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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  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - link

    Athlon II P320 15" notebook on newegg for $400. No rebates. The deal expired quickly, but there will be more. I think it is a safe bet that AMD 25W dual core notebooks are going to be easily found all summer long for $400, and probably $300 by the time back-to-school starts. And I predict that next you will compare a P320 to a i330 that still costs twice as much.
  • Roland00 - Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - link

    While the p320 is a better battery life processor. Newegg also has the lenovo g555 (same laptop as the fry's ad) for $379.99 with free shipping (and no tax in most states).

    Only 3gb of memory and 160gb harddrive, but still $379.99
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - link

    Next up is a Toshiba with Phenom II P920 quad-core (25W) with switchable HD 5650 graphics. I'm not sure it's the best option out there for AMD, but it's what AMD is sending me. It will at least be interesting to see how performance compares against i5-430M with the same GPU, and I'm told that the HD 4200 mode with the P920 will actually deliver better battery life than the M600/M300 stuff. We shall see.

    Personally, I would *love* to get one of the $400 P320 laptops for testing, but that's not happening yet unless I go and buy one. And we might just do that....
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Wow a 1.6GHz quad core with 512k cache? I can already see that thing getting walloped by a SU7300 in everything except video encoding. (And who would do that on a notebook?)

    Has it occured to you that Intel makes backroom deals with companies to get them to send reviewers only these oddball AMD notebook configurations specifically to make AMD look bad? Despite losing a billion dollars by engaging in these tactics, I am sure that Intel regards it as merely a cost of doing business. No doubt they've made $10 billion through these shady tactics.
  • Roland00 - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    512k cache per core. 2mb total cache. AMD processors have each individual core possessing their own l2 cache. The new Core I series is the same way from intel. The old Intel Core2Duos and Core2Quads shared their l2 cache between 2 of the cores.

    Regardless 25w for 4 cores is extremely good energy wise per core. That is 6.5w per a 1.6 ghz single core or pretty much atom territory. Sadly the p520 (2.3 ghz dual core, 1 mb l2 cache per core, 2 mb l2 cache total) is going to be faster in most things, for not enough things are coded for quad cores yet.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    Actually, AMD sent this laptop after buying it from the manufacturer, so unless Toshiba somehow convinced AMD to send the A665, I doubt Intel had anything to do with the choice. It's doing okay on battery life (226 minutes idle with a 48Wh battery). Unfortunately, the notebook just died this morning (after less than 24 hours) while I was trying to watch the World Cup online (Flash video).

    I don't know if the laptop was just banged around in shipping, or if the GPU had a glitch, or what, but I do know that it is dead. It locked, I force restarted, and now the fans turn on and nothing ever shows up on the LCD. Weird. But a replacement is on the way, so the review should still come in the next 10 days or so.
  • Hrel - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    If someone could do a review on the laptop that I currently suspect is the best "bang for your buck" out there. It's made by compal, and available on who's machines you've reviewed before. If you'd like it configured like I did, which I think is the best bang for buck, do this: Go to the website. mouse over 15.6" Laptops and click on the $999 Xplorer X6-8500. It has a 1080p screen. (I'm not sure why the people who run this site do this, but even though the other configurations use the same chassis when personalized they come out to cost more than this one; annoying since it makes me configure all 3 or 4 machines built on the same base chassis to figure out which one is cheapest/best for me.) Then I configured it with the Core i7-620M CPU. (to get it over 1K so I can take advantage of the 5% off.) 4GB 0DDR3-1333, hopefully 7-7-7-21, probably not, but hopefully. ATI MR HD5650 1GB GDDR3 320GB 7200rpm HDD (I did this cause I'm gonna take that HDD out and use the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, thanks for that review!!) Everything else on that page I left untouched. The only thing I did on page 2 was switch to Intel wifi with bluetooth; Though I'm curious if the MSI option is equal/better; 17 bucks isn't nothing. It has HDMI out and a fingerprint reader. This page says 3 USB ports, the specs sheet says 4USB ports; not sure which is true. (I do wish they were USB 3.0 ports, but I was hoping you guys would test some stuff and tell me if that even matters for use with an external hard drive, mechanical disk 7200rpm. Transferring large files like movies and games mostly.) On page 3 I select "none, format only" for the OS. And select "LCD perfect assurance" cause even 1 dead pixel is unacceptable to me. This brings the total to $1008.90 after 5% off, or $992.75 if you get the MSI network card. So yeah, I really hope you guys can get a hold of one of these for review; as a loner or given as a review unit or maybe someone will just buy one and review it cause it's really tempting me right now... like a lot! If you're review is good I'm gonna start saving up and hopefully be able to buy it around Christmas. Thanks guys! A loyal reader. - Brian
  • shady28 - Sunday, June 27, 2010 - link

    I went looking for a p920 review (quad core Phenom II for laptops) and all I'm seeing is a comparison of Intel's latest i3/i5 vs 2 year old Turion Ultra CPUs. I have a laptop I bought almost 2 years ago that is a Turion Ultra / 2.2Ghz with ATI 3200 video that is just as good as the AMD system in this comparison.

    These quad core Phenoms are showing up for $700 at Wal-Mart with ATI 4250 GPUs. Wouldn't that be a more interesting comparison???

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