After snatching the performance crown from Intel on the desktop, AMD officially opened up a second front in the war at CES 2020 on Monday, with a series of Ryzen 4000 laptop CPUs that aim to outperform Intel’s best and brightest.
“In 2020, we will be introducing the best laptop processor ever built,” said AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su during the unveil.
The company detailed no fewer than seven consumer Ryzen 4000 processors, based on its 7nm Zen 2 cores. The new CPUs will come in both 15 watt “U-class” ultra-low power versions in thin and light laptops and “H-class” 45-watt gaming and content creation laptops.
The Ryzen 7 4800U is the top-end low power version, packing 8 cores and 16 threads. It will hit boost clock of 4.2GHz and have a base clock of 1.8GHz. The chip will feature eight compute units in its Radeon graphics cores, which—surprisingly—use an optimized version of the company’s 7nm Vega cores rather than being based on the company’s newest RDNA architecture.
AMD said a Ryzen 7 with 8 compute units actually outperforms its previous Ryzen 7 3000 mobile chips, which had 11 compute units. The newer Ryzen 7 4000’s graphics cores actually offer 59 percent more performance per compute unit over the older Ryzen 7 3000 offerings, the company stated.
AMD isn’t aiming at older Ryzen 7 3000 though. It’s finally hoping to dethrone Intel’s mobile chips, and if what AMD claims is true, it’s happening.
AMD said the Ryzen 7 4800U, for example, will offer about a 4 percent advantage over Intel’s most advanced 10nm-based Ice Lake Core i7-1065G7 in single-threaded performance. But single-threaded performance is just part of it.
Ryzen 7 has more cores
As Intel’s “Ice Lake” 10th-gen Core chips tops out at four cores, it’s no surprise that the Ryzen 7 4800U will outrun the Core i7-1065G7 to the tune of 90 percent in multi-threaded performance using Maxon’s Cinebench R20 benchmark. Although Intel has looked down on using 3D modeling as a measuring stick for thin and light laptops, AMD’s performance in multi-threading likely means big wins elsewhere too.
In a video encode using Handbrake, for example, AMD said it has a 40 percent advantage over the Core i7-1065G7, with Adobe Premiere CC giving the Ryzen 7 4800U the advantage by 49 percent.
With Ice Lake, Intel greatly improved the graphics performance of its mobile chips but AMD claims that won’t help it here, as the Ryzen 7 4800U’s integrated Radeon cores will outperform the top-end Core i7-1065G7 by 28 percent using 3DMark Time Spy as a benchmark. The company also highlighted games such as Rocket League and Fortnite giving the Ryzen 7 the advantage too.
Faster than Comet Lake U too? Yup
But Ice Lake isn’t the end all and be all. Intel currently has two architectures available under the 10th-gen Core banner, with the second being its 6-core Comet Lake U Core i7-10710U chip, built using the long-established 14nm process technology. AMD said single-threaded performance is closer between the two, but the two-core advantage of the Ryzen 7 4800U still puts it ahead by about 30 to 40 percent in multi-threaded tasks.
The Achilles heel of the Core i7-10710U is its pedestrian UHD graphics, which offers half the performance of the Ice Lake Core i7-1065G7. Intel’s current offerings basically force consumers to choose between the superior graphics of the Core i7-1065G7 or the superior multi-core performance of the Core i7-10710U.
With the Ryzen 7 4800U, AMD said, consumers can have their cake and eat it too by getting better graphics performance and better multi-core performance.
Ruh roh: Battery life is TBD
All out performance isn’t the only factor in laptops though—battery life matters too. Unfortunately, AMD didn’t disclose hard details on just how well Ryzen 4000 chips compare to Intel’s designs. That’s a particular sore point, as the Ryzen 3000-series hasn’t adjudicated itself here. Although we have seen some early Ryzen 4000 battery life specs from laptop vendors that don’t look particularly good, we’ve also seen some that look reasonable.
For its part, AMD said we’re in the early stages of new laptops based on Ryzen 4000 chips and a lot more tuning has to be done before judgement should be passed. So take any vendor numbers with a grain of salt as they’re likely to change, company officials said.
The new Ryzen chips do support LPDDR4X RAM which should greatly help the platform’s performance with greater memory bandwidth, better battery life, and improved standby times. AMD claims performance per watt has basically doubled over Ryzen 3000 chips.
