If you're shopping for a cheap and light portable, then netbooks with AMD's Fusion chip should be on your radar. See our price comparison of the first batch from Acer, HP, Dell and Toshiba
In recent months, the humble netbook has been given a significant boost in power courtesy of AMD's APU Fusion technology. As its name implies, AMD Fusion brings together a processor and graphics on a single chip; taking the best of the CPU and GPU worlds and merging them.
While integrated graphics are nothing new, the APU chipset is capable of more than just running basic 3D applications - for the first time, HD video playback and high-end gaming are possible without relying on a dedicated graphics card.
Why AMD Fusion?
AMD Fusion combines a central processing unit (CPU) and a graphics processor on a single-die processor connected by a high speed bus. By placing both processors side by side on the same piece of silicon, AMD Fusion properly unites both processing types for the first time.
This allows serial and parallel workloads to coexist, which translates to higher energy efficiency and faster processing times.
The Fusion range is designed with HD and 3D video in mind and is particularly suited to netbooks due to its design simplicity. They are for the most part more affordable than the current crop of Intel ‘Sandy Bridge’ CPUs, which are chiefly reserved for higher-end computing.
For more information on the ins-and-outs of AMD Fusion, check out our APU guide.
There are currently four mobile APU models on the market, which run under the 'Brazos' platform name. Here's a look at the current lineup:
AMD Brazos Lineup
|APU Model||Number of Bobcat Cores||CPU Clock Speed||GPU||Number of GPU Cores||GPU Clock Speed||TDP|
|AMD E-350||2||1.6GHz||Radeon HD 6310||80||500MHz||18W|
|AMD E-240||1||1.5GHz||Radeon HD 6310||80||500MHz||18W|
|AMD C-50||2||1.0GHz||Radeon HD 6250||80||280MHz||9W|
|AMD C-30||1||1.2GHz||Radeon HD 6250||80||280MHz||9W|
During the past few months, several major notebook manufacturers have come to the AMD Fusion table, offering a range of new products based on the APU architecture. A few models even retail for under $500.
In the following article, we take a look at how some of these AMD Fusion netbooks and notebooks compare in terms of features and price. (For more detailed overview from the manufacturer's website, click on the model name of each product.)
The Toshiba NB550D is an AMD Fusion-based netbook that comes with a C-50 'Brazos' APU. It has two 1GHz cores based on AMD’s Bobcat architecture and an integrated RADEON HD 6250 GPU. It runs Windows 7 Starter Edition.
The C-50 processor is a low-power solution that is still capable of delivering snappy performance (you can read our full review here). For a $499 machine, the Toshiba NB550D isn't too shabby in other areas either: you get Harman/Kardon speakers, HDMI-out for watching movies to your big screen TV, and the curiously named Sleep-and-Music function for playing music while the NB550D is turned off.
On the downside, the unit only comes with 1GB of RAM, although this is common for a 10in netbook. With dimensions of 266x192.3x24.2mm, the Toshiba NB550D is a bit bulkier than the other netbooks on this list, but it remains highly portable, nonetheless.
If you're a fan of eye-catching designs, the Toshiba's electric blue scales are also a bonus.
With an RRP of $449, the Acer Aspire One 522 is currently the cheapest AMD Fusion netbook on the market. Boasting a 10.1in widescreen LED-backlit display , an AMD Fusion C-50 dual-core CPU, 1GB of DDR3 memory and 250GB of storage, it is more than capable of holding its own against the similarly-specified Toshiba NB550D.
With dimensions of 259x185x25.7mm, the Acer Aspire One 522 is smaller than its Toshiba rival despite having the same size screen. While this is good for portability, we suspect that the keyboard is probably smaller, which may hamper users with large fingers.
The 522's display has a higher native resolution than the Toshiba NB550D: 1280x720 pixels vs 1024x600 pixels. Otherwise, both netbooks sport similar connectivity and components, including HDMI and VGA display ports, 802.11n (2.4ghz) Wi-Fi and 10/100 Ethernet.
Like the Toshiba NB550D, the Acer Aspire One 522 runs Windows 7 Starter Edition.
If you'd prefer the added functionality of a laptop, but still want a machine that's small and light, the Dell Inspiron M102z is another APU solution that's worth checking out.
The Dell Inspiron M102z crams better-than-netbook graphics performance into an 11in laptop; a mere 0.9 inches wider than the netbooks listed above. The Dell Inspiron M102z comes in several flavours, ranging from $599 to $749.
The $599 base model comes with AMD's C-50 APU, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, a 320GB hard drive (7200RPM) and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Its main advantage over the Acer Aspire One AO522 and Toshiba NB550D are a fully-featured OS, a faster hard drive and an additional gigabyte of RAM.
If you regularly multitask and like to have lots of browser windows up at the same time, the extra premium is probably worth it.
At $699, the HP Pavilion DM1-3010au is at the steep end of the Brazos AMD Fusion range. Its main claims to fame are an 11.6in LED display and a more powerful 1.6GHz AMD E-350 processor (compared to the 1.0GHz C-50 chip found in the other netbooks on this list).
In addition, the HP Pavilion DM1-3010au comes with 2GB of DDR3 memory, which helps to give it a zippier performance. Those who are willing to stump up an additional $50 might also want to check out the Sony Vaio YB laptop, which also packs in 2GB of RAM and a E-350 APU. You can read our review of the Sony Vaio YB here.
AMD Fusion price/specification comparison table:
HP Pavilion DM1-3010au
Acer Aspire One AO522
Dell Inspiron M102z
|Screen size||10.1 inches
|Display resolution||1024x600 pixels||1366x768 pixels
||LED Backlit||LED HP BrightView||LED-backlit TFT
||WLED Display with TrueLife|
||AMD C-50 (1.0Ghz)
||AMD E-350 (1.6Ghz)
||AMD C-50 (1.0Ghz)||AMD C-50 (1.0Ghz)|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 6250M||AMD Radeon HD 6310M||AMD Radeon HD 6250M||AMD Radeon HD 6250M|
||1GB DDR3 (1333Mhz)||2GB DDR3 (1066MHz)
||1GB DDR3 (1066Mhz)||2GB DDR3 (1333MHz)|
||320GB (5400 rpm)||250GB (5400rpm)
||320GB (7200 rpm)|
|OS||MS Windows 7 Starter
||MS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit||MS Windows 7 Starter||MS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit|
|Warranty||One year||One year||One year||One year