Battery Life and Closing Thoughts
Our Battery Life Testing

Probably one of the most important selling points of a notebook of this type is the battery life in has in relation to its performance.  For this review I wrote a custom script that we plan on reusing and expanding on for future articles that emulates a standard user during web browsing.  The script automates opening FireFox along with a few tabs and going different sites including our own, YouTube and others.  In the background a script keeps track of the time so that when we plug the dead notebook back in we can tell how long it has been on. 

Our battery life tests were done on the Balance profile with modifications to prevent LCD dimming, sleep and hibernate modes, etc. 

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We plan on extrapolating on this style of tests into movie watching (both SD and HD), content creation and more to really have a custom, repeatable and reliable real-world battery test.  In this instance the results from the ASUS K42F (63 Whr battery) machine are great – not only did the system dramatically outperform the HP DV4 (47 Whr battery) but the battery lasted just about as long. 

Performance

While I wasn’t overly impressed with the performance of Clarkdale relative to its competition (see that full review here) that is not the case for Arrandale.  In our direct comparison to a similarly priced system based around the P8700 Core 2 Duo mobile processor, the Core i5-540M utterly dominated our various benchmarks.  Obviously part of the benefit is the fact that the Arrandale CPU has HyperThreading technology so it has twice as many threads that can be at work compared to the Core 2 P8700.  Of course the Turbo Mode functionality also gives the Arrandale-based parts an edge by increasing clock speeds when the work load is single threaded.

And again, while it wasn’t impressive on the desktop front, the new Intel HD Graphics is much more impressive when viewed in the world of the notebooks.  Compared to the GM45 chipset graphics the new Intel HD Graphics that is integrated on the GPU is actually 50% faster based on our synthetic Futuremark testing in 3DMark06.  While I still don’t think you should be looking towards this graphics solution for any type of glorious gaming experience, at resolutions like 1366×768 the graphics solution will FEEL more competent. 

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Yes, the mobile Core i7 parts are going to be faster – as they should be.  But at the cost of battery life, size, weight and more.  For my buck, it looks like Arrandale could be the best mobile CPU for a while.

Features

While we only briefly mentioned it earlier, the addition of HD and Blu-ray video decode support on the HD Graphics does make for some interesting multimedia options.  While audio and display solutions actually on the laptops might not take advantage of these features, the fact that you could hook up the HDMI output on your notebook to your home theater system and get top-notch video and audio support is outstanding. 

Pricing and Availability

Though we did get a big price list of CPUs, that’s not really what is important.  In the world of notebooks, it all about system cost.  According to ASUS the K42F series of notebooks will be available in January starting at $729 that will include the Core i3-350M, 4GB of DDR3 memory, 320GB hard drive and more.  The configuration we tested here today should be available for about $999.

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The ASUS K42F – with some of my hardware in the reflection

Also interestingly ASUS noted that another series, the K42JR-A1, will be available using almost the same chassis but will include a new Radeon mobility GPU.  Users looking for that extra gaming power should be on the look out!

We will definitely know more about pricing of Arrandale-based notebooks as we get closer to CES this week!

Closing Thoughts

If you haven’t read both of our Intel processor launch articles today, I can assure that while the Intel Core i5-661 Clarkdale part has its pros, I am definitely more impressed with the mobility offering.  While the allure of lower power consumption and more technology consolidation on the desktop might sound great, in reality it isn’t nearly as necessary as it is on the mobile front.  When you can release a new mobile platform that not only increases performance by as much as 2.0x in some cases but also provided equivalent battery life, then you have made a dramatic stride in the right direction. 

The notebook market is getting quite a shake up this winter with this release and the new Intel Atom architecture based on Pine Trail.  But if you are concerned about performance at all and want a system that you can always get the most out of, Arrandale looks to be the CPU for you. 

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