Let's be honest here — Intel utterly dominates the laptop world as the dominant CPU supplier. Not only are its chips speedy, but they also require less power and throw out less heat, two factors of critical importance when building a PC inside a 15mm gap. Nearly every laptop we're supplied to review features Intel CPUs, which makes the Satellite U50D such an interesting proposition. Finally we get to see what AMD's CPUs can do.
Design and features
Before we delve under the hood, we should point out that this is a full-sized 15.6 inch behemoth.
This isn't too surprising given that AMD chips tend to pump out more heat, and are thus more likely to be found in laptops with larger cooling solutions. The 15.6 inch screen on offer here foregoes the touchscreen feature found on most other laptops, as the AMD APU used within means it doesn't need to abide by Intel's Ultrabook specifications. Based on the relatively low resolution of 1366 x 768, the screen is a bit grainy for our liking, but beggars can't be choosers.
Plastic is used throughout the U50D's construction, but it's cleverly disguised as brushed aluminium. It's such a believable finish that we barely noticed that the palm wrist was actually brushed aluminium. The full-sized island keyboard lacks any form of backlighting, but is a delight to use thanks to its larger size and lack of any flex or rattle. The touchpad is very accurate, yet requires a tad too much force to activate the buttons; hopefully these will loosen up over protracted use.
Connections, performance and battery
On to the interesting bits — the CPU, or in this case, APU. An AMD A6-5200 Quad Core APU is the brain of this laptop, offering twice as many cores as Intel laptops in this price range. However, the maximum speed of each core is just 2GHz, well below the 2.6GHz to 3GHz range of Intel's mainstream offerings, which really hurts performance in applications that only use a single core. 8GB of memory is included, a very nice amount considering the price tag, while a 750GB mechanical drive provides plenty of storage space. Like Intel's CPUs, the A6-5200 also includes an integrated GPU, in this case the Radeon HD 8400. AMD's integrated graphics are very well respected, but it appears the Radeon HD 8400 is a poor match for Intel's latest design. It scored just half the speed of Intel's HD Graphics 4400 in our gaming benchmark, 3DMark's Cloud Gate test.
Overall system performance was much healthier, albeit still not blazingly fast. PCMark 8's Home benchmark showed that this laptop can keep up with much more expensive machines powered by Intel, with a final result of 1844. Given AMD's reputation for less than perfect power draw, the overall battery life of 261 minutes was a surprisingly happy result.