Laptops with AMD cpus any good? 2011 edition

What’s the hive’s opinion of AMD cpus for laptops? I need to give some advice to a friend who needs to upgrade her 6-years old Dell Inspiron, and she asked about all those red-color CPU stickers on the new laptops. All I currently know is that the mobile i5 and i7 are fast and use little power. I could use a chart explaining all the different AMD cpus. I can’t even tell which ones compete with Atoms.

My friend just wants something to surf, skype, facebook, youtube. No games, although her boyfriend tried to introduce Portal 2 to her, and she got seasick.

I hear the AMD Zacate laptops pack a punch.

For those uses, any CPU works. Intel, AMD, ARM, Atom. Hell, get some sort of tablet.

Yeah, she actually would be the ideal tablet user…I’ll pass that on.

Can an Atom netbook really play Portal 2? Even the old single-core one?

Single core atom, especially with an intel GPU, probably not.

Maybe an Ion with a dual core at lower settings.

As far as the AMD ones, the Zacate (e350) processor is the Ion equivalent, as show in the anandtech link. For surfing skype, youtube, it’s overkill. It can play 720p flash videos without breaking a sweat. I’ve even played it with decent framerates on portal 1, haven’t tried portal 2 yet. It also plays WoW at Fair settings at about 30 frames a second.

This is the one I bought. Although as Stepsongrapes said, she sounds like a prime candidate for tablets. Note: I bought the system because it was cheap. It’s rather large for what really is a netbook processor, and the speaker is horrible frankly.

I though you said she doesn’t want to play Portal 2?

When you want capacity for something like Portal 2, you substantially shift the requirement curve for the processor (and GPU, and memory, etc.).

Just tried portal 2. At the extremely low resolution my notebook has, with high settings I get about 20 frames a second. It also had a large amount of stutters in any kind of quick change of complexity (walking from a hall to a large area). Not exactly ideal, but probably playable on low settings. This was also with 4 gigs of RAM, which most of the e350 laptops don’t come stock with.

Thanks everybody. This info is Just-In-Time. Another friend just called me up asking about a laptop that is zabuni’s twin. He was more concerned about game playing, so zabuni’s anecdotes are perfect. $350 for this is frankly speaking a much better deal than any Atom netbooks. And my friend can put up with low settings.

Some games may do better than others. Anand did a review of it with some game benchmarks. The more they were CPU bound, the worse it did. Starcraft was rather abysmal.

AMD notebook CPUs are “okay” - performance is fine, but Intel’s are both faster and give you considerably more battery life.

The exception is if you’re looking at sort of a premium netbook class (10.1 or 12-inch) type of thing. There, your choices are between an Intel Atom and AMD E-series (the “Fusion APU” as AMD calls it). Let me tell you, the Fusion E-350 kicks the crap out of the Atom. You lose about an hour of battery life, but you’re talking going from 7 hours to 6, it’s not a big deal. What you get for that is a CPU that is considerably faster, and an integrated GPU some 3-4 times faster than Intel’s in the real world. Yes, that means games that run at 5-7fps on Atom run 20fps on the E-350.

Granted, you won’t be playing major games with it. It’ll run Portal 2 with settings turned down, or Starcraft II on Medium. It’s also got way better video decoding than the Atom chips.

So if you’re looking for something 13 inches and up, go for a “slower” second-gen Core i3 i5 or i7. Even the ULV parts are plenty fast. If you want a premium netbook, look for those AMD E-350 processors.

Note - in a couple months we should start seeing laptops based on AMD’s “Llano” processors, going under the name “Fusion A-series.” These marry the Phenom II CPU cores, somewhat modified, with the same sort of GPU as in the Fusion E-series only about 4 times bigger. All on a 32nm process (a first for AMD, Intel’s been there for awhile). I have no idea how that will shake out, but if AMD prices it right and if their new fancy digital power management and 32nm process work out well, it could potentially be a really awesome chip for thin and light laptops. Something like 60-80% the CPU performance of the Core i5 or i7 but with 2-3x the graphics perf wouldn’t surprise me.

Thanks Jason. My friends need their new laptop RIGHT NOW, so the info on the E-series is the most relevant to me. Specifically, after not paying attention for the last 3 years, I find the AMD lineup of chips and names to be unrecognizable and really confusing. I can’t even tell if Phenom CPUs are top-of-the-line anymore. Now at least I know which are the current processors to look at, and ignore the Neos and the V’s etc.

I was shopping for a laptop a few weeks ago and ended up with a Phenom II dual core. The Phenom IS AMD’s top of the line processor but even then from my research the one I picked up (N660), which is the fastest at 3GHz, is supposedly only on par with a an i3 (around an i3-380 to be specific)."+Display+/+3GB+Memory+/+320GB+Hard+Drive+-+Black/2171094.p?id=1218312457552&skuId=2171094&st=z565&cp=1&lp=1

I would have gone with an i3 having never owned an AMD CPU machine but just a month ago they were in the $550 and above range (budget was $500) and I came across the Phenom II machine for $449 at Best Buy. The price dropped to $399 so I got a price match refund which was great.

Of course, a couple of days after my 2 week return period the i3 machines start dropping in price - now you can easily find one for $449 and I’ve seen a couple at $399 (the Phenom II machine is also now $379! - lowest price for one, it seems others are still $450 - $550).

Anyway for my needs the CPU is more than sufficient, it’s actually quite fast but if the 3GHZ Phenom II is only as fast as an i3 you probably want to stay away from the lower clocked versions (2.4 and lower) and stick with the N660, N640, N620 and P540 which I believe correspond to 3, 2.9, 2.8 and 2.5 GHZ.

Anyway, the machine I got is great - never owned a laptop myself but having used a few and trying out so many in-stores this one seemed the most well built in the sub $550 price range. The HP and Dell units I played around with felt and looked cheap - this one feels solid and has an awesome keyboard and good touchpad (the HP touchpad was horrible). Also has a cool matte black rubberized cover so no fingerprint smudges all over the place.