AMD takes the budget gaming market part 3: The ultra budget E-450 laptop/netbook.

Posted: February 12, 2012 by ryanlecocq in Features, Technology

I’m closing the book on this series on a low note.  Ultra low price that is.  The smile on your face when you boot it up and play Starcraft 2 or Skyrim will still get you pretty high.  I started these articles waaaaaay back (in computer years) when the first Brazos HTPC boards came out with the E-350 APU.  It all started with a simple guide on building a $300 World of Warcraft box for your HDTV.  Then I fell in love.  AMD’s new philosophy of catering to the little guy hit me right in the heartstrings and I’ve been singing their praises ever since.  I followed that guide with the A8 Hybrid Crossfire desktop guide and the review and tweak guide for the Asus K53TA with AMD A6.  Now here we are a year later with the update of the Brazos platform, now appearing in low power notebooks all about the place.  With all that wind out of my chest, I’m ready to do what I do best and what you read me for:  I’m going to take a budget device, crank it all the way up and tell you in layman’s terms what it can do.

 

The Dell Inspiron m5040:  I loved that mule.

So for my E-450 guide, I wasn’t willing to wait for the best balance of features to be available.  Manufacturer’s are just now dumping the netbook concept and wrapping their brains around the compact laptop concept.  In the meantime, you will see some amazing deals on Frankenstein’s monster laptops that aren’t really either.  This is what brought me to Best Buy once again for one of their weekly too-cheap deals (just like the K53TA).  A few rewards coupons and $300ish later:  Dude, I got a Dell (groan please).  The Dell Inspiron m5040 is not at all the E-450 machine I would recommend you to get.  It’s quite obviously another system where the manufacturer paired a bunch of parts they wanted to offload with a desirable CPU to create something that looks good in a weekly ad.  The big issue is that it’s a 15.6″ standard size laptop.  So you lose a lot of your battery life and gain a lot of weight, basically negating the reasons you were probably looking for a Brazos notebook.  None of those ideal laptops are available yet though, so this was the only way I could get an E-450 powered portable in the budget category right now.

As far as my purposes go, all that matters is that E-450.  The reason I have such a “man-reaction” for this CPU is because of a few small improvements over it’s E-350 older brother.  First of all, it supports 1333MHz RAM vs. 1066MHz.  Since the GPU uses that RAM as well, that is effectively a 20% overclock on the graphics RAM.  Just so the GPU core won’t be jealous, it also gets a 20% overclock courtesy of Turbo Boost.  WTF?  Yeah I know, really odd that AMD would choose to include Turbo only for the GPU core and not the CPU core as we’ve seen in every other AMD chip using this feature.  Oh yeah, at least they clocked it up 50MHz (har…  har).  Anyway, what I’m saying is that the graphics performance is improved exactly 20% in most cases.  I’ve heard some people scoff at this, but if that makes the difference between playable and non, which in many cases it does, it’s everything.  I don’t want to say I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t.  I mean, I’d like to think I’d still write an article if I was wrong, but I guess we won’t find out this time.  The fact is once again it works better than expected.

 

It did what?

It’s not a big surprise the E-450 chewed through Orcs Must Die! and Bastion without turning down any settings.  Even at the oversized screen’s native res of 1366×768, casual games swam merrily along at a Vsync’d 60fps.  I didn’t even bother to install World of Warcraft as the E-350 already handled it at medium settings and very playable framerates.  What I did again and I need to stop doing is lowering my expectations because of popular naysaying.  People had said in many a forum “don’t expect to run any current games in playable framerates.”  It took a bit of tweaking (more in some cases than others), but I managed to run all of my current games at the lower end of playable.  This probably would not have been true if my current games included The Old Republic, but they don’t.  Most of my time went into tweaking Skyrim and Deus Ex, as I had faith both would run and I figured the most people would care.  Several other games like Starcraft 2 and Alice Madness Returns ran just fine at low settings with no additional tweaking.

I’ll start with Skyrim as it’s the popular horse right now.  Let’s not misrepresent, I had to play at total ass resolution to get it playable.  I went into the .ini to force 800×480 as it wasn’t supported by default.  It looked pretty gnarly on this huge screen, but on an 11″ model, you wouldn’t even notice.  Skyrim’s interface has been simplified and enlarged for consoles and tvs anyway, so the game is still very functional.  Then I went to the popular Tweak Guides site (google it) and used most of the low end tweaks for Skyrim that didn’t make the game look too bad.  The result was a solid 25-30fps outdoors and a vary comfortable 30-35fps indoors.  Not exactly smooth as butter, but many PS3 users would be surprised to know they’ve been happily playing at those framerates for years.  I was occasionally handicapped by a little bit of stutter, but it was almost always when entering towns, so seldom in combat.  I’ve seen the reports of Asus 1215b owners getting 18-20fps and in this case I think they would agree with me that 20% made all the difference.  Best part is that Skyrim looks surprisingly similar at the lowest and highest settings, so I didn’t lose much.

