And in the Green Corner...

Meanwhile, from the green team (red team?), Puget Systems offers a system based on AMD's Llano. On paper it's definitely not as compelling as its Intel-based counterpart, but looks can be deceiving. Here's the test configuration:

Puget Systems Echo I (AMD Edition) Specifications
Chassis Antec ISK-110 VESA
Processor AMD A6-3500
(3x2.1GHz, Turbo to 2.4GHz, 32nm, 3MB L2, 65W)
Motherboard ASUS F1A75-I Deluxe
Memory 2x8GB Patriot DDR3-1333
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6530D
(320 stream processors, 443MHz core clock)
Hard Drive(s) Intel 520 240GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 1TB 5200 RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) -
Power Supply 80W external
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9002WB-1NG b/g/n Mini-PCIe Wireless LAN
Bluetooth v2.1+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC892
Speaker, mic, and line-in jacks, optical S/PDIF
Front Side 2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top -
Back Side 4x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
PS/2
DVI-D
DisplayPort
HDMI
Optical out
eSATA
Ethernet
Speaker, mic, and line-in jacks
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Extras SSD
Wireless-N
Bluetooth
Warranty 1-year parts, lifetime labor and support
Pricing Starts at $747
Priced as configured: $1,408

It's very easy to be underwhelmed by the AMD A6-3500 processor at the center of the Puget Systems Echo I (AMD Edition); the processor aspect is lackluster. Technically if you look online you'll even find that it's theoretically not the fastest 65W Llano-based processor AMD produces, but in practice the faster ones are much harder to come by. In talking to our Puget Systems rep, we found that they were having a hard time sourcing the faster ones, while the A6-3500 is still relatively plentiful. A visit to NewEgg corroborates their story: the fastest Llano chip available in a 65W envelope is the A6-3500.

So just how underwhelming is the A6-3500? The CPU half is three cores running at just 2.1GHz, able to turbo up only to 2.4GHz. These are reworked Stars cores from the Athlon II series now dubbed Husky cores, but they're still substantially slower than Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture clock-for-clock. Worse still, in this comparison the A6-3500 has to do battle with four of Sandy Bridge's cores, and they all run at least 700MHz faster. The CPU side of this equation isn't remotely evenly matched, but where availability is concerned, this is the best AMD has to offer.

Thankfully, the other side of the A6-3500 is much more promising. The Radeon HD 6530D at the heart of the system enjoys 320 stream processors clocked at 443MHz, and while that's not too exciting in terms of raw GPU hardware, it's miles ahead of what Intel is offering in the i7-2600S. The 6530D is essentially the half of the bargain that AMD is banking on; when they talk about a balanced platform, they're talking about a CPU that's "good enough" with a GPU that can hold its own.

The rest of the build is more or less identical to the Intel build on the previous page, featuring the same SSD, same hard drive, and even the same brand and speed of memory. The only difference here is that the ASUS board used in the AMD edition supports full-length DIMMs instead of SO-DIMMs, helping to bring overall system costs down slightly—and of course, that's ignoring the fact that the A6-3500 retails for $79 while the i7-2600S is up at $309. Even connectivity on the back of the system is borderline identical, although the AMD system also enjoys DisplayPort where the Intel version has to make do with VGA; this DisplayPort connectivity also means this system can handle three monitors on its own.

In the Blue Corner... System Performance
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  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Why wouldn't they go down the road of using a mobile CPU for these types of systems?? They are already using customized motherboards. Seems like there are plenty of Core i7's with HD3000 in the $310 CPU range. Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Sounds like a great idea to me. A mobile chip with the HD3000 might even be a better balanced Intel system than the one they tested which if too strongly biased toward the CPU. Reply
  • silverblue - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - link

    A mobile CPU would make plenty of sense here on both sides, along with SO-DIMMs for the AMD setup. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Considering the price differences and the different markets the AMD APU and Intel CPU play at, these results are expected. It would have been nice to see the A8 65W APU with its superior IGP and more cores and higher clock. But that thing is seriously hard to get.

    I settled for a A6-3500 in my HTPC. It was much cheaper than any Intel solution at the time, the IGP is more important to me than more CPU power and undervolted it uses about as much juice as any Intel CPU. And this way I can support AMD some and increase competition (I use Intel in my desktop machine and my Laptops).
    Reply
  • krumme - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    For me Dustin just writes the best review currently on the web, far from the usual we need 7870 oc to get the job done, that doesnt reflect normal user behavior.

    This review, as the others from Dustin, is usufull for recommending solutions for family and friends,
    except the minor detail i dont think they would care about the next wonder from AMD or Intel the same way we do :)

    Interesting products. Then add we got some surprising power numbers.

    All delivered in delightfull english

    Thank you
    Reply
  • Jamahl - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Thanks for this review, I've been looking at the A6-3500 as a possible build (as a reseller) and I'm pretty happy with the results here - especially the power draw ones. Reply
  • Jamahl - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    What exactly were you running while testing power consumption btw? Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - link

    AIDA64's stress test, hitting the CPU and GPU simultaneously. Reply
  • Luscious - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    I'm really REALLY surprised why the writer didn't push Puget for not using the i5-2405S in such a build - lack of knowledge?

    The 2405S is also a 65W part, slightly slower at 2.5GHz, only has 6MB Cache, but it does dish up HD3000 graphics. If I were building a mini-ITX system for a HTPC, this would be the CPU I would choose.

    If 1080p gaming was my concern, I wouldn't even look at a mini-ITX enclosure...
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - link

    Our thought process working with Puget was to just crank out the most powerful systems we could on the AMD and Intel sides. What's interesting, I think, and I touched on this a little in the review...you can't really say anything's just "the most powerful" anymore, and the review proves it. As a result, the comparison did suffer a little, but I'd like to think the information gleaned was useful nonetheless. Reply

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