#1: The HP Elitebook 745 G2 (Kaveri, A10 PRO-7350B)

The Kaveri system chosen was selected as a pinnacle system – one of the best 19W Kaveri devices currently on sale. This is an A10 PRO-7350B system, which translates as a dual module/quad thread processor with a base frequency of 2.1 GHz and a turbo mode up to 3.3 GHz. The APU contains integrated ‘R6’ level graphics based on GCN 1.1, for 384 streaming processors at a frequency of 533 MHz. The 1600x900 TN display was certainly nothing to write home about, but unlike some other devices in this test it came with a 256GB SSD and is strangely enough the only device in our test with dual channel memory (2x4GB, DDR3-1600 C11). This memory aspect is one we’re going to revisit a fair bit as it explains a significant angle surrounding the binary decisions that AMD has to make in a platform.

HP Elitebook 745 G2 (Kaveri) Specifications
Size and Resolution 14-inch, 1600x900 TN
Processor AMD A10 PRO-7350B
Dual module, 4 threads
2.1 GHz Base Frequency
3.3 GHz Turbo Frequency
Graphics Integrated R6
384 Shader Cores
553 MHz maximum frequency
GCN 1.1
Memory 8 GB in Dual Channel Operation
2 x 4GB at DDR3L-1600 C11
2 SO-DIMM Slots
Storage 256GB SSD
Battery Size 50.27 Wh
3 cell Li-Po design, rated to 10.25 hours
WiFi Broadcom 802.11n 1x1
Optical Drive No
Dimensions 33.9 cm x 23.7 cm x 2.1 cm
Weight 1.7 kg
Webcam 1280x720
Other Features Gigabit Ethernet
4 x USB 3.0
Smart Card Reader
Operating System Windows 8.1
Website Link link

The Wi-Fi on hand in the G2 was a single stream Broadcom 802.11n solution, which is broadly disappointing. A remark I will probably make several times in this piece is that if I can get 2x2 802.11ac on a sub-$150 motherboard, why is it not in a laptop >$600? A positive on the battery life side is that the G2 had the biggest battery out of all the devices we tested, coming in at 50.274 Wh, although unfortunately our battery life test failed and we ran out of time to run another.

As for the device itself, the HP Elitebook line is typically focused on premium business customers, and comes in as one of the more stylish elements this field, relying on an aluminium clamshell and a polished design to set the tone. HP is one of AMD’s top tier partners for laptops, which is in itself somewhat surprising perhaps, but most of their business is in the professional line. This means features such as a VGA port and a fingerprint sensor come standard.

It certainly does not look out of place in any meeting room or on a flight. The bezel around the display is noticeable but not too large, with a 720p webcam at the top.

On the sides we get a total of four USB 3.0 ports, and a DisplayPort to compliment the VGA. To fit with some business use, the smart card reader is on the left, as well as the docking port on the right hand side between the circular power cable and the Ethernet port. The Ethernet port is interesting, given that in the ‘thin is best’ mantra for laptops an Ethernet port is quite bulky, so many devices eschew them all together and provide a USB-to-Ethernet adaptor. But instead we have an expanding Ethernet port which makes room for the RJ-45 connector. It saves having to remember another cable in the work bag.

Mouse movement comes from both a trackpad and a nub in the center of the keyboard, with each having a mix and match set of left and right mouse buttons. Personally, using the trackpad during testing was a nightmare as it was not particularly responsive, requiring exertion and exaggeration to get the cursor to move, meaning for most of the time a mouse was plugged in anyway. Technically this G2 sample is actually an old one from stock, perhaps suggesting it has been ‘lightly used’. This is shown by the front of the device.

Even a bad camera can’t hide some scratches. Then again, a number of business devices are held in pouches to save from scrapes, perhaps belying the ‘we kept this in a stack of other laptops that could scratch it’ mantra.

The keyboard was a little different to what I am used to, with odd half-height up and down arrows as well as having the home/end and page up/down keys on the right hand side. There are a couple of immediate second function keys, including the Wi-Fi and Mute buttons on the top right next to the speaker (and also right next to the delete key). The power button on the top left is near the escape key, and in a week I hit it at least twice by accident.

The full aluminium design of the clamshell bodes well for cooling, although there is only a single vent on the left hand side for an exhaust. Depending on the power of the fan, and corresponding heat soak, performance may be temperature affected in the long run.

HP Elitebook 745 G2 Specific Testing

With i1Display Pro colorimeter on hand (sorry, we didn’t have a spectrophotometer for more accurate color measurements), the G2 display running at 1600x900 with a TN panel came very low on our scoring. The high brightness was low (267 nits), and the low brightness was high (1.69 nits), giving an overall contrast ratio of 157. On the plus side, one could argue that the white point, at 6476K, was pretty good.

