It's only been a couple of months since the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, but we've already seen the new CPU platforms from AMD and Intel turn up in most of the just-released or upcoming laptops we've heard about. Much has been written about the incredible speed and battery life of Intel's Sandy Bridge chips, and they certainly are impressive, but they are thus far reserved for high-end machines.
AMD's Fusion APU (which combines a CPU and GPU), has been found in sub-$500 laptops, and makes for a marked improvement over the Intel Atom, Pentium dual-core, and various low-end AMD chips previously found in the budget category.
Oddly, you'll never see the Fusion name actually on a laptop. AMD says it's an internal-only designation, and instead puts a sticker that says "Vision" on the actual laptops, with no mention of the actual CPU model inside. So far, we've seen models with an E-350 CPU and a slower E-250 CPU (the latter of which should be avoided at all costs).
But as four of the five AMD Fusion laptops we've tested so far have had the faster E-350 CPU, our experiences have been, for the most part, very positive. The Fusion platform works best in an ultraportable laptop, where it comes off as a smart upgrade to Intel's Atom. We've also seen it crammed into a couple of midsize laptops, where a user's psychological expectations may outstrip the CPU's abilities.
If you're interested in delving further into AMD's Fusion platform, we've rounded up the first wave of reviews below.
HP Pavilion dm1
The first laptop to offer AMD's power-efficient Fusion platform delivers on much of its promise, combining great battery life, decent performance, and basic graphics for less than $500.
Lenovo ThinkPad X120e
The AMD Fusion-powered ThinkPad X120e is an 11-inch ultraportable that's better and more affordable than last year's model, making it a worthwhile choice for small-business buyers.
Taking a CPU intended for an 11-inch ultraportable and sticking it in a midsize system can potentially be a recipe for disaster. Gateway's 15-inch AMD Fusion-based NV51B05u avoids any major problems, but it could be better.
Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5130
While the Toshiba Satellite C655-S5130 cracks the $400 barrier for an affordable 15-inch laptop, this particular AMD Fusion-powered laptop underperforms and underdelivers.
Sony Vaio YB15
Sony ditches the Netbook for this more upscale AMD-powered ultraportable, with good performance and features, but also an upscale price.