Introducing the Brazos E-350 Contenders

When AMD announced their Brazos offerings, the part that immediately caught our interest was the E-350. The E-240 comes with a lower 1.5GHz clock and a single core, but the same power requirement, so unless that’s priced particularly low we don’t see any reason to consider it. The two C-series parts go after the netbook market, with 9W TDP and clocks of 1.0GHz on the dual-core C-50 and 1.2GHz for the single-core C-30; at least the C-30 makes up for the missing core with a higher clock speed here. But really, it’s the E-350 with its 1.6GHz clock speed, dual cores, and higher clocked HD 6310 GPU that delivers everything we want to see. The real question is, does it deliver enough within its price bracket to match the performance and features on tap?

When we reviewed the HP dm1z a couple weeks back, we were impressed with the overall package, performance, and perhaps most importantly, the price. Reasonably equipped with 3GB RAM and a 320GB 7200RPM drive, you can grab the dm1z for just $450 with HP’s current $100 instant rebate (which looks to continue for the foreseeable future). You can even bump that up to 4GB and still spend just $480 (plus tax and shipping, of course). The overall package was so attractive that it garnered our Silver Editors’ Choice award, missing out on the Gold by virtue of its lackluster LCD, so the competition has a high bar to clear if they want to beat the dm1z.

Today, we have two more laptops sporting very similar specs, with the key difference being the amount of RAM and the capacity and spindle speed of the hard drive. The MSI X370 also mixes things up by moving to a larger 13.3” chassis, which may or may not be a good thing depending on what you’re after. Dustin has the Sony VAIO, courtesy of AMD, while Jarred has MSI’s yet-to-be-released X370. According to MSI, the X370 may not actually go on sale in North America; that would be a shame, as with the right price there’s plenty to like. And since we’re on the subject, let’s discuss pricing a bit more.

Sony’s pricing is a bit high, with an MSRP of $599; that’s not great but we can find the YB online starting at $550. With the HP dm1 going for under $500, you’d need something else to make either offering worth considering; the styling, 4GB RAM, and 500GB HDD might be enough to attract buyers away from the HP. MSI’s X370 is a bit of a wildcard, with one review suggesting an MSRP of $749. I haven’t been able to confirm that, but let’s be blunt: at $750, there’s simply not going to be a market for anything Brazos related. For less money, you can find quite a few higher performing options that offer similar or better graphics and features, with reasonable battery life. Here’s hoping we can get the X370 pricing down to $550 or less.

One thing that shouldn’t be too surprising is the performance. If you’ve read our Mini-ITX Brazos reviewor the HP dm1z review, the only thing that’s going to change performance in any significant way is the battery capacity, with the hard drive having a minor impact on a couple benchmarks. The CPU and GPU at the heart of the E-350 will determine the rest, and all three laptops are very similar as far as performance goes.

We received quite a few requests for additional testing to show exactly where the line is between acceptable performance and sluggishness, particularly in regards to older games. We don’t have comparative results from other laptops yet, but we’ll at least report our performance and impression of the E-350 in this review. The other request was for SSD benchmarks; if you want a faster laptop experience, any decent SSD will get you there. We’re working on one more article comparing Brazos to a selection of other mobile platforms, with all units running 60GB Kingston SSDs. We’ve still got plenty of tests to run, but as you’d expect having an SSD makes a noticeable impact on system boot times, application load times, and general Windows performance. If MSI wanted to ship the X370 with a similar SSD, we would be a lot more willing to pay a price premium.

With the preliminary introductions out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the MSI X370 and Sony VAIO YB before we hit the benchmark charts.

MSI’s Ultra Slim X370: Bigger Isn’t Always Better
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  • lammers42 - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    "Contrary to what you might expect, the 64Wh battery actually more than doubles battery life, suggesting the cells may be higher quality than in the 4-cell option."

    I've been telling everyone this for a long time . . . if you have the choice choose the higher capacity battery . . . they seem to use better performing cells.

    It still doesn't explain why there is such a big difference between the different manufacturers in the quality of batteries of approximately the same capacity used which is evident from the relative battery life chart you show. As you get more Brazos systems to test it will be interesting to see if that will hold true.
  • Tasslehoff Burrfoot - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    Brazos platforms should be under 350$ and at least under 400$. These manufacturers are getting carried away and they're even making fail noteboooks to top that off -_-

    All Zacate notebooks I've seen this far have either had disappointing specs (too little memory or too small resolution with too large display size or usin some lower processor model than the E-350) or horrible looks...

    ...or both.

    Where is my all black matte ~12'' brazos lappie with sturdy chassis, 1440x900 resolution and an outstanding battery life? Why can't anybody get this simple thing right?
  • blacklist - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    the closest approximation to what you want is probably the lenovo x120e. or just wait for the upcoming lenovo s205.
  • silverblue - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    3GB is more than enough for something this size, in my opinion. You're not going to be throwing massive workloads at the thing. I don't see why you'd want a 1440x900 resolution unless you're not gaming or the games aren't particularly tough on the hardware to begin with; what would you personally use a Brazos machine for, if I may ask?
  • heraldo25 - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    I'm wondering how the E-350 and C-50 would fare against the first generation of Pentium M processors, are there any benchmarks like that?
  • L. - Friday, March 18, 2011 - link

    The first generation of pentium M processors were extremely bad iirc.

    If this beats a cheap C2D , it beats a pentium M. (or I don't remember which one is the pentium M, either way beating a cheap C2D is decent performance indeed).

    But in all fairness, comparing the brazos to a pentium M is an insult to the brazos because the pentium M was a p3-P4 design mix, two designs that never handled multithreading in a decent fashion, and never got close to either AMD in that regard, or the subsequent C2D, which in most non-single-thread applications was much much faster.

    So if you want comparisons, start with a decent chip, like a cheap C2D, or if you want to go back even more, barton athlons (yes, because those could do multithreading).
  • silverblue - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    I'd be more interested in comparing to Athlon 64s, both the single core variants and the X2s, considering AMD said Brazos should be close in performance to a similarly clocked Athlon 64 (90% I believe).
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 19, 2011 - link

    I suppose it depends on which Athlon 64 chip you're looking at. The K625 is actually clocked at 1.5GHz compared to 1.6GHz on the E-350. If we just focus on tasks that are pure CPU benchmarks:

    Cinebench 10 Single-Core: K625 is 47% faster
    Cinebench 10 Multi-Core: K625 is 47% faster
    x264 First Pass: K625 is 40% faster
    x264 Second Pass: K625 is 29% faster

    If they were aiming for 90% of the recent K10.5 Athlon II X2 chips, then, they didn't come anywhere near their goal. However, K10.5 is around 5-10% faster than K10, and K10 is probably another 15% faster than K8, so 90% of the original Athlon X2 parts is probably about right.
  • GTKevin - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Has anyone released a brazos platform laptop with a rotatable touchscreen so that it can be used as a tablet? I know the form factor will be bulky compared to a dedicated tablet, but for someone who is currently tabletless and likes to read ebooks in his free time, such a product would be very useful.
  • aop - Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - link

    Any hope on you guys taking apart a Fusion laptop like HP DM1z and make article about it's internals? It would be nice to see how the cooling is done and what kind of layout do the motherboards have etc.

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