First the bad news: for a quad-core PC processor, even one designed for laptops rather than desktop PCs, the AMD A8-3500M's raw CPU performance is mediocre. That's because the clockspeed is limited to just 1.5GHz when all four cores are crunching numbers. In fact, in our testing we never detected any cores running beyond 1.5GHz, though AMD says it does happen when only one or two cores are under load.
Consequently, the 3500M gets absolutely hammered by the likes of Intel's quad-core Core i7-2820QM. Take the x264 video encoding test. The 3500M manages just 8.3 frames per second. Intel's 2820QM hammers out 28 frames per second. It's a similar story in the Cinebench R10 3D rendering benchmark. Intel's mobile quad completes it in 47 seconds. The 3500M lumbers across the line in two minutes and 21 seconds.
Of course, the A8-3500M is a much cheaper chip designed for relatively low-cost laptops. The harsh truth is that most of Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 mobile chips will have the measure of the 3500M for plain CPU performance. But the crucial question is whether that actually matters. For day-to-day computing, there's more than enough processing power on offer.
What's more, where AMD's new chip really comes good is where you need performance most. Gaming. In the 3500M, the graphics core is known as the Radeon HD 6620G, it has all 400 cores enabled and runs at up to 444MHz. And it absolutely destroys Intel's equivalent integrated graphics core, the HD 3000.
Running an older game such as Call of Duty 4 at 1,280 x 800 pixels, the Intel HD 3000 can only manage around 27 frames per second. The Radeon HD 6620G cranks out 46 frames per second. In a more demanding title like World in Conflict, the HD 3000 is frankly unplayable, even at just 800 x 600 pixels. The Radeon struggles, too, at standard settings. But it has just enough grunt to cope if you knock a few of the detail settings down. Overall, it's a great little graphics chip for low key gaming on the move. A spot of World of Warcraft or Portal 2 at the airport? No problem.