Review AMD’s Ontario Fusion – Mity might takes on Monster math

Posted by Webmaster on February 10th 2011 | Discuss
Categories: Hardware Review,
Tags: amd gpu hpu igp

AMD Zacate block diagram (Source: AMD)

After over a year's anticipation and teases of peaks at it, we finally got our hands on an AMD Fusion HPU, an 18W Zacate HPU on a Brazos platform.

Our expectations were that it would knock the ball out of the park on graphics and humiliate Intel – that didn't happen, but then it wasn't a fair fight. It appears to be a little better than an embedded IGP in terms of GPU performance despite its superior number of GPU cores, and a poor performing CPU compared to Intel's big-iron offerings. It's main claim to fame is low power consumption, small die, and price.

Clearly a value or entry-level device, it will challenge Celeron, Pentium, and Atom processors but not any Core products – but then it wasn't intended to.

We got a desktop motherboard to put through the trials. We ran two CPU tests: 3D Mark Vantage CPU, and Super Pi. For graphics we ran two synthetic tests – 3D Mark Vantage GPU, and PC Mark Vantage, and for real games we used Stalker COP and Resident Evil. We ran Stalker COP in both DirectX 10 and 11 on the Zacate and there was only a 0.2% difference in the scores so we felt using COP in Dx10 mode was legitimate for all machines. We also ran video transcoding tests using CyberLink's MediaExpresso.

We ran the tests on five machines, a Clarkdale i5, a Sandy Bridge i7, the AMD E-350 Zacate, an Atom N450, and a HP notebook with a Core2 Duo. The results were quite mixed and not all tests could run.

CPU tests

Super Pi was the only test we could get to run on five machines due to differences in OS. We did get 3D Mark 11 to run on the PGU and HPU machines.

GPU tests

For the gaming and GPU tests the Zacate tied with Clarkdale on two tests and was on average 28% slower than Clarkdale.

Video test

The video test was 4 minutes; 449 MB HD MPEG2 video file converted to an iPhone 3G 16:9 format, using MediaEspresso 6.5.

The Zacate took 12 seconds longer, or 24% to convert the file than the Clarkdale. The Atom N450 GMA 3150 could open the file. CyberLink's MediaExpesso 6.5 takes advantage of hardware acceleration if it's available.

What do we think?

We expected Zacate to be on par with at least Sandy bridge in terms of graphics, if not beat it, and to totally stomp Clarkdale's graphics. It turned out to be on par with Clarkdale and did beat an Atom N450.

It's hard to see the desktop application for the device other than a net-top or maybe a media server. It probably has application in thin clients and POS devices.

Pros

According to AMD the Zacate uses just 18 Watts. The system we mounted the Asus motherboard in had a 750W power supply and we didn't have anything smaller so we couldn't really determine if it was power efficient or not.

The AMD Zacate is an entry-level device in terms of performance. It should be an economical chip and with low power consumption be well suited for the Value segment of the notebook and netbook market.

Cons

Graphics performance no better than last generation IGPs.

One of the benefits of an HPU is that it removes the bottleneck between the CPU and GPU which should benefit applications using GPU-compute like Adobe or CyberLink, however we didn't see any evidence of that.

Summary

This is AMD's first production unit targeted at the low end power misery segments, and the chip delivers what it promises. We didn't have any low power older units to test it against so we put it up against the big boys, like we said, not a fair fight. The Clarkdale and SNB were running at 3.3GH compared to the Zacate at just 1.6 Ghz. Still it held its own and made a decent if not stealer showing.

The Zacate E-350 is an 18 watt compared to the 95 watt Core i5 2500T we tested against.

But wait

Llano will be out in a couple of months and then we expect to see the tables turned.

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