AMD vs. Intel: 10 notebooks tested

Summary:We put two of the toughest chip makers up against each other to see which has the biggest heart for notebooks.

We put two of the toughest chip makers up against each other to see which has the biggest heart for notebooks.

Acer TravelMate 4150LMi
Asus A6000
Asus W5000A
Dell Latitude D610
HP NC8230
LG LW60 Express
MSI Megabook S260
MSI Megabook S270
Samsung M40 plus
Toshiba Tecra M3
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

For this series of tests we wanted to pit the fastest mobile Intel offering against the fastest mobile AMD offering. We asked the vendors to supply the following: One notebook PC equipped with an AMD processor (we suggested either a Mobile Athlon 64 or Turion 64) and/or one notebook PC equipped with an Intel Pentium M processor (we suggested Pentium M 533Mhz FSB and 2MB of L2 cache). The notebook must also be configured with 512MB SDRAM. We actually received products with three distinct chipsets:

Intel Chipsets
There are three main Intel chipsets that are components of its Centrino technology, the 915PM, 915GM, and 915GMS. The 915GM and the 915GMS both have integrated graphics processors which also share system memory, the 915PM has a third-party graphics accelerator. The integrated graphics processor has a hardware Pixel Shader but emulates the Vertex Shader in the notebook's CPU.

The 915GM and 915GMS are generally targeted at slim, lightweight, power-frugal laptops. They run 400MHz front side bus (FSB), whereas the 915PM runs a 533MHz FSB. All three Intel chipsets support DDR2 memory, which gives both a performance and power saving advantage over DDR memory, and 915PM and 915GM also support dual channel.

ATI Chipset
One notebook, the MSI MEGABOOK S270, came equipped with an AMD Sempron Mobile 3000+ and featured the ATI Radeon Xpress 200M chipset -- ATI's mobile chipset for AMD notebooks.

The Xpress 200M includes an integrated graphics processor, a derivative of ATI's Radeon X300 technology, which can use both local and shared-system memory to help keep costs and power usage down while still returning good performance. The ATI solution offers full DirectX 9 support with both Pixel Shader v2.0 and Vertex Shader v2.0 in hardware. The chipset supports both DDR and GDDR memory types and AMD's HyperTransport interface speeds of 800MHz and 1GHz.

SiS Chipset
The second of the AMD-based notebooks, the Asus A6000, came equipped with a Turion ML-40 and featured a mobile derivative of the SIS 755FX called the M760GX.

The chipset supports DDR memory and has a HyperTransport compliant bus driver technology to support AMD mobile Athlon 64 processors with up to 1600MT/s data rates. The integrated Mirage 2 graphics engine has a 256-bit 3D pipeline but its Pixel Shader is only compliant to Direct3D 8.1. The A6000 did include a third-party graphics solution in the form of an nVidia GeForce Go 6200.

Power Saving
Power saving features on both Intel and AMD chips may appear similar but differ in the degrees to which they have been implemented. The Intel Pentium M chips support six distinct speed and voltage combinations, using its enhanced SpeedStep technology.

The AMD Turion chips use the similar stepping of processor speed and voltages, but this is carried out in finer 100MHz increments/decrements; this should allow more flexibility to balance load and power consumption demands for the AMD processor.

Thermal Issues
We decided to measure the temperature of the hot spots under the base of the notebook, and also the temperature of the air issuing from the fan/heat-exchanger. We were surprised at how hot some of the notebooks became on a hard surface like a laminex bench top. The highest temperature measured was 45.6°C -- not far from scolding hot.

Intel vs AMD
To be blunt, sourcing high-performance AMD-based notebooks for this test was less difficult than extracting teeth from a fully grown chicken -- but only just. After much chasing, only two vendors submitted an AMD-powered product -- MSI and Asus. Interestingly, both vendors had their Intel-powered notebooks at the Lab with no chasing needed.

We should point out that the rarity of AMD product is not the fault of AMD, rather vendors, in Australia at least, do not seem to stock adequate quantities of high-performance AMD-equipped notebooks. Acer, for example, has a humdinger of a notebook the Acer Ferrari 3400 that is equipped with a mobile Athlon 64 but the company was unable to ship a single unit to the lab during the entire month of May.

Topics: Processors, Hardware, Intel, Laptops, Mobility

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