Ryzen gaming laptops look pretty awesome
AMD’s second set of Ryzen 4000 CPUs play in the heavier gaming and content creation arenas. Typically labeled as “H-class,” these laptops have far more powerful 45-watt chips and tend to slot into heavier laptops.
AMD is only offering two CPUs in this category today: An 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 4800H with a boost clock of 4.2GHz and base clock of 2.9GHz, and a 6-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 4600H with a boost clock of 4GHz and base clock of 3GHz. Both also feature optimized Vega-based Radeon graphics cores.
AMD said the Ryzen 7 4800H’s eight cores let it easily outperform Intel’s Core i7-9750H by 46 percent in multi-threaded performance, as that chip only has six cores. Single-threaded performance closes up, but AMD claims it has about a 5 percent advantage over the popular Core i7-9750H. In other performance tests, AMD said Ryzen 7 4800H leads Core i7-9750H by 25 percent in Adobe Premiere CC, 32 percent in POV-Ray, and 31 percent in Blender.
Even crazier: AMD said its laptop Ryzen 7 4800H can actually outperform Intel’s desktop Core i7-9700K in multi-threaded performance. How? Intel’s Core i7-9700K has 8-cores at fairly high clocks, but the company doesn’t offer Hyper-Threading on it. These Ryzen mobile H-series chips, on the other hand, do offer simultaneous multi-threading.
There are some indications of just how impressive Ryzen 4800H might be though. One of the new laptops is Asus’ ROG Zephyrus G14 laptop. It’s a 14-inch laptop with a GeForce RTX 2060 GPU and 8-core Ryzen 4800H chip. On paper, that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the Zephyrus G14 weighs just 3.5 lbs. which is far lighter than any GeForce RTX 2060 laptop we’ve ever seen. It’s also the first 14-inch RTX laptop ever.
We should also add that most lightweight gaming laptops with beefy gaming GPUs tend to skip Intel’s 8-core Core i9 chips in favor of the 6-core Core i7 chips. The reason? It’s likely due to the thermals. Although you can shoehorn an 8-core Intel chip into an a 4.5 lb. Dell XPS 15 or a 4 lb. Macbook Pro 15, the performance of the Core i9 typically suffers compared to say, shoving the same CPU into an 8 lbs. Acer Predator Helios 700.
The fact that Asus, AMD, and Nvidia feel comfortable shoving an 8-core CPU into a 3.5 lb. gaming laptop just might mean the 7nm Ryzen 7 4800H is far more power efficient than an Intel 14nm Core i9. That said, Asus is tuning the Ryzen 7 4800H to 35 watts and using the nomenclature of Ryzen 4800HS, rather than the full-blown chip.
Obviously, we’ll have to wait for final products to make a final judgement.
Smart Shift: All AMD laptops get a special boost
One feature AMD is implementing with Ryzen 4000 H-class chips is an intelligent way to shift power around a system. AMD said laptops Ryzen CPUs and Radeon GPUs can talk to one another over the company’s Infinity Fabric and if the CPU isn’t being driven hard, more power can be allocated to the GPU, or vice-versa.
AMD said this can result in a 10 percent boost in performance in games like The Division 2 or a 12 percent bump in Cinebench R20 results.
If this sound familiar that’s because Intel implemented something similar with its Kaby Lake G chip that was built with a 7th-gen Intel Core CPU and custom Radeon graphics.
AMD also announced a pair of new Athlon 3000-series processors for budget laptops, promising modern computing features on the cheap.
A lot of Ryzen 4000 laptops coming
Despite the surprising success AMD has with Ryzen CPUs in desktops, it would be an understatement to say the company’s momentum has been stalled in laptops. The Ryzen CPUs available thus far been mostly budget options and typically far outnumbered by Intel-based laptops.
With Ryzen 4000, AMD said, momentum is finally swinging its way. There will be no fewer than 100 laptops based on Ryzen chips coming out through the year. Even better for AMD: Many of them will be premium laptops, where there company has frankly never had any success outside Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 and Lenovo ThinkPads.
Combine good CPU performance, good GPU performance, and at least 100 new Ryzen 4000 laptop designs, and you can imagine this year will shape up to be an exciting one for consumers. AMD’s bringing it to Intel.