The netbook market is definitely moving forward. Just recently these computer systems were all based only on Intel Atom processors, but today they have become much more versatile due to the arrival of alternative solutions from AMD. Moreover, even though the manufacturers keep complaining about the upcoming cannibalization from tablets and ultrabooks, AMD and Intel have no intention to drop the production of their ultra-energy-efficient processors on Atom and Bobcat microarchitectures. Very soon Intel will refresh the Atom lineup by introducing 32 nm manufacturing process and releasing new Cedarview CPU generation, while AMD will roll out E-450 and C-60 processors supporting Turbo Core technology.
While netbooks on new processors haven’t arrived yet, you can make up your mind about your preferences basing on what is currently available in the market.
Intel’s Pine Trail platform with Atom processors and integrated GMA 3150 graphics no longer is up-to-date. The graphics core is way too weak. It can’t deliver acceptable performance even in the most primitive 3D applications and doesn’t have hardware video acceleration, which makes the application for Pine Trail based netbooks extremely limited. These computers may suit only for Internet browsing or for work in office applications, which will hardly satisfy most users. Therefore, we would recommend to pass on the Pine Trail based netbooks, even though they offer decent (for their class) pure computational performance of the Atom processors and attractive battery life.
AMD Brazos platform with C-series (Ontario) processors may become a very good alternative with just as good a battery life, but significantly better multimedia functionality. These processors are just as energy-efficient as Intel Atom, but boast a much more advanced graphics core. Of course, we can’t say that this core’s 3D performance is good enough, but at least it is capable of playing HD video. As a result, netbooks with AMD C-series processors inside will have a much broader potential application field than the ones on Intel Pine Trail platform. And don’t be discouraged by the lower pure performance of Ontario processors: they are still fast enough to guarantee comfortable user experience in typical netbook tasks.
However, if the computational performance of your netbook is so important to you and you are attracted to Intel Atom processors, which tend to be pretty efficient in multi-threaded tasks, then you should consider the ION platform. Contemporary implementation includes an Atom processor and an external Nvidia graphics accelerator, which together deliver good computational speed, acceptable 3D, CUDA support and fault-free HD video playback. There is only one drawback here: the additional graphics card has serious negative effect on the netbook’s battery life, so this configuration won’t be the longest-lasting in autonomous mode. The Nvidia Optimus technology that should help resolve this issue doesn’t do its job very well. Moreover, it often calls for additional actions on the user’s part, such as search for the necessary settings in the driver and applications.
So, we would like to encourage you once again to check out the competition – AMD Brazos platform with E-series (Zacate) processors. Although they can’t boast remarkable performance compared to top Atom models, E-series processors from AMD win the users’ hearts due to their more advanced graphics core. Fully-functional Radeon HD with 80 unified shader processors and DirectX 11 support not just plays back HD video. It is powerful enough for some 3D gaming, where its fps rate is noticeably higher than that of Nvidia ION. At the same time, Brazos is also more energy-efficient, because in our tests the corresponding netbook lasted on battery longer than its ION based competitor.
Summing up everything we have just said, we have to say that even though AMD was a little late to the netbook market, their products are more than competitive. And if you are currently looking for a new netbook, we strongly recommend taking into consideration various modifications of AMD Brazos platform, which may offer pretty good balance of computational and graphics performance, as well as multimedia functionality. Moreover, Ontario and Zacate based netbooks come at very appealing prices, which is, actually, typical of all AMD solutions.