Buy an AMD-powered notebook and get one free. It sounds too good to be true. It isn't if you want an affordable laptop that can play games. But some of the bargains are not so good
We've got used to seeing big price reductions in notebook sales recently, but none as aggressive as this current sale from Harvey Norman. If you buy an AMD-powered notebook, you get another, free.
So, in effect, Harvey Norman is selling notebooks with AMD processors at half price. Our colleagues at Notebook Hunter think a good deal is this HP ultraportable that's selling for $698, but which is effectively $349 because you can get another free.
Another good one is the 15.6in HP Pavilion dv6-6102AX. It has a good graphics card - the Radeon HD 6750M - and nice spec (huge 8GB of RAM, 750GB hard disk and Blu-ray player), while the dv6 is a proven HP design. The RRP is $1,598, so if you get two, that means you pay $799 each.
However, surprisingly, the rest of the deals are not as straightforward as they seem. Sales are designed to also sell machines the retailer can't offload. Many of the AMD notebooks on sale are low powered (the E-350 CPUs are just a step up from an Intel Atom netbook processor), so in effect, for some of the 2-for-1s, you're getting two low-powered notebooks for the price of one, while the higher-end AMD A8 CPUs are the equivalent - when benchmarked - to an entry-level Intel Core i3 processor when it comes to purely computational (non-graphics) tasks.
But it's when you bring graphics into the picture that the AMD machines come into their own, thanks to their Fusion technology. The A series have onboard graphics that are integrated into the CPUs (which AMD calls APUs, for Accelerated Processing Units). This is nothing new, Intel has been doing it for years, but it's when used in a notebook in conjunction with a discrete graphics card - in a Crossfire -like fashion - that the AMDs can deliver strong graphics performance for the price.
In essence, the higher-end AMD machines in this sale are good if you are looking for affordable notebooks that can do PC games well. When combining their processors with some of the better graphics cards (such as the Radeon HD 6750M in the HP Pavilion dv6-6102AX) they can play intensive games from mid to high levels of detail.
But again, bear in mind that if you leave aside onboard graphics performance - even top-of-the-range A8 -powered notebooks won't be a match for the latest Intel Core i5 or Core i7 -powered machines when it comes to all-round computing. Go for the higher end AMD's on special at Harvey Norman if you want good graphics performance to play games at a budget price, but think twice if you want a strong all-round computer that's good across the board.