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Toshiba NB550D review

Verdict

The first Brazos netbook excels at graphical tasks, and battery life is immense. If only it had arrived last year

Review Date: 25 Mar 2011

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £251 (£301 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
2 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

The Toshiba NB550D might not look special from the outside, but it’s what’s inside that matters: it’s the first netbook we’ve seen to ditch Intel’s Atom in favour of Brazos, the low-power opening salvo of AMD’s Fusion line-up.

At its heart lies the Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), which combines the CPU, GPU, north bridge and memory controller all on to one compact 40nm die. Of the four Brazos APUs, we looked at the two Zacate nettop chips recently; the NB550D uses the AMD C-50, one of the two Ontario netbook chips. It has two CPU cores running at 1GHz, an integrated AMD Radeon HD 6250 graphics core and a TDP of only 9W, so it looks ideally suited for a modern netbook.

Unfortunately, our benchmarks were hamstrung by the Toshiba’s steadfast refusal to install Sony’s Vegas Pro 10 – we can only surmise it’s a driver issue. Instead, we disabled all Vegas sections on both this netbook and an Atom N550 equivalent, and ran the remaining tasks to make a like-for-like comparison.

Toshiba NB550D

Intel’s Atom N550 has Hyper-Threading, which helped it complete our Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Cinebench tests a full 20% faster than the C-50. Across all tests, the C-50 was 15% slower on average, but it’s worth remembering this is despite each of its cores running at only 1GHz compared to the Atom’s 1.5GHz – a 33% reduction in clock speed. In our iTunes encoding test, the C-50 outperformed the Atom by 10%, and our application-switching test (minus Vegas) put the two neck and neck: the AMD took 90.7 seconds to complete the test; the Intel in 91.9 seconds.

Plus, thanks to the C-50’s out-of-order execution pipeline, our subjective experience was that the Toshiba NB550D felt every bit as responsive in daily use as any Atom netbook we’ve tested. For web browsing, tapping out an email or watching videos on BBC’s iPlayer, the AMD hardware is perfectly capable.

Not a great leap forward, then, but we haven’t got to the best bit yet – the integrated AMD Radeon HD 6250 graphics core. Crysis is an unfair challenge to set a netbook, but installing TrackMania Nations Forever and running its built-in benchmark opened up a significant performance gap over the Intel integrated equivalent. Run at Medium detail and the standard netbook resolution of 1,024 x 600, the Toshiba managed an almost-playable average frame rate of 21fps, while the Intel netbook managed only 5fps.

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User comments

This seems like the prefect netbook. All I have to do is wait for my AA1 to die.

By JamesD29 on 25 Mar 2011

and work out how to get it without paying the windows tax.

By JamesD29 on 25 Mar 2011

I love the sound of the netbook, however i'm guessing the 2 out of 6 stars for performance that it gets is comparing it to full power laptops.
Are there any plans to make a completely separate netbooks category, or is the reasoning behind not doing that the popular theory that netbooks are a dying breed?

By khellan on 27 Mar 2011

Toshiba NB550D

This is a superb multimedia netbook ideal
for traveling with the
digital camera and Camcorder. Toshiba beat
Asus to the Draw, their
equivalent using the same
processor and HD graffics
card is only coming out in USA in April.
This is a superb machine!

Snobbie45

By Snobbie45 on 29 Mar 2011

Toshiba reliably rip you off!

£80 to £120 more for a Netbook with a much slower CPU and better graphics is a joke unless you need it for media; the mentioning gaming support is pointless for such a slow CPU.

I'd only consider this Netbook if:
* the CPU had a much higher maximum clock speed e.g say 1.5GHz.
* demand scaled variable CPU speed for the same battery life.
* was much cheaper, say max. £250, inc. VAT!

As is, if I was buying a new netbook I'd still opt for a £180 to £220 (VAT inc) Atom one, for the faster CPU, given £300 is a rip-off, but hardly surprising given it is Toshiba!

For just media playing, my Advent Vega is far more portable than any netbook, and can drive HDMI TVs (unlike the crapple iPad2), and is still cheaper at £250, or less for business.

I've travelled with my devices, so this is not just hot air.

By Schematrix on 31 Mar 2011

Too late for netbooks and not ready for tablets...

AMD missed the train. Everyone bought a netbook with Atom previous years, Intel sold Atom without any competitor to every netbook. Now Apple set the trend favoring Tablet, and I see no hope for AMD. They may prepare a Nvidia Tegra competitor 2 years later...

By HopeLESS on 1 Apr 2011

maybe a little too pessimistic...

Yes ideally both consumers and amd would have liked it out a lot sooner but you're either missing the point or engaging in silly hyperbole.
It's a scalable architecture aimed at low power all round performance. In fact equally clocked it is a more powerful cpu than the atom and the better alternative for 'portable productivity' to use a silly buzzword. There is plenty of potential in the fusion series, expect to see it in plenty of laptops. I'm interested.

By Hmmmm on 5 Apr 2011

Good little netbook

I have just got one of these, and once you take off all the crapware it runs great. Gonna upgrade the RAM now though.

By Jon2010 on 14 Apr 2011

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