is to have wine with that girl and show here my GPU running overclocked!

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 11/17/2010 12:10:21 PM , Rating: 2
So what you're saying is that a new generation of ASIC has beaten an older generation in benchmarks? This is unprecedented in ... oh wait.


By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 11/17/2010 12:10:21 PM , Rating: 2
So what you're saying is that a new generation of ASIC has beaten an older generation in benchmarks? This is unprecedented in ... oh wait.


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