Intel has been dominating processor news with its Second Generation Core I CPUs, but it isn’t the only company to launch something revolutionary of late. AMD has also finally delivered on its long promised Fusion strategy, with the launch of its first Accelerated Processing Units (APUs).
These CPU/GPU combo chips have been a long time coming and refreshingly they are already appearing in products from big name brands. Just yesterday Toshiba announced that it was releasing the $499 NB550D netbook with AMD’s C-50 APU, and we expect to hear of more products when AMD’s Australian launch of Fusion happens on the first of February.
The C-50 was formerly codenamed Ontario, and is one of the low power options in AMD’s lineup. It has two 1GHz cores based on AMD’s Bobcat architecture and an integrated RADEON HD 6250 GPU. It isn’t a performance processor by any means, instead it is a direct competitor to Intel’s Atom processors, focused on the netbook market.
One of Toshiba’s NB550D units turned up in the PC & Tech Authority labs this morning, and we have had a bit of a chance to put it through its paces, and get an idea of whether its Atom-smashing promises are justified.
Our initial impressions are that the C-50 APU delivers surprisingly snappy performance, even under the awful bloatware that is Windows 7 Starter Edition. Programs loaded quickly, boot times were reasonably and (apart from having to disable and uninstall toolbars in internet explorer in order to see enough of the screen to download Google chrome) getting started was a smooth experience.
Our gut feeling was the NB550D would outperform an equivalent Atom netbook, and to this end we ran some tests booting applications and comparing speeds. Surprisingly the NB550D took a touch longer to load programs, and we suspect that the reason why is down to RAM.
Netbooks are notorious for having a less than ideal amount of RAM. In this case Toshiba has paired the C-50 with 1GB of the stuff. This isn’t out of the ordinary – a lot of netbooks still ship with 1GB (including the one we were comparing the NB550D to). However with the Fusion chips the GPU needs to have a dedicated amount, which appears to be more than the amount of memory that the Atom assigns to graphics. This makes sense due to the much more advanced nature of AMD’s offering, but it meant that even with just a single browser window open the NB550D was down to 100MB of available RAM.
This is something that we will be investigating as we work on a full review of the unit and its potentially impressive processor. It is not that performance is unexpected for a netbook, but we do wonder whether doubling the RAM could turn this into a standout product.