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Welcome the Fusion A-Series Laptops
The new AMD Fusion A-Series has been an overall victory for the company. While the processor performance is not as quick as what Intel offers, the integrated GPU is excellent. In addition, energy consumption has been drastically reduced, resulting in endurance that's competitive with Intel powered laptops.
New products based off the Fusion A-Series are starting to hit the market. Let's have a look at three of the best currently available.
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HP Pavilion dv6
The HP Pavilion line of laptops has long been a favorite among consumers looking for a mid-size laptop with reasonable performance at a low price. The latest line of 15.6" dv6 laptops is no exception, particularly now that they have access to AMD A-Series processors.
On the low end of the price range you'll find the dv6 equipped with AMD's A6 3400M, a quad-core part clocked at just 1.4 GHz with a maximum turbo of 2.3 GHz. This model provides performance that an average user will find to be quite snappy and can also handle basic gaming. Priced at $599, it's a nice, well-rounded laptop.
Users who are somewhat more serious about gaming can upgrade to the A8-3500M or A8-3510MX, which have base clocks of 1.5 GHz and 1.8 GHz respectively. In addition, these upgraded APU's offer a better integrated graphics chip that can handle most games at the laptop's native resolution of 1366x768.
If there's anything to be concerned about, it's HP's reliability, which has never inspired a lot of confidence. I'm not a huge fan of the laptop's appearance, either, but that's a more personal opinion. Given the hardware and the price attached, the dv6 is undoubtedly one of the best new Fusion laptops available.
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Toshiba Satellite L745D
Most of the Fusion A-Series laptops currently on the market are equipped with 15.6" displays, but not all of them. The Toshiba Satellite L745D is instead shipping with a smaller 14" panel and a smaller chassis, making it the most portable A-Series laptop currently on store shelves.
Weighing in at just under 5 pounds, and with a thickness of 1.3 inches, the Satellite L745D is not an ultraportable, but it is smaller and lighter than the 15.6" competition. This makes it easy to carry around, an ideal quality for a laptop that a student or frequent traveler might be considering.
The hardware picture is similar to the HP Pavilion dv6. For $599 you can pick up an entry level model with an A6 3400M quad core processor that will prove more than adequate for most users. Unlike the dv6, there's no upgrades currently available to more powerful A8 processors. This may be in the works, but for the time being it appears Toshiba is only offering pre-configured laptops with the A6 processor.
Even so, this remains a solid pick, not only because of its size but also because of Toshiba's solid reputation. The brand has consistently scored well in reliability surveys and its products, while not fancy, are generally robust. The L745D is a nice alternative to the dv6 for those who want a smaller, more subdued laptop.
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Lenovo IdeaPad Z575
The final laptop to make this best-of list is the unassuming IdeaPad Z575, a robust 15.6" laptop with a sleek but subtle chassis that may well be one of the best reasons to buy it. Although the IdeaPad line does not by any means replicate the ThinkPad's durability, there are areas in where the lineage can be traced. The keyboard, for example, is excellent on the IdeaPad Z575. It's comfortable, well spaced, and provides decent tactile feedback.
Price is another area where the IdeaPad Z575 shines. The base model, which is equipped with an AMD A4 3300M dual-core processor, can be had for just $479 on Lenovo's own website. Although the A4 is down two cores and has the slowest graphics chip of any AMD A-Series part, it will still be sufficient for most buyers. The entry level model is not only one of the best AMD A-Series laptops, but also one of the best laptops below $500.
Upgrades are available, of course, but also raise the laptop's price substantially. The A6 3400M equipped Z575 is priced at $679, which is much more than A6 equipped HP Pavilion dv6 and Toshiba Satellite L745D models. Granted, the IdeaPad also comes with a larger hard drive and can be had with 6GB of RAM rather than the more typical 4GB, but most users will find that the HP and Toshiba provide a better value at the $599 price point.
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More AMD A-Series laptops will debut in the coming months, but I suspect these models will continue to be excellent choices. They're basic, affordable, and well rounded. That's a hard combination to beat, and the companies missing from this race - like ASUS - are more likely to craft a nifty ultraportable than anything else.