AMD and Intel Mobile Rematch: Gateway NV5933u vs. Acer 5542

It's been ten months since our last comparison between the latest AMD and Intel mobile platforms. Since then AMD has updated their mobile chips to 45nm process technology with a K10-derived architecture. Intel hasn't been sitting idle either, with plenty of 32nm Arrandale laptops readily available. The last time we looked at the two platforms, Intel came out with a clear lead in battery life and CPU performance, but AMD provided a more affordable platform with a substantially better IGP. Now we're ready to compare the latest Intel and AMD offerings, but there are a few caveats.

The biggest point right now is that AMD has released details of their new Vision mobile platform, using Champlain CPUs on the Danube platform with DDR3 support. The new processors remain 45nm parts based on the K10 (K10.5) architecture, but they use a new socket. The changes are supposed to improve mobility, which is certainly an area where current and previous AMD laptops have been lacking. We're working on getting Danube (and Nile, the low power version) laptops, but given the number of older AMD laptops currently available we feel this comparison is still valid. If you're looking for improved processor and graphics performance from AMD, and perhaps better battery life, Danube laptops with the Turion II P520 are starting to ship and should improve on the Acer 5542 we're looking at today.

Here are the detailed specs for our two laptops. Both have been out for a few months, and similar laptops are available from most manufacturers. Outside of aesthetics and a few other features, performance should be nearly identical to what we're reviewing. Battery sizes may also be larger/smaller, but relative battery life should be similar. The two laptops we're looking at use similar components in all the important areas: 15.6" LCDs, 500GB 5400RPM hard drives, 4GB RAM, and 48Wh batteries. The 5542 uses DDR2 memory, since it uses the older Caspian/Tigris core/platform, while the NV59 uses DDR3 memory. CPU, chipset, and graphics are naturally different, but otherwise we have done our best to make this an apples-to-apples match up.

Acer Aspire 5542 Test System
Processor AMD Athlon II M300
(2x2.0GHz, 45nm, 2x512KB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD RS880M + SB710
Memory 2x2GB DDR2-800 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics ATI Radeon HD 4200
(40 Stream Processors, 500MHz Core/shared memory)
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 5400RPM (Western Digital Blue WD5000BEVT-22ZAT0)
Optical Drive 8x DVD±RW (Optiarc AD-7580S)
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 4400mAh, 47.5Wh battery
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 15.1" x 9.8" x 1.0-1.5" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.2 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Warranty 1-year basic warranty
Pricing $499 from Amazon
Note: 320GB HDD on that model


Gateway NV5933u Test System
Processor Intel Core i3-330M
(2x2.13GHz + HTT, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
(12 Shaders, 500MHz base, 667MHz max Core/shared memory)
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 5400 RPM (Hitachi HTS545032B9A300)
Optical Drive 4x Blu-ray Combo (Optiarc BC-5500H)
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 4400mAh, 48Wh battery
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.66" x 10.19" x 1.02-1.46" (WxDxH)
Weight 5.84 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Warranty 1-year basic warranty
Pricing $549 from Best Buy
Note: 320GB HDD on that model

The specs are nothing to write home about, but pricing is obviously the driving factor. The Gateway NV5933u manages to pack in an impressive set of features for a list price of $550, including a Blu-ray combo drive (a $75 value). The Acer 5542 isn't the best example of an inexpensive AMD Athlon II M300 laptop, with a current price of $500 online. That makes the Gateway a clear value winner if you want Blu-ray support, but it's worth noting that you can often find similar M300 + 4GB laptops on sale for as little as $400. However, right now going off the retail pricing, we've essentially got a tie for pricing. That said, you won't find a non-Blu-ray i3-330M laptop for less than $550, and we wouldn't be surprised to see the NV5933u supply dry up shortly; the replacement NV59c looks to bump up the price to $749. Let's take a closer look at the two combatants before we get to the benchmarks.

Acer Aspire 5542 Overview
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  • silverblue - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    ...PLEASE stop using the 4200 unless you're going to offer an automatically switchable and far superior discrete option. Would it be outlandish to use the Mobility 5470 at the very least instead of throwing out the same 500-700MHz 40SP solutions?
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    We should be seeing the Toshiba Satellite A665D-S6059 soon, which combines the HD 4250 with a discrete HD 5650 and provides switching functionality. It also has the Phenom II P920 quad-core (only 1.6GHz though). I'm certainly interested in seeing how it works, and hopefully GPU driver updates won't be a problem... except it looks like Toshiba is opting out of AMD's Mobile Driver program. Ugh.
  • ferro_i - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    AMD processor, the previous platform. (Tigris platform 2009, DDR2).
    İntel Mobile i3-i5 series should be compared with platform AMD Danube (2010).
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    I think it's fair in that we're comparing laptops that have both been around for four months. But you're right, Danube is the real comparison now and we're working to get some appropriate laptops. I inadvertently lumped all the new AMD laptops under the Nile header, but that's the ultraportable version of Danube; we should have both in the next couple of weeks.
  • veri745 - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    Agreed. We already know the DDR2 AMD platforms have crappy battery life. I'd really like to see the Danube and Nile platforms reviewed.
  • fabarati - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    Good thing to note: Core i5s and i7s have a higher clocked IGP, 766 vs 677 in the i3s. Performance probably won't go up a lot, but maybe a fps or two.

    By the way, are you guys gonna review the Dell Vostro 3500?
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    We can ask for the Vostro 3500... no idea if we'll get one. As for the GPU clock, that's a good point. Is there a good utility to show your current clock? I have no idea if the NV5933u every scaled up to 667 or not; GPUZ and CPUZ don't report the IGP frequency on Intel.
  • KaarlisK - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    Not always, it won't
    Since the IGP has to Turbo up to get to either 677 or 766, and the i5s and i7s have higher CPU frequencies, there is sometimes less power/heat headroom for the GPU to actually clock up.
  • mojtabaalemi - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    could you please add 1005p in your battery life test .
    and by the way was 1005pe with 3150 igp capable of 720p x264 video ?
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link

    We never had the 1005p for testing (or any other 3-cell netbook), so I'm not sure what it does for battery life other than it would be lower. :-) Relative battery life should be about the same, though, so at 23Wh it should last roughly half as long as the 1001p.

    The 1005pe (and any other Pine Trail netbook as well as the older N270/N280) is capable of 720p x264 if you use the CoreAVC codec; anything else and you drop frames in my experience. Higher bitrate 720p would also cause problems, and you get tearing (no VSYNC) with CoreAVC in my experience. As far as Internet video (Flash... not sure about the HTML5 stuff yet), Atom fails utterly unless you get ION/NG-ION.

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