Mainstream Performance

While Jarred has already gotten his mitts on a couple of dual-core Sandy Bridge notebooks, this is my first experience with the new architecture in this form. From the numbers I pulled testing the Toshiba M645, it looks like the old, perennially-underpowered quad-core i7-720QM workhorse may finally be put out to pasture. It's still somewhat faster than the 2410M in multi-threaded workloads, but it loses everywhere else.

We've highlighted three other systems for comparison in this round. In black we have the Dell XPS 15 L502x, sporting a quad-core i7-2630QM and GT 540M graphics. Last year's XPS 15 L501x with i5-460M and GT 420M is in red, and finally we have the i5-2520M with HD 3000 showing what you can get from dual-core Sandy Bridge without a discrete GPU.

PCMark is unkind to the M645, but it tends to skew heavily towards faster storage subsystems and the 5400RPM Toshiba hard drive is among the slowest. When we get to more CPU-limited workloads like Cinebench and x264 encoding, the i5-2410M is allowed to stretch its legs and the M645 surges forward to near the top of the heap, producing performance virtually on par with last generation's top end mobile dual-core chip. The i7-640M threatened the i7-720QM with early obsolescence, and the middle-of-the-road i5-2410M only helps make good on that threat. Such is progress.

Unfortunately 3DMark is far less kind and it's here where we first see just how much damage the low clocks on the GeForce GT 525M have done. While the 96-core GPU is still a notable improvement over Intel's integrated graphics, it has a hard time hanging with even "last generation's" bottom rung 96-core chips (though in defense of "last generation," the 500M series is basically just 400M chips with a speed bump.) When we get to gaming performance, you'll see how brutally performance has been curtailed.

Finally, a Little Less Gloss Gaming Performance Should Be Better
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  • Jmegapac - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    If you don't mind a Dell, I'd consider Dell Vostro 3450. It has the same configuration as the Toshiba laptop mentioned above except for a) Radeon HD 6630M, b) 320GB 7200RPM HDD, c) DVD writer instead of Bluray drive.

    It does have backlight keyboard and a fingerprint reader.

    I believe the total cost is around $780 or so excluding tax. If you can find a Dell coupon, you should be able to reduce the price even further.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Thanks -- I've added a mention in the conclusion. Not seeing the $780 price for those features, though; where did you find that? I'm coming up with $964 at the time of writing, though perhaps you're talking about using a Dell business account to get a lower price? Reply
  • Eidorian - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    I remember Laptop Magazine had a link through Logic Buy that discounted $220 the Vostro 3450 back in early April. It was rather tempting to get one of those with a Radeon 6630M and a three year warranty for $779. Reply
  • ekerazha - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    About upcoming 14-inch notebooks with Sandy Bridge and a more powerful NVIDIA GPU (I've had too much issues with ATI GPUs), I'm aware of:

    - Acer Aspire TimelineX 4830T (GT 540M), but some reviews say that it has overheating/throttling issues and poor build quality.

    - Lenovo IdeaPad Y470 (GT 550M), but only 4 hours of battery life?

    - Asus U41SV (GT 540M)

    Unfortunately I think that they lack backlit keyboard.

    Did I miss any other notebook?
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    You missed the main trifecta of business laptops, though they are now available for order.

    Dell Latitude E6420
    Lenovo ThinkPad T420

    The HP EliteBook 8460p has ATI Radeon Mobility 6470 graphics, but to me it qualifies as well. nVidia isn't without its issues on the mobile graphics front either.

    Both the Dell and Lenovo can have Optimus graphics. The Lenovo is lighter, and smaller; the Dell probably has better customer support. Both are built toughter than the models you mentioned, though. The Dell can have a backlit keyboard, and the ThinkPad has its ThinkLight which can shine down on the keyboard to illuminate it, and works well.
    Reply
  • royalewihcheese - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    It's a pretty frustrating time to be in the market for a notebook. My previous one just bit the dust, and I'm on a five year old Acer now during the search. They're really dragging on getting Sandy Bridge notebooks to market, and when trying to browse for them, they're all grouped in with the older Core i3/i5/i7 models. It seems like there's a total lack of interest in putting out new notebooks.

    How much stock do you guys put in the Squaretrade reliability ratings? I've been happy with my two Acers, the last failure being the result of four years of pretty rough use, and they're rated pretty dismally there. Is it worth holding out for an ASUS (which I have a good impression of from using their motherboards for decades) or Toshiba (decidedly less favorable impression) to put out the dream-specced notebook?
    Reply
  • jabber - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    ...all the stickers?

    Note ot manufacturers (including Microsoft) I really dont care or want them on my laptop!

    Just makes your products look cheaper out on the shelves, not smarter or better.

    Joe Average user doesnt have a clue what most of those "Turbo Boost" "Sonic Tunnel" i5" strickers mean anyway.
    Reply
  • Ushio01 - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    WD40 is your friend here, it easily removes the loathsome sticky residue after you peel off all those annoying stickers. Reply
  • jabber - Friday, April 29, 2011 - link

    Oh its not the taking off that bothers me its just they look so damn ugly and tacky stuck all over the chassis.

    You dont see that crap stuck all over Macbooks so why do it on non Mac kit?

    A simple spec sheet on the store shelf will do.

    Also most kit is probably bought online so it makes them even more pointless.
    Reply
  • erple2 - Monday, May 2, 2011 - link

    Perhaps that's part of the Macintax - no labels costs a little bit more? Reply

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