A notebook’s processor is the brain of the machine, in charge of executing complex calculations. AMD and Intel, the two major players in this sector, have been battling for the notebook CPU market for years. Now that battle has moved from mainstream 15-inch laptops into affordable ultraportables. To determine which CPU is best for your needs, we tested the $699 T135-S1310 (1.3-GHz Intel Pentium SU4100 with integrated graphics) and the $599 T135D-S1324 (1.6-GHz AMD Turion Neo X2 L625 with discrete graphics) to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each platform. Does AMD have what it takes to take down the champ? Is Intel worth the $100 premium?
Both T135s sport the same glossy coating (available in black, red, and white) that commands your attention. A subtle, houndstooth-esque pattern spreads across the lid onto the deck and palm rest. Even the touchpad bears this pattern (although it has a textured finish). Coupled with metal accents on and around the mouse button, the machine looks more expensive than the price tags might suggest.
At 3.8 pounds, the T135 is light and slim enough to hold in one hand, even though the six-cell battery creates a slight bulge at the bottom. The keyboard leaves an inch of space on either side of the deck and feels a bit cramped. Although the metal design of the single, narrow mouse button looks sleek, it can feel stiff if you accidentally press the center, as opposed to the left and right edges.
We were impressed by the bright 13.3-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel resolution screen, even while surfing unplugged; YouTube clips at full screen looked sharp. Viewing angles are wide, but the glossy display did kick back a number of reflections, especially during dark scenes. We were less impressed by the speakers. When listening to Curtis Mayfield’s “Think (Instrumental),” we kept wishing for greater volume and extra bass
We like that the USB port on the left lets you charge cell phones and other gadgets when the system is turned off. Also included is an HDMI port. VGA video from the 0.3-megapixel webcam was neither sharp nor vibrant, but the lighting was bright enough.
The 1.6-GHz AMD Turion Neo X2 L625 CPU and 4GB of RAM helped power the T135D to a PCMark Vantage score of 2,557, more than 180 points below the category average. The Intel version of the T135, which uses a 1.3-GHz Intel Pentium SU4100 CPU and 4GB of RAM, notched a higher score of 2,701. On both machines, we had no trouble with such everyday tasks as surfing the Web, writing documents, listening to music, and watching videos.
Results were more mixed during our transcoding tests. The T135D took 12 minutes and 23 seconds to transcode a 114MB MPEG-4 to AVI using HandBrake; the Intel-powered T135 finished in just 11:41. However, when using Oxelon Media Converter to perform the same task, which uses multithreading, the T135D took 2:11. That’s more than twice as fast as the Intel T135 (4:36), and better than the average (2:57).
The T135D’s 5,400-rpm, 320GB HDD copied a 4.97GB folder of mixed media at a rate of 18.0 MBps, 1.3 MBps slower than the Intel T135. Both models run Windows 7 Home Premium, but the AMD version booted into the operating system in 55 seconds, 6 seconds faster than average, and 20 seconds faster than the Intel version.
While the Intel version of the T135 has integrated Intel 4 Series graphics, the AMD version uses the ATI Radeon HD 3200 chipset, which helped the system score 1,048 in 3DMark06. That’s almost 200 points higher than the average ultraportable, and 330 points higher than the Intel T135 (718). When we output a 1080p Avatar trailer to a 32-inch Samsung HDTV via HDMI using both systems, video played back smooth as silk.
The AMD T135D deftly handled World of Warcraft—at least on the default settings—moving along at 30 frames per second at 1024 x 768 resolution; it dipped to just 6 fps at 1366 x 768 with effects set to Ultra. By comparison, the Intel T135 managed just 23 fps at 1024 x 768, and 4 fps at its native resolution. Needless to say, neither version could handle the graphics-intensive Far Cry 2.
As expected, the Intel-powered T135 lasted longer on the LAPTOP Battery Test, holding out for 7 hours and 23 minutes. The AMD T135D’s six-cell battery lasted 5:06, which is over 2 hours less. Still, this runtime is among the best we’ve ever seen from an AMD notebook.
Both T135 systems had mixed results on our Wi-Fi test. At 15 feet from our access point, the AMD system achieved a throughput of 29.1 Mbps, 8.6 Mbps faster than average. At 50 feet, speeds dropped to a more pedestrian 16.7 Mbps, just a shade under the average of 17.2 Mbps. However, the Intel notebook fared worse, delivering 23.2 and 15.2 Mbps from the same distances.
Because of its greater power consumption and lower battery life, the AMD T135D did not fare as well on our LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Test, scoring 24.9 to the Intel T135’s 16.9. The two notebooks straddle the ultraportable average of 19.6.
Value and Verdict
There’s a lot to like about both the AMD and Intel versions of the Toshiba Satellite T135. While we’re not enamored with the touchpad buttons, both systems are solid ultraportables. Which one you opt for depends on your needs. At $599, the AMD-powered T135D costs $100 less and gives you a strong bump in graphics performance. However, the $699 Intel-powered version lasts more than two hours longer on a charge. In other words, AMD gives you more oomph for less money, but Intel gives you more unplugged time.
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