|Acer Iconia 6120 Dual-Screen Laptop|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Notebook | Compact PC|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Tuesday, 26 April 2011|
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Performance Testing and Results
Nobody (except gamers) buys laptops for performance. Laptop users typically value portability and size over performance, so laptop manufacturers try to optimize these characteristics within the limited power envelope provided by batteries. The Iconia 6120 starts out with a severe disadvantage power-wise since its extra 14" screen means that it will suck a lot more power than a "normal" 14" laptop.
Still, performance counts for something, as disillusioned users of low-end netbooks discovered once the thrill of the low price wore off. Benchmark Reviews doesn't test many laptop computers, so I had no equivalent modern laptops to compare the Iconia's performance to. For this comparison I used an ASUS Eee PC 1201N netbook, which has a Hyper-Threading capable dual-core Atom 330 processor running at 1.6gHz and first-generation NVIDIA ION graphics. Compared to the 2.66gHz Core i5 480M and recent-generation Intel HD Integrated Graphics in the Acer Iconia, you might think the netbook would be thoroughly outclassed...but then again, you might be surprised.
Acer Iconia 6120 Test System
ASUS Eee PC 1201N Test System
Many people use a laptop as their main system these days; as I noted previously, laptop computers started outselling desktops in 2005. Either of these machines is easily "fast enough" for most non-gaming daily use: web browsing, e-mail, word processing, and even moderate spreadsheet work. As someone who collects some of the old-style desktop systems I started my programming career on in the 70s and 80s, I can say that even the humble ASUS netbook is literally thousands of times faster than the machines we had back then. Of course, we're asking them to do a lot more, too, even in simple stuff like the user interface. Windows 7's "Aero" theme with its live window dragging, translucency, and animation effects requires graphics horsepower undreamed of a couple of decades ago.
But by modern standards, these simply aren't very fast computers. That said, while either is adequate (and both handle Windows Aero just fine), the Acer Iconia feels much faster than the Eee PC, except when doing disk I/O, where its sluggish 5400RPM hard disk really holds it back. The ASUS Eee PC netbook didn't come with an SSD, but I'd installed one after I bought it, and the result is that in launching programs it's way faster than the Iconia. At Benchmark Reviews, we've long said that adding an SSD will give your computer the single biggest performance boost of any accessory. Fortunately, the Iconia's design makes adding an SSD much easier than on the ASUS, which requires near-total disassembly of the chassis. Only one of the benchmarks I ran considered HDD speed at all, so most of the results should be representative of a stock ASUS 1201N.
Maxon CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses the computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on Maxon's award-winning animation software, Cinema 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. Maxon software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia, and many more. CINEBENCH Release 11.5 includes the ability to more accurately test the industry's latest hardware, including systems with up to 64 processor threads, and the testing environment better reflects the expectations of today's production demands. A more streamlined interface makes testing systems and reading results incredibly straightforward.
The CINEBENCH R11.5 test scenario comprises three tests: an OpenGL-based test that models a simple car chase, and single-core and multi-core versions of a CPU-bound computation using all of a system's processing power to render a photo-realistic 3D scene, "No Keyframes", the viral animation by AixSponza. This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores, and all the rendering is performed by the CPU: the graphics card is not involved except as a display device. The multi-core version of the rendering benchmark uses as many cores as the processor has, including the "virtual cores" in processors that support Hyper-Threading. The resulting "CineMark" is a dimensionless number only useful for comparisons with results generated from the same version of CINEBENCH.
That said, running CINEBENCH on laptops like this is almost cruel, and the results show why.
The Iconia manages a feeble 1.27 frames per second on the OpenGL test. The ASUS' ION graphics subsystem performs more than three times as fast, managing almost four frames per second! The software rendering results are similarly low, although looking back at previous Benchmark Reviews processor tests I see that the Iconia's Core i5 480M is reasonably close to the Core i7 920 (0.85 vs. 0.96) in the single-core tests, although it lags far behind in the multi-core tests. Here we can also see that the Atom processor is in no way a competitor with any of Intel's other mobile or desktop processors. Then again, it does use only 2.2 watts of power, whereas the Core i5 480M uses 35 watts.
Street Fighter IV
The picture doesn't improve much with Street Fighter IV. In my testing of the Fast Enough Budget Computer, using a low-end AMD Athlon X2 processor and a Radeon 6850 video card, I got 1680x1050 frame rates well over a hundred frames per second. However, at a lower resolution of 1366x768, the best the Iconia could manage was 14 frames per second, while the ASUS 1201N turned in 18 frames per second. Normally, Street Fighter IV favors processor horsepower, but the ION's advantage over Intel's HD Graphics is just too much, giving the win to the netbook. In the Fast Enough Budget Computer article, I said your netbook would probably make a perfectly adequate Street Fighter IV machine. I was wrong.
I'll continue performance testing in the next section.