Ryzen 4000 Review: AMD's 7nm Ryzen 9 offers game-changing performance for laptops

AMD's Ryzen 9 4900HS deals a crushing blow to Intel's most powerful laptop CPUs.

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Ryzen 9 4900HS gaming performance

Almost all of the tests in this story are CPU-bound because we’re focused on measuring solely the Ryzen 9’s capabilities in the ROG Zephyrus G14. Because most of the laptops here have very different graphics chips, anything touching the GPU would muddy CPU performance.

For those wondering how the Ryzen 9 would do in a theoretical game physics test, you can see that with UL’s 3DMark Time Spy CPU score. The score isolates CPU performance during a multi-core CPU test. As we’ve seen before, the two big “muscle books” lead the way by about 10 percent, and they also outweigh the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 by 2.5X to 3X.

Of more interest is the MSI GE65 Raider with its 9th gen 8-core Core i9-9880H. Despite weighing in at five pounds, the GE65 Raider falls far behind the Ryzen 9 4900HS in the ROG Zephyrus G14.

asus rog zephyrus g14 3dmark timespy cpu IDG

3DMark’s Time Spy CPU score tell us its hard to beat big giant “muscle books” but laptops closer to the Zephyrus G14 can’t touch it.

We know, we know, you still want to see how well the Ryzen 9 4900HS does in real games. We would too, but modern gaming is almost always about the graphics card. AMD does claim that its advantage in thermals with the Ryzen 4000 gives it an edge. To measure that though, we’d need a similar class of laptop with the same GPU and the same cooling. And again, ideally, we’d have this in the exact same model. 

Clearly, a 3.5-pound laptop with a GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q in it can’t easily be compared to a laptop with a GeForce RTX 2070, RTX 2080, or possibly even a RTX 2060.

We can at least show you the results of the graphics systems from many of the laptops above. It’s interesting to see the essential dead heat between the ROG Zephyrus G14 and a Dell G7 with a GeForce RTX 2060. That either means the lighter CPU thermal load from the Ryzen 9 does indeed help graphics performance, or there’s something more to this new GeForce RTX 2060 variant in the ROG Zephyrus G14.

asus rog zephyrus g14 3dmark timespy graphics IDG

Performance of the G14 with a GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q is actually pretty impressive but obviously pales next to much faster GPUs.

We also ran the laptop through real games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider. The results are again quite impressive given the disparity in weights, but so muddied by the different GPUs that it’s really hard to determine anything. What seems safe to say is that gaming with the ROG Zephyrus G14 is quite good, and in line what what you’d expect of a laptop with an RTX 2060-class GPU and a fast CPU.

We did consider running gaming laptops off of an external GPU, but without Thunderbolt 3 on the Zephyrus G14, it’s not possible.

asus rog zephyrus g14 rotr dx11 19x10 very high IDG

Performance is quite good for an RTX 2060-class GPU.

One thing we have confirmed is the PCIe on the Ryzen 4000 is limited to x8 using Gen 3 technology for the discrete GPU. The SoC features another 12 lanes of PCI Gen 3 for various plumbing such as storage, WiFi, or 5G.

Should this deter you from Ryzen? In our opinion, no. Few consumer graphics loads truly require the bandwidth of 16 lanes of PCIe. To give you an idea of how much it doesn’t matter, Alienware’s Area 51m R1 with a GeForce RTX 2080 also uses an 8-lane connection to the GPU. The other eight lanes are repurposed to support the company’s external graphics amplifier. 

amd ryzen 4000 renoir block no watermark AMD

AMD’s Ryzen 4000 is limited to 8 lanes of gen 3 PCIe for the discrete GPU.

Ryzen 4000 battery life

Our last test is a simple battery test, using video rundown as the task. We use a 4K open source video and loop it in Windows 10’s Movies & TV app, with the laptop set to airplane mode and earbuds plugged in at mid-volume. The screen brightness is set to 250 to 260 nits, which is a reasonable brightness for indoor office use, or watching a movie on a plane with the cabin lights on.

Like GPU performance, battery performance is very tightly tied to the laptop itself. It depends on how large the battery is, how power-efficient the screen is, how power-efficient the audio is, and more. You can’t make a final determination of an entire CPU family based on one test of one laptop. However, you can at least see what the CPU is capable of in one laptop design. The results we got from our Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 make us feel pretty good about Ryzen 4000’s ability to compete with Intel’s chips.

asus rog zephyrus g14 video run down IDG

Battery life in the Zephyrus G14 was quite good in video playback but like all performance or gaming laptops, once you push the CPU or GPU, expect to get no more than 2 hours out of it.

Due to time constraints, we couldn’t test battery life under heavy loads, but we do plan to. Like any performance laptop with a powerful discrete GPU, once you push the GPU hard, expect battery life to plummet. In fact, once you push the CPU hard, expect it to plummet as well.

Conclusion: Ryzen 4000 is a game-changer

To put AMD’s Ryzen 4000 in perspective, you have to understand that in AMD’s 50-year history, it has never beaten Intel in laptops. It’s won a few battles in desktop: Athlon, Athlon 64, and the current desktop Ryzen chips. AMD’s fortunes change dramatically with the Ryzen 4000 chips, which are clearly the new leader in performance laptops.

Even more astonishing is AMD’s ability to offer so much performance in such tight thermal and power constraints. While a comparably thin Intel-based laptop would have to crank up fans to annoying levels, the Ryzen 9 4900HS can do so with relatively moderate fan noise.

Worse news for Intel, AMD’s Ryzen 4000 can spar with laptops that weigh two to even three times as much. This is something we frankly didn’t expect. Ryzen 4000 is without a doubt the most game-changing performance laptop CPU we’ve seen in years.

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