Graphics and Driver Shenanigans

We do have a few other items to address here before we move on to the performance numbers. First, there's the graphics configuration. The combination HD 4250/5650 is an awesome idea in practice, but Toshiba's drivers are at least four months old now (the driver date in the control panel is 4/26/2010). What's more, Toshiba doesn't participate (at least not yet—we can only hope this review will spur a change) in AMD's mobile driver program. Thankfully, we had some success in downloading the latest mobility drivers and getting them to install (see below), but then you're not running a supported configuration. ATI may also choose to close our workaround with a future release, so you're potentially stuck running the Toshiba-provided drivers, but for those that want our "hack"….

If you try to use the ATI mobility driver download utility, you'll get the above message saying your laptop isn't supported. Lucky for us, we have other ATI equipped laptops, so we were able to use those to download the Catalyst 10.8 drivers. After obtaining the drivers, initial attempts to install them resulted in a black screen and an apparently crashed computer. However, switching to the IGP first (via unplugging the laptop) allowed the 10.8 drivers to install without a hitch.

We had some concerns with the driver situation originally, but with the updated drivers on our A665D we discovered we had a different problem. Our A665D appears to have a flaky HD 5650 GPU that resulted in several of our games failing to run/render properly. This precipitated some email messages back and forth with AMD, where we learned we had first-production-run hardware (in other words, not quite 100% final). More delays ensued and eventually we ended up with a retail A660D in place of our faulty A665D. Outside of benchmarks that stress the hard drive, though, the two systems appear to perform identically—test result variance is well within the margin of error.

Speaking of graphics and drivers, AMD still uses hardware muxes controlled by software, similar to NVIDIA's Gen 2 switchable technology. The good news is that it works, but there are a few quirks. Toshiba doesn't provide an easy way to control the active GPU with the official drivers; instead, whenever you plug in (or unplug) your AC adapter, a message pops up stating that the graphics chip is going to switch and giving you a chance to accept/decline the switch. If you search in the Program Files directory under ATI Technology, you can find the CCC.exe file and run this, which allows you to access the full Catalyst Control Center and GPU switching functions, but we'd prefer this to be enabled by default rather than hidden away.

While the graphics switching setup is okay, but you still have the problem of blocking applications, which may cause headaches in a few situations,e.g. running Minesweeper will block switching and require you to exit the application first. The upside is that with AMD providing both the IGP and the dGPU, drivers don't need to go through any extra steps (something that happens when you use switchable graphics with Intel IGPs and AMD or NVIDIA dGPUs), so getting new drivers should be relatively easy. As we already mentioned, Toshiba isn't part of AMD's mobile driver program at present, but if you can get the drivers through other means (e.g. a friend with a laptop that has ATI graphics that isn't made by Panasonic, Sony, or Toshiba) you can install the drivers.

Finally, continuing with the GPU story, the HD 5650 in the A660D is clocked at 450MHz rather than 550MHz. For whatever reason, AMD allows manufacturers quite a bit of leeway on the 5650 clocks. The Acer 5740Ghad the same GPU clocked at 550MHz, and the 22% clock speed advantage will certainly show up in gaming. Really, this 450MHz part should be the "HD 5630", or some other name to differentiate it from the 550MHz part. There's a 650MHz part that otherwise has the same specs, and that one gets a bump to "HD 5730", so AMD is certainly aware of the difference 100MHz can make. Why Toshiba decided to drop the maximum GPU clock isn't clear, but a 550MHz GPU would have been better.

Now that we've got the overview out of the way, let's move on to the benchmarks and look at how the A660D stacks up.

Toshiba A660D-ST2G01 Inside and Out Toshiba A660D-ST2G01 General Performance
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • bennyg - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    This quad core simply has no logical benefit to it. Who buys a quad core for price and battery life (given Intel's penchant for monopolistic behaviour, if this was a market segment worth worrying about we'd have a dedicated mobile i7 quad die not harvested desktop Lynnfields)

    Even in benches where it's sposed to benefit from highly multithreaded workloads - e.g. cinebench multi - it's beaten by a i3. Why would AMD even bother releasing something this poor is beyond me.

    AMD notebooks like this don't sell because they don't make sense.
  • The Crying Man - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Wow... $950 for this? Amazon's selling the dv6-3050us with the Phenom II N930 for $890 and even cheaper on Newegg - better processor, driver support from AMD, and the GPU has normal clocks. Toshiba must put a premium for an ExpressCard slot or their cheap looking designs... What kinds of stupid thoughts go through the minds of that company's decision makers?

    I think it's time AMD started making their own special edition laptops with configurations OEMs aren't willing to put together. Why can't we get a MR HD5870 + Phenom II X920 BE?
  • Roland00 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    That specific model has even been cheaper before. One week on newegg it was 779, and if you did a 50 MIR it was 729 AR. Another week had a similar promotion where it was 799 and if you did a 50 MIR it was 749 AR.
  • The Crying Man - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Yep, bought mine way back in July on Amazon when it was $775.
  • blackshard - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Hello. Just a suggestion: check the battery wear level on this notebook (hwmonitor does it well). I just bought an Toshiba L650-10H with an AMD P520 (2.3 Ghz part) and HD5650. The video chip was clocked to 450 Mhz, as far as I remember. Anyway the 48Wh battery came with a silly 20% wear level, leaving around 39Wh for a brand new laptop. I don't know if it is a faulty battery or a "feature" coming straight from the factory, but it is enough for me to drop away toshiba notebooks.
    Also the display was the worst thing I've ever seen: the Windows 7 loading logo is exposing a really huge dithering problem with colors fading to black.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - link

    HWMonitor reports the wear level as 2%, which probably came from me going through 10-12 recharge cycles during testing. Now, I wish I could say as much for another laptop I just got, where the wear level is reporting at 30%. :-\
  • larson0699 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    I'm on an A665 at work, P920, 4GB, 500GB, 16", $799. We've had this for a while now. But whenever I'm in early or need to get online during break, this is the machine I use. Absolutely brilliant on Toshiba's part. It's a shame we don't also sell Sony...
  • hgd - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    On the other hand, AMD specs the P920 for 25W compared to 35W on the 720QM,

    Doesn't 720QM have 45W TDP?
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Correct. Fixed.
  • Cal123 - Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - link

    Acer has a P520 with 5650 in a 15.6" for only $599, I'd really like to see a review of that. It looks good to me, if Acer put it together well. I don't think Acer screws up the graphics like Toshiba does.

    Aspire 5551G-4591

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now