And in the Green Corner...

Meanwhile, from the green team (red team?), Puget Systems offers a system based on AMD's Llano. On paper it's definitely not as compelling as its Intel-based counterpart, but looks can be deceiving. Here's the test configuration:

Puget Systems Echo I (AMD Edition) Specifications
Chassis Antec ISK-110 VESA
Processor AMD A6-3500
(3x2.1GHz, Turbo to 2.4GHz, 32nm, 3MB L2, 65W)
Motherboard ASUS F1A75-I Deluxe
Memory 2x8GB Patriot DDR3-1333
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6530D
(320 stream processors, 443MHz core clock)
Hard Drive(s) Intel 520 240GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 1TB 5200 RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) -
Power Supply 80W external
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9002WB-1NG b/g/n Mini-PCIe Wireless LAN
Bluetooth v2.1+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC892
Speaker, mic, and line-in jacks, optical S/PDIF
Front Side 2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top -
Back Side 4x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
Optical out
Speaker, mic, and line-in jacks
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Extras SSD
Warranty 1-year parts, lifetime labor and support
Pricing Starts at $747
Priced as configured: $1,408

It's very easy to be underwhelmed by the AMD A6-3500 processor at the center of the Puget Systems Echo I (AMD Edition); the processor aspect is lackluster. Technically if you look online you'll even find that it's theoretically not the fastest 65W Llano-based processor AMD produces, but in practice the faster ones are much harder to come by. In talking to our Puget Systems rep, we found that they were having a hard time sourcing the faster ones, while the A6-3500 is still relatively plentiful. A visit to NewEgg corroborates their story: the fastest Llano chip available in a 65W envelope is the A6-3500.

So just how underwhelming is the A6-3500? The CPU half is three cores running at just 2.1GHz, able to turbo up only to 2.4GHz. These are reworked Stars cores from the Athlon II series now dubbed Husky cores, but they're still substantially slower than Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture clock-for-clock. Worse still, in this comparison the A6-3500 has to do battle with four of Sandy Bridge's cores, and they all run at least 700MHz faster. The CPU side of this equation isn't remotely evenly matched, but where availability is concerned, this is the best AMD has to offer.

Thankfully, the other side of the A6-3500 is much more promising. The Radeon HD 6530D at the heart of the system enjoys 320 stream processors clocked at 443MHz, and while that's not too exciting in terms of raw GPU hardware, it's miles ahead of what Intel is offering in the i7-2600S. The 6530D is essentially the half of the bargain that AMD is banking on; when they talk about a balanced platform, they're talking about a CPU that's "good enough" with a GPU that can hold its own.

The rest of the build is more or less identical to the Intel build on the previous page, featuring the same SSD, same hard drive, and even the same brand and speed of memory. The only difference here is that the ASUS board used in the AMD edition supports full-length DIMMs instead of SO-DIMMs, helping to bring overall system costs down slightly—and of course, that's ignoring the fact that the A6-3500 retails for $79 while the i7-2600S is up at $309. Even connectivity on the back of the system is borderline identical, although the AMD system also enjoys DisplayPort where the Intel version has to make do with VGA; this DisplayPort connectivity also means this system can handle three monitors on its own.

In the Blue Corner... System Performance
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  • ReverendDC - Monday, March 26, 2012 - link


    This was a review of two pre-configured systems. In the end of the article, the author specifically states that there are far more powerful AMD CPUs available in the same power envelope, but they are not readily available, even on NewEgg, and that the manufacturer doesn't add them in as an option.

    If I were an AMD fan (and I am...), I would be ecstatic that my admittedly lower-end CPU/GPU combo knocked out the MUCH more powerful i7 CPU/GPU combo for overall usefulness. I believe that competition is absolutely necessary in the CPU space - just look and see how much Intel is sitting on their laurels right now without a really good challenger to their CPU dominance right now, and then look how much work they are putting into the GPU side of things now that AMD has eaten their lunch in that arena. How could you claim that this article was written by an Intel fellow when the parting thought was that he would go with the AMD solution for a system such as this (notebook, HTPC)?

    In addition, the author basically chastises the manufacturer for not making better parts available that would take advantage of the AMD's love of memory without even coming close to breaking the power consumption limit.

    Come on, guys. We all know that the CPU side of AMD is not the reason people buy APUs. We all know that, until AMD drops the new NetBurst architecture they are trying to push (Bulldozer) and realize that, if Intel failed with that strategy, AMD may just go bankrupt using it, that Intel will DESTROY AMD on the CPU side. We also know that, even with Ivy Bridge, there is a good chance that the GPU side will STILL belong to AMD, even at current Llano builds (there is a previous article from Anand previewing the new Ivy Bridge GPU). There was not a single shock in this article. Why argue well-documented facts at this point....

    Thanks for your time.
  • djfourmoney - Thursday, April 12, 2012 - link

    What do mean they have qualified 1600Hz memory for the Llanos? Tom's already ran its own testing and PNY Xlr8 are the best given the price, availability and performance.

    Given faster memory the Llano would put a further smack down on Sandy Bridge graphics and run BF3!

    These APU's are perfectly suited for HTPC use, especially given the price of cut down i3's (G-series).

    I was wondering if this would run on the 90W power brick Antec gives you. I have A6-3500 waiting for a motherboard and memory. I sort of want to downsize my HTPC which uses a Sonta III case currently. But that would mean buying at least one external device and leaving my poor PCI TV Tuners out to lunch.

    All total it would add $80 for the Antec case, $45 for a used 650HD USB Combo Tuner (ATI has better PQ chips!) and $15 for the ASRock board over the Mico-ATX version.

    Oh well... Serious Budget Upgrade so I'll likely stick to the original plan. Thanks for the Review.

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