I won’t lie, getting Deus Ex: Human Revolution playable was a biatch.  You’re going to want to start by turning every single thing down and off except DirectX 11.  Some fools seem to believe that running in DX9 on a DX11 card is somehow saving resources.  DirectX 11 is better than DirectX 9 in absolutely any situation unless turning on DX11 forces effects that can’t be turned off.  DX11 is just plain better at using your hardware unless the developers screw it up (here’s looking at you Arkham City).  In this case, the game will lurch like a crashing drunk unless you keep that one on.  For this game, being DirectX 11 compatible is the E-450’s best feature.  Microsoft’s newest API makes the best possible use of those 80 little shader cores and wimpy little CPU cores to make a surprisingly complex game capable on this hardware.  After forcing Vsync off and doing some almost silly tweaks I haven’t done in forever (disabling visual themes, setting process to high priority and using a fast flash drive for ReadyBoost, yes ReadyBoost seriously, it frees that little bit of RAM windows was using) I pulled it off somehow.  25-30fps barely.  It was playable by budget standards and still looked surprisingly good.  Once again, I did this at the lowly resolution of 800×480, so keep in mind we’re talking netbook screen playable here.

 

You built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?

It’s important to keep in mind that this is only an experiment.  Also be aware that I am extremely tech-savvy and I do more to these machines than just turn them on and install games.  Even above the tweaks I mention, I often do a hundred other little things that are so normal to me, I don’t even remark on them.  The purpose of this article is not to convince you to by a compact lappy as your next gaming rig.  What I’m getting at is you can take your games on the road in a smaller form factor and get 4-5 hours of gameplay unplugged.  That’s something no gaming laptop does and potentially worth all of the sacrifices you make in raw power.  If you are a kid reading this and hoping you can convince your parents to buy you a cheap rig that will play TOR, you’re in the wrong place.  I do however have a piece of advice for you:  Keep scraping, scrimping and learning.  With diligence and determination you will eventually defy the monetary system with your knowledge and be able to create what you want from nothing, just like I do.  Short of that, keep dreaming.

EDIT 2/13

Although the E-450 is making it’s way down to the sub-$400 range now, if you just want the battery life and don’t mind paying more, the new Brazos 2.0 chips are right around the corner.  The E2-1800 that will be replacing the E-450 is once again clocked up 50MHz core, 80MHz GPU in a now predictable pattern.  Keep in mind that when it launches, manufacturers will still try to put it in more expensive laptops based on it’s novelty.  It will take 3-6 months to hit it’s proper price point just like the past models.  Also, despite AMD’s claims I believe it’s no update but just a higher clocked version of the same part.  Probably means you could get the same capability from the current parts once someone figures out how to unlock them.

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Comments
  1. PC gaming says:

    Hello! Fine blog, I’m a true games fan but my current PC is too old to play the latest games like crysis 2 and so I’m looking to build a PC myself and I discovered a manual on http://www.gamepctips.com/. Seems like a good idea, but I’m still not sure so what do you recommend?

  2. nev says:

    Do you mean we can unlock the HD7340 out of E-450?

    • ryanlecocq says:

      It wouldn’t change the graphics adapter at all, but the only difference between the 6320 and 7430 is the clock speed which could be increased if a way was found to overclock the E-450. So far, this has only been possible with a few desktop chipsets that use a different bios than the stock AMD models.

  3. ryanlecocq says:

    The pricing of the E2-1800 should be identical to that of the E-450 since it is replacing it. AMD will want to stay at the same price point, as they currently have Intel’s Atom completely locked out of the market in price/performance.

  4. amd e series lover says:

    the chips are good for 28-30 watts,hatres gonan hate!

  5. sultanul arephin says:

    yo,i dont know much about bechmark or any tests,but i have e450 apu on my laptop,and i can play very smooth(not just smooth,very smooth) deus ex at full resolution,playable split second at full resolution with graphics at high(not very high as it gets slow at very high settings) settings.i didnt play other games yet,i have 2 GB ram,win7.

    • ryanlecocq says:

      I haven’t used an E-450 in a while, so it’s possible the drivers have been improved greatly. I would be really surprised if the E-450 in any way is capable of 45-60 frames-per-second which would be considered smooth by most people. It’s possible that the game is resetting to lower settings when you set it to high because it can’t support everything. I would be very amazed though to see benchmarks.

  6. I do agree with all of the ideas you’ve presented in your post. They’re very
    convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very brief for beginners.
    May just you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time?
    Thank you for the post.

    • ryanlecocq says:

      Uhh, wow. I think that’s the first time anyone has ever called anything I’ve written “brief.” I mean, if you really think so, I can always make them longer. I just kind of figured everyone agreed that “Edited for Length” should be my middle name.

  7. Haxorinator says:

    I know this is a VERY OLD page, but the performance has come a LONG way since 2012.
    I have a Lenovo X130e 11.6″ and the E-450 can really impress. Just for the lols I installed Skyrim. It ran 25fps all low. Tweak in the ini file and over 30 for constant!

    No tweaking and on low and Fallout NV works like a charm! Around 25-30. A little tweak and I’m sure it’ll work greater.

    As does Left for Dead 2. About 25-35FPS

    Very impressed by this E-450 + HD6320M + 8Gb RAM + SSD for a tiny netbook (although notebookcheck calls this an Ultrabook lol)

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