Ryzen 4000 Mobile: We learn more from David McAfee of AMD

It's a “watershed moment for AMD,” where new chips like the Ryzen 7 4800U will offer 8 cores vs. Ice Lake’s 4 cores.

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AMD stole the show at CES in Las Vegas (not for the first time) by introducing its 7nm Ryzen 4000 mobile chips on Monday. After many years of being the mobile also-ran, AMD finally seems to be delivering a credible challenge to Intel’s lineup.

PCWorld’s Gordon Mah Ung talked to David McAfee of AMD to get more information on Ryzen 4000 and its implications for mobile computing. McAfee called it a “watershed moment for AMD,” where new chips like the Ryzen 7 4800U will offer 8 cores vs. Ice Lake’s 4 cores. “A lot of things that people do with their laptops today, having more cores helps them do whatever it is they want to,” he explained. “Having more cores just gives you more flexibility.”

Will mobile users notice the difference? “You’ll feel the responsiveness...you’ll feel the ability to do more with that processor,” McAfee promised.

Another thing users should notice are the laptops themselves (several were announced at CES), generally more premium in features and build quality than in prior generations of AMD mobile offerings. Dell’s G5 15 SE gaming laptop is one example, and another is the Asus ROG G14. They’re surprisingly thin, too, given the heft of the 8-core CPU. 

AMD’s McAfee said Ryzen 4000’s 7nm process provided a balance of performance and efficiency that enabled thinner systems. “Using 7nm, and the benefits that provides in terms of performance per watt, that 8-core processor can operate all the way down in a 15W power envelope, where the base frequency for all 8 cores is still 1.9GHz,” McAfee explained. “It gives you the ability to really deliver amazing multithread performance even in systems that are less than 15mm in Z height. That scales all the way up to 45-watt H series products as well, like the ROG Zephyrus system.”

Battery life is one major factor that remains to be tested. PCWorld’s Mark Hachman noticed that Acer’s Swift 3, which will come in both Intel and AMD variants, specified a longer battery life for its Intel version than its AMD version. Acer did not provide further information about the difference, but AMD’s McAfee had some general comments about Ryzen 4000’s power efficiency. “We’ve made differences by adding things like support for LPDDR4 memory, and up to 20-percent lower SOC power in a lot of workloads.”

McAfee further cited the chip’s ability to adjust its efficiency to the workload at hand, “getting in and out of low power states much more quickly. You want to get work done,” McAfee explained, “you want to go to the lowest power state, and then you want to be able to dither back and forth out of that very quickly to give responsiveness to the end user.” 

Efficiency also explains why Ryzen 4000 is a monolithic chip rather than the chiplet design for desktop Ryzen. McAfee said AMD didn’t want to expend more power shuttling data among multiple chips, as is required by the desktop design.

One thing’s for sure: From Qualcomm’s Snapdragon to AMD’s Ryzen 4000, Intel has a lot more competition in the mobile space, making it a very interesting time to buy a laptop. A number of Ryzen 4000-based laptops were announced at CES, so we hope to learn more as we get in some of these new models to test. 

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