Performance and Conclusion
The equipment inside our K53T review unit is solidly mid-range for a Llano notebook. The processor is a quad-core AMD A6-3400M that provides a base clock speed of just 1.4 GHz, but a maximum speed of 2.3 GHz in optimal conditions when not all cores are engaged. Discrete graphics comes courtesy of AMD’s Radeon 6650M, which is a mid-range solution. It can operate in CrossFire with the Llano processor’s integrated graphics to create what AMD calls the Radeon HD 6720G2.
Typically, I have a good idea of what to expect when going into the performance section of a laptop review. In this case, I don’t. It’s hard to say how this combination of CPU and GPU will work out, but to provide context, we’ll compare it against the Dell Inspiron 14z, ASUS U36, the ASUS N55 and the MSI X370. Below are the specifications of those systems as tested.
Let’s dive in, starting with SiSoft Sandra’s processor benchmarks.
The processor arithmetic test sets the pace for this pair of benchmarks. It’s no secret that AMD’s processor performance trails that of Intel, but when examined in the harshest light, the difference remains surprising. The quad-core A6 struggles to provide two-thirds the performance of the Core i5 processors found in the ASUS U36S and Inspiron 14z, never mind the Core i7 that was in our ASUS N55.
Perhaps the A6 will perform more strongly in our CPU-focused application benchmarks?
In 7-Zip, we see the A6 processor begin to claw its way back towards the performance of the Core i5 competition. It still falls short, but the margin of its defeat it significantly less than in Sandra. The reason for this is probably 7-Zip’s incredible multi-core optimization.
Our data with Peacekeeper is a bit limited because the company recently revised its benchmark. We did test the U36 and Inspiron 14z with the new version, however – and the results are not in favor of AMD. While 7-Zip loves to chew on multiple cores, Peacekeeper is a browser benchmark, which means per-clock performance reigns supreme. Obviously, that’s not the A6’s strong point.
There’s more to a system than the processor however. PCMark 7 can help provide a more complete perspective on a system.
Ouch. Instead of redeeming this laptop’s performance, PCMark 7 provides it with the most severe defeat yet. In our testing the system scored almost 500 points below the Dell Inspiron 14z. The U36S spanked the K53T even more severely, but it’s also a much more expensive system and features a solid state drive.
So, it seems the conclusion about the A6-3400M as a processor is simple – it’s not fast. There’s more to the story than that, however. AMD very specifically created Llano with a fast integrated graphics component and CrossFire support in hopes that it could offer excellent GPU performance when paired with a discrete part, as it is here (in the form of the Radeon 6650M). Let’s see if that gamble has paid off.
In both of these synthetic graphics benchmarks we see that the ASUS K53T performs strongly, but the 3DMark11 experience is particularly strong, actually overcoming that of the ASUS N55. This may seem erroneous, but the N55’s performance is about where we’d expect – the much more powerful G74S, for example, achieved an overall score of 2218 in 3DMark11.
A more likely explanation for such a strong showing is that the K53T is particularly well optimized for more advanced graphical effects such as those used in 3DMark 11. Remember, laptops with Intel HD 3000 graphics can’t even run this benchmark, as they lack DirectX 11 support.
Strong synthetic benchmark results are meaningless, however, if they don’t translate to strong in-game performance.
Our first benchmark, Dawn of War 2: Retribution doesn’t provide the K53T with a strong start. This is probably because the game is among the most CPU reliant titles on the market today, and the AMD A6 just isn’t up to snuff in that department.
In Just Cause 2, however, the K53T manages to provide a result that is significantly better than the U36S and absolutely stomps the Intel HD 3000 powered Dell Inspiron 14z. Performance is even better in Battlefield 3, where the K53T manages to provide playable framerates at medium detail.
Overall, it appears that the K53T does make up for its CPU shortcomings with GPU performance that’s excellent for the price. Although gamers won’t be able to crank up detail settings, they will be able to at least play any game on the market today, even demanding titles like BF3. This is a major victory for AMD in the budget market, because decent gaming power is still rather hard to find in laptops that are less than $1000.
Let’s wrap up performance by looking at the system boot and resume times.
Nothing surprising here – this laptop boots about as quickly as most any other laptop with a mechanical hard drive. Only the SSD equipped U36S boots significantly faster, and all the systems resume from hibernate with similar swiftness.
Price is an important part of this story. Available for $629.99, the K53T we reviewed (or, at least, the closest retail-available variant) is not an expensive piece of kit considering the level of performance available. Though the Core i5 does handily defeat the AMD A6 processor when it comes to processor performance, the Radeon 66720G is a capable combination of IGP and discrete graphics that provides the performance needed to play even the most demanding games at adequate detail settings. That’s something I can rarely say about any laptop priced under $1000.
Yet, in spite of the excellent graphics performance, the K53T also manages to offer decent battery life, particularly for a 15.6” laptop. I can easily see the K53T as the perfect laptop for the student gamer. It’s affordable, portable, and capable.
Despite the gaming power available here, I can’t provide this laptop with an editor’s choice award simply because the design is not up to snuff. HP and Dell have upped their game recently, and ASUS seems to have fallen behind. This laptop isn’t attractive, and the so-so keyboard and touchpad are bettered by some other laptops in this class. Such weaknesses limit the appeal of this product and prevent it from earning a broader recommendation.
If you like this laptop and want to purchase it, I recommend the ASUS A53TA-XE2 found on Newegg. This laptop appears to use the same chassis and almost identical hardware as the K53T we reviewed here, but comes with slightly less RAM and a lower price of $629.99. In my opinion 6GB is overkill for this laptop, so saving money and buying the A53TA-XE2 is an obvious choice.