The color displacement in the calibrated display showed blue was way, way off what it should have been. Both red and green at low settings were also off target, with green having the best default line.

Here is the A10 PRO APU, showing the 19W TDP in the Bald Eagle platform. Kaveri and Carrizo are still both on 28nm, and it’s worth noting that these chips do not have any L3 cache but a super-associative 16-way L2 cache to reduce cache misses.

The G2 graphics are integrated into the APU, showing here the link to DDR3 memory at 25.6 GB/s (that’s dual channel, DDR3-1600 C11) for 384 streaming processors. This falls under the Spectre code name, and is DX12_0 compatible with the right OS and drivers.

Who Controls User Experience: AMD’s Carrizo Tested The Devices: #2 The HP Elitebook 745 G3 (Carrizo, PRO A12-8800B)
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  • MonkeyPaw - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    The cat cores exist to compete with Atom-level SOCs. Intel takes the Atom design from phones and tablets all the way up to Celeron and Pentium laptops. It makes some business sense due to low cost chips, but if the OEM puts them in a design and asks too much of the SOC, then there you have a bad experience. Such SOCs should not be found in anything bigger than a $300 11" notebook. For 13" and up, the bigger cores should be employed.
  • michael2k - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    The cat cores can't compete with Atom level SoC because they don't operate at low enough power levels (ie, 2W to 6W). The cat cores may have been designed to compete with Atom performance and Atom priced parts, but they were poorly suited for mobile designs at launch.
  • Intel999 - Sunday, February 7, 2016 - link

    AMD hasn't updated the cat cores in over three years! It is a dead channel to them. They had a bit of a problem competing in the tablet market against a competitor that was willing to dump over $4 billion pushing inferior bay trail chips. Take a plane to China and you can still find a lot of those Bay Trail chips sitting in warehouses as once users had the misfortune of using tablets being run by them the reviews destroyed any chance that those tablets ever had at being sales successes.

    AMD was forced to stop funding R&D on cat cores as they were in no position to be selling them at negative $5.

    In the time that AMD has stopped development on the cat cores Intel has improved their low end offerings, but still not enough to compete with ARM offerings that have improved as well. And now tablets are dropping at similar rates to laptops so it is actually a good thing for AMD that they suspended research on the cat cores. Sorta dodged a bullet.

    At least they still get decent volume out of them through Sony and Microsoft gaming platforms.

  • testbug00 - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    If the cat cores didn't exist AMD likely would have died as we know it a few years ago
  • BillyONeal - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    The "cat cores" are why AMD is not yet bankrupt; it let them get design wins in the PS4 and XBox One which kept the company afloat.
  • mrdude - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    YoY Q4 earnings showed a 42% decline in revenue for computing and graphics with less than 2bn in revenue for full-year 2015 and $502m operating loss. You couldn't be more correct. The console wins aren't just keeping the company afloat, they practically define it entirely.
  • Lolimaster - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    In that case simply remove the OEM's altogether and sell it at AMD's store or selected physical/online stores.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, February 11, 2016 - link

    10/10 would pay for an "AMD" branded laptop that does APUs correctly.
  • Hrobertgar - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    Since you are talking about use experience, AMD is not the only company with a bad user experience. I purchased an Alienware 15" R2 laptop on cyber Monday and it is horrible, and support is horrible. I compare my user experience to a Commodore 64 using a Cassette drive - its that bad (I suspect you are old enough to appreciate cassette drives). It arrived in a non-bootable configuration. It cannot stream Netflix to my 2005 Sony over an HDMI cable unless I use Chrome - took Netflix help to solve that (I took a cell-phone pic of a single Edge browser straddling the two monitors - the native monitor half streaming video and the Sony half dark after passing over the hdmi cable. It only occurs with Netflix). On 50% of bootups it gives me a memory change error despite even the battery being screwed in. On 10% of bootups it fails to recognize the HDD. Once it refused to shutdown and required holding the power button for 10 secs. Lately it claims the power brick is incompatible on about 10% of bootups. Yes, I downloaded all latest drives, bios, chipset, etc. Customer Service has hanged up on me once, deleted my review once, and repeatedly asked for my service tag after I already gave it to them. Some of the Netflix issue is probably Micorsoft's issue - certainly MS App was an epic fail, but much of even that must be Dell's issue. I realize it is probably difficult to spot many of these things given the timeframe of the testing you do, and the Netflix issue in particular is bizarre. I am starting to think a Lenovo might not be so bad.
  • tynopik - Friday, February 5, 2016 - link

    "put of their hands"

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