A few select journalists have been given access to a Brazos platform equipped with a Zacate APU, the 18W version of the chip otherwise known as Ontario. There are a few others, but here is a preview from Anandtech, here is one from PC Perspective with power comparisons, and here is one from The Tech Report. In that last one, I really like the subjective testing part:
Scientific benchmarks or not, we like to install different games on our laptops and manually tweak the options to see how well they run. A little subjective testing never hurt anybody, right? [page 4].
Zacate turns out to be consistently faster than Atom, especially in single-threaded workloads, which makes the system much snappier, according to Anand. It can can come pretty close to CULV platforms in CPU-bound applications, and often does (much) better in games. What the previews don't insist on is just how small this piece of silicon is. Just look at this:
|Author: Hans de Vries|
Basically, AMD has made a 75mm² (official figure) die that is consistently faster than Atom (87mm²) in CPU-bound workloads, and vastly superior in games or video. It can even compete with much bigger CULV processors, and should still do well against (possible) CULV variants of Sandy-Bridge. I expect those to feature 2 cores and 6 so-called EUs (GPU units) ending up with lower GPU performance than Zacate, and a ~150mm² die. The smaller the die, the lower the manufacturing cost, so that's very important, because it means AMD will be able to sell Zacate at a very attractive price while keeping healthy margins.
Obviously, CPU performance should be a clear win for Intel with Sandy-Bridge. It's difficult to predict how the market will react to this situation. I suppose that consumers will care a lot about video and graphics, even if it just means very casual gaming and Youtube stuff, but people looking for a business laptop might favor Sandy-Bridge. For those, having Excel running smoothly is probably more important than being able to play Call of Duty 36 with smooth framerates.
Also note that those benchmarks were run on a development platform that is anything but final, so while performance is very close to what you'll get in actual products, power draw isn't, and that is a big unknown. Well, load power should be fairly accurate, but idle power most likely isn't, and that will be crucial for battery life. That said, AMD seems pretty bullish on that front, so that's a good sign.
Next up is Ontario (9W) but AMD isn't disclosing any performance numbers yet. However, its specs are known, and so are Zacate's benchmark results now, so you can take out your calculator and make pretty educated estimates. As I said before, there should be some pretty cool stuff in the mobile market in January.