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Mobile CPUs: AMD A8 and A10 vs Core i5 and i7 (Llano, Trinity, Sandy and Ivy Bridge)
by Guillaume Louel
Published on August 30, 2012

Niche, expensive and for the enterprise market in the past, for the last ten years laptops have become accessible to all. Numerous factors have contributed to this – the netbook effect having had a clear impact on the average sales price of machines – to the point where laptops have become popular for reasons other than portability. While some users do still need mobility, most laptops sold for the general consumer satisfy other criteria: large screen, small battery and as high a level of performance as possible for a low price. These machines are often used as transportables – from one room to another – rather than portables.

This variability in needs has created strong segmentation, energy consumption being the most important factor. While most mass market machines use processors with a TDP of between 35 and 45 Watts, those designed with an eye on portability (Intel calls them Ultrabooks) use 17 Watt processors. The introduction of the GPU into the processor, both in Intel and AMD products has added a new segmentation possibility and manufacturers often highlight either the CPU or GPU according to chip performance.

We therefore wanted to take the opportunity provided by the launch of the new AMD and Intel mobile platforms, Trinity and Ivy Bridge, to assess the performance of the current offering. We’re going to do our best to find out what they’re capable of in terms of CPU, GPU, OpenCL and energy consumption performance.

A very opaque world

Before starting it’s important to note that the world of laptops is very different to that of desktop platforms. In the first place because OEMs rule the roost here! The Laptops on sale in stores are mostly sold by OEMs and while you can create laptops à la carte, you’re often limited by the availability of components. In practice, this option is above all made available to online stores and assemblers.

The joy of pre-installed software. A German version for our Llano test machine.

Laptop processors are rarely, if at all, sold at retail (sometimes you can find a few entry-level references). It's generally impossible to find information on the real price of chips – Intel’s price list doesn’t include all models. For example, on Intel’s site you can find four Ivy Bridge quad cores at $378, the Core i7 3610QM, 3612QM, 3615QM and 3720QM (500 MHz difference between the 3612 and the 3720 with a TDP difference of 10W, 300 MHz between the 3610 and the 3720 at the same TDP)! These ‘consumer’ prices are far higher in practice than the prices at which these chips are sold to OEMs. Things aren’t necessarily any easier to understand on the AMD side as AMD doesn’t supply a price list for its mobile processors.

Comparing processors that are priced the same therefore quickly becomes impossible and while you can go by the price of laptops to make your choice, at least partially, the variability of so-called ‘equal’ specs from one brand to another means that it is extremely difficult to get a clear picture of the situation. We have tried to choose as well as we can among the available models, basing our choice on the price of laptops, the TDP and the number of cores to give you an overview of the relative Intel and AMD offers.

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AMD Llano and Trinity; AMD A8-3520M and A10-4600M  

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