In Q2 of 2015, AMD officially launched Carrizo, their new APU aimed at mobile devices such as laptops and portable all-in-ones that normally accommodate 15W-35W processors. Quoted in the media as 'the biggest change to Bulldozer since Bulldozer itself', the marketing arm of AMD released information regarding the Excavator architecture of the new processor, and which contained a long list of fluid and dynamic implementations on improving the Bulldozer based architecture over the previous iteration of Steamroller (Kaveri). Despite this, AMDs target market for the Carrizo platform has not been receptive to AMDs product stack in recent generations due to issues surrounding performance, battery life and designs. AMD believes to have solved the first two of those matters with Carrizo, whereas the third is out of their hands and up to the OEMs to embrace AMDs platform. We wondered if the OEM’s concerns were well placed, and organized some special testing to confirm AMD’s claims about Carrizo.

Who Controls the User Experience: AMD’s Carrizo Tested

Back in early 2015, we performed a long analysis on Intel’s Core M platform, featuring 4.5W processors under the Broadwell microarchitecture. The purpose of that piece was to test several designs using that line of processors, and examining how the design of the chassis and features of the platform directly affected both performance and user experience. For Brett and I at the time, it was an eye opening endeavor, showing just how the slowest processor in a stack in the right notebook chassis can outperform the fastest, most expensive processor in a bad chassis that is wholly un-optimized.

This review is along similar lines, but instead we are testing AMD’s latest Carrizo platform, which is focused on 15W mobile parts in the $400 to $700 market. We approached AMD after the Carrizo Tech Day back in May with a proposal – to speak to engineers and to test the claims made about the platform. Typically sourcing AMD laptops, at least over the past few years, has been a veritable minefield as they are seemingly never promoted by OEM partners as review samples, or as one senior member put it, ‘Some sales people only seem to offer AMD devices if people specifically ask for them’. Our proposal involved sourcing a number of Carrizo laptops when they were launched and tackling them head on, to see how many of the claims made on the Tech Day were testable but also noticeable and true. The issue AMD and OEMs have is that everyone in the AMD-to-OEM-to-retailer chain is invested in selling the platform, so there needs to be a source of third-party testing for people who don’t trust that chain.

Over the course of a few months, our proposal changed and merged with ideas to speak with AMD’s VPs and engineers, with a number of meetings and discussions. It emerged the best way to do this was to fly to AMD’s HQ in Austin, Texas for a week and get hands on time in the labs. We agreed, as speaking to engineers and learning what is going on behind the scenes at AMD is always a good thing, but on the condition that we were free to setup, test and report without any predisposition to the results. There is an added benefit of having engineers only a floor or two away if a problem was to arise. There have been similar events in the past where media have been invited on-site for canned testing, but we made sure this wasn’t going to be the case before we arrived. For example, Qualcomm has invited select media to in-hand, temporary Snapdragon testing on a couple of occasions, with media free to test and report whatever results.


The Testing

We had four Carrizo devices on hand to test for a week, along with a single Kaveri system. These devices were sourced by AMD, and I put in requests for a variety of price points, hardware configurations and styles, along with some specific testing equipment to which we don’t have access. While it wasn’t possible to get everything on hand due to timing issues, the arrangement at least captured a number of areas we planned on testing.

The testing aimed to cover the devices as units, the underlying hardware, as well as the Tech Day claims. Some of this piece will read like a regular review, some of it similar to our Core M testing regarding performance, power and temperature, but a large part is reserved for discussing both the results and the market. When building a platform like Carrizo, a lot of binary decisions are made that can be good or bad for the processor manufacturer, the OEM or the user. We discuss these in detail as a result of our findings. 

The Devices: #1 The HP Elitebook 745 G2 (Kaveri, A10 PRO-7350B)
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  • Danvelopment - Monday, February 8, 2016 - link

    Strategy AMD should adopt:

    90% of people don't notice a performance difference above 3000 Super CPU Points, Intel CPUs are usually 4000-8000 Super CPU points, our chips may only range from 3500-4500 Super CPU Points but regular users won't actually notice it, and at the same performance marks we're a hundred dollars cheaper. Make the sensible choice.

    Another way, we've done extensive testing to see what end users want and need, then we targeted those sectors, and where we matched Intel we made sure we were a hundred bucks cheaper on the same devices.

    "We don't hold the performance crown but the price/performance crown"
  • Marcelo Viana - Monday, February 8, 2016 - link

    Dammit, the solution should be simple, but must come from AMD, since can't expect it from oem's and all of them offer let's say 2011 sockets as example, why amd do not develop a socket switch, so a small board with 2011 pins on the bottom and a circuit on this boad to give a whatever socket amd choose connections on top of it, in order to accept amd chips.
    But AMD must understand that the memory on their chips must be ddr4(Carrizo do), because the lazy OEMs whon't change memory sockets, as example.
    In this case the lazy ones have only to change the chip, and even better if any consumer have a old machine can upgrade to a chip that they choose. simple as that.
    Anyone that sales more creates the standard on the market, the others is that must follow.
    So who control the user experience? I think no one. everyone in the process just looking to explore the users in order to get money nothing more, but if i have to guess, problably the users. Because they are the one that really have the power to say "i won't buy it or that' or even better "until they give to me what i want" just my 2 cents.
  • farmergann - Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - link

    Seems like you missed out on some highlights of the Y700. The memory is dual channel, the IPS screen has Freesync, and the sound is surprisingly awesome. Replaced the HDD with a Samsung 850 Pro and have thoroughly enjoyed it since.
  • bitech - Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - link

    Lol have they never seen a 17" laptop before? The HP Pavilion has a 1600x900 because it's 17". 1600x900 is the minimum resolution on all 17" laptops, not 1366x768.
  • UtilityMax - Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - link

    1600x900 is still a crappy resolution for such a large screen. I had a notebook with 15.5 inch 900p screen, and it was visibly grainy.
  • mosu - Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - link

    Just few words: Sabotage and corruption at high level OEM decision level. Simple as that.
  • Arief Sujadmika - Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - link

    AMD just need a feature to turn off the chips if its detect single channel memory for Carrizo then the OEM will make dual channel memory for it...
  • thatthing - Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - link

    the y700 r9 385x is a bonaire gpu, amd has no 512sp chips mobile r9 series,
  • silverblue - Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - link

    Articles like these make me want to see how good the unrestricted Athlon X4 845 will be, however as it's probably defective Carrizo silicon, I wouldn't expect it to be massively frugal. I do wonder if there will be any Bristol Ridge Athlons; the top models are rated with a cTDP of 25-45W which is a decent improvement and would reduce/eliminate throttling. Overclocking may not help in terms of power but performance would be more consistent. You also get DDR4 which isn't as big a help for the Athlons but it would be interesting to see the difference.

    A review of the Dell Inspiron I3656-7800BLK would be a good marker, if only to show the maximum performance of the mobile chips.
  • Masospaghetti - Wednesday, February 10, 2016 - link

    Seems like the best configuration of a Carrizo machine would be a 35w TDP A12 with dual channel memory and integrated graphics (or discrete graphics with crossfire enabled).

    It's a shame that all of the machines available are severely compromised with either single channel memory, 15w TDP, lack of crossfire, or a combination of these. Seriously. The machines tested have terrible designs. Looks like AMD made a huge mistake providing a common configuration with Carrizo-L with the single channel memory.

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