First of our tests was the classic Cinebench. It's a reliable indicator of the pure grunt of a CPU, which fully taxes both single and multi-core processors.
It's immediately obvious just where the AMD A10-4600M's deficiencies lie. With a Cinebench CPU score of 2.03pts, it just about matches the low power Sandy Bridge chip of the Zenbook but is utterly trounced by the more powerful HP. As for Ivy Bridge, it should come as no surprise that scores we've seen suggest it pulls out even more of a lead over the HP here, with a scores of 6.5 being bandied around.
We also ran the general system performance test, PCMark 07, which showed AMD trailing both the Lenovo and Zenbook - the HP's score is low as it uses a hard drive rather than SSD. Ivy Bridge scores for PCMark07 we've seen are in the region of 6500, again showing just how fast that chip can be.
However, the key here is that AMD has indeed judged things correctly in terms of day to day use. Subjectively the A10-4600M feels plenty fast enough, providing nippy web browsing, smooth video playback and ample productivity performance. After all, Ultrabooks like the Asus Zenbook are considered more than usable and the A10 is on par.
Turning to gaming, we used our classic notebook gaming benchmarks on this and our other comparison systems and the results are striking to say the least. In the relatively undemanding TrackMania Nations Forever test the A10 is neck and neck with the dedicated AMD graphics card on the HP, and holds a comfortable lead over both the Lenovo X220 and Zenbook. But TrackMania, at the settings we run, is so undemanding that it actually becomes limited by the CPU speed and it's only in Stalker: Call of Pripyat we see the true picture. Here the A10 has a 60 per cent performance advantage over the HP's AMD Radeon HD6490M graphics card, while the two Sandy Bridge systems are left far behind.
Does this result in a genuinely enjoyable real world gaming experience? Well, it's a close one. While 40fps in Stalker is impressive, it's only being run at medium detail settings and a resolution that's lower than the number of pixels on your average laptop. Performance probably needs to double again before we're really getting to a gaming-grade machine for even the latest games.
Nonetheless, less demanding favourites such as Counter-Strike: Source, World of Warcraft and Call Of Duty should all prove playable.
Perhaps the biggest shock, at least according to our tests is just how little power the A10-A4600M consumes, or more specifically how long this test platform's battery life is. Despite housing the most powerful chip in AMD's new range it comfortably beat both the Zenbook and the HP gaming machine, providing nearly an extra hours use, despite having the smallest battery on test. Only the X220 beat it, but that laptop has a 60 per cent bigger battery.
Our test uses the industry standard MobileMark Productivity test, which simulates a reasonably typical usage pattern of the user editing some documents, browsing the web, creating a powerpoint and watching some video, all interspersed with pauses to simulate the user sitting and having a think. We've found it to be a very good indicator of battery life in average use but there are some other extreme use cases where it is less indicative, in particular if you're watching video – say on a long haul flight – or playing games.
With regards the latter, it simply isn't sensible to test battery usage as the GPU on any machine will drain power very quickly. However, watching video is something that other machines can do for hours on end, and here Trinity trails slightly, with the test platform providing around 3.5 hours of h.264 video playback compared to around 5.5 on the Zenbook. But, of course, here the argument comes back to this being a higher power chip, and the lower power Trinitys may still improve on this.
What we can say for certain is that AMD is definitely within touching distance of Intel on the battery life front.
There are still key questions to be answered about the AMD Trinity platform, such as how the lower performance parts will fare and what sort of systems we'll see sporting the new chips. Not to mention how much those systems will cost. But, on the evidence here it would appear AMD has done most of what it can. CPU performance does still trail both Intel Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge but crucially is ample for general day to day computing. Meanwhile GPU/gaming performance is class leading and battery life is at least on par. Is this the dawn of a new AMD-dominated era for laptops? Perhaps not, but no longer should we be confined to a choice of one.