HP recently rolled out the brand new AMD Llano APUs in the AMD version of the HP Pavilion laptop, the dv6z. It is a considerably more affordable alternative to the dv6t, which also use AMD graphics but Intel on the processor side.
That begs the question if it’s a worthwhile trade-off; AMD still has some catching up to do compared to Intel as far as general purpose computing goes, i.e., raw processing power. On the other hand, AMD clearly has an excellent graphics product in its Radeon brand. That helps even the score in terms of gaming performance, and some of the latest Fusion APUs are also leveraging both the relatively competent integrated graphics in the APU and a dedicated graphics card in “hybrid” Crossfire mode–or Dual Graphics.
But the question remains whether an all-AMD laptop can keep up with an Intel/AMD system in the latest games? There’s no clear-cut answer–at least not yet. Anandtech evaluated a generic mobile Llano (A8) system a while back and produced a number of gaming benchmarks that pegged the performance as slightly behind a Dell XPS 15 with a GeForce GT 540M, which is pretty good considering that this laptop was equipped with a quad-core Intel Core i7–a much faster CPU than the Llano.
The folks at Notebookcheck.net have been more specific and reviewed the latest HP dv6z with an AMD A6-3410MX APU with Radeon HD 6755G2 graphics (HD 6750M + integrated HD 6520G). Their conclusion was that, although the overall impression was good, the Fusion dv6z is not suitable for gamers.
This verdict is very harsh, considering that most of the 20 games tested were playable at medium settings and many of them at high settings. The problem though, is that the results vary a great deal between different games, which is a clear indication that it is a driver related problem. To make matters worse, some crashes were also occurring with Crossfire enabled in Notebookcheck’s tests.
It should not be surprising that the hybrid Crossfire solution has teething problems. All systems involving dual graphics cards rely heavily on driver updates to have any effect whatsoever. If the driver support is not there, dual GPUs may even have a negative effect on the performance.
Another problem is that Crossfire only works with DX10 and DX11, meaning that older DX9 games will have to rely on a single GPU. Given these issues it is easy to conclude that a high-end Intel based system will offer better gaming performance even with a single AMD GPU in the same class as the HD 6750 in Llano. This is however not the same thing as saying that the HP Pavilion dv6z (or other laptops) with AMD Fusion and dual graphics are a bad choice for gamers. You also have to factor in the price/performance ratio.
Hopefully AMD will also be able to produce better and more stable drivers in the future that could take Fusion laptops to a whole new level. The dv6z is a tempting option at the current price point, but based on the information available so far it is difficult to recommend it to gamers without reservations. Cautious buyers may want to wait and see what happens with the driver support. It certainly looks like AMD Fusion has great potential if the manufacturer manages to tap it with good drivers.