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CES 2020: AMD Finally Seems Serious About Laptops

By Alex Cranz on at

Since AMD launched Ryzen back in 2017, there’s been a constant refrain from AMD and press alike: the company is going to challenge Intel in the CPU space and help drive down prices and increase innovation. With the announcement of the Ryzen 4000 mobile series, it feels like AMD is finally – finally! – taking on Intel. “It’s the best mobile processor ever built,” claimed AMD CEO Lisa Su at today’s press conference in Las Vegas.

Yesterday, AMD announced the 4th generation of Ryzen for mobile devices. Ryzen 4000 is based on the 7nm process used in AMD’s latest desktop products. The 7nm process is crucial for bragging rights, as AMD is the first company shipping x86 processors based on the process. Intel is notably still stuck on a 10nm and 12nm process.

The idea of a smaller process is that it makes everything faster and more power-efficient – two things you want in the CPU powering your laptop. According to AMD’s claims, the Ryzen 4000 series will at least tick the first box.

In multithread performance, AMD claims its new AMD Ryzen 7 4800U is 90 percent faster than the 10nm Intel i7 1065G7 – Intel’s fastest Ice Lake CPU. Specifically, it’s supposed to be faster in Cinebench r20, a synthetic benchmark. Yet AMD claims it’s 40 percent faster when transcoding videos in Handbrake, 49 percent faster when editing videos in Adobe Premiere, 45 percent faster in 3D interior design software Chief Architect, and 27 percent faster in PC Mark 10. Those are some big claims, but they make sense given than the Ryzen 7 4800U has 8 cores, 16 threads, and the i7 1065G7 only has 4 cores and 8 threads.

While AMD did just pack in twice as many cores as Intel, it’s also claimed to improve the integrated graphics in its mobile processor. Yes, they’re run with fewer compute cores in the GPU, but they should be faster than the GPUs found in the Ryzen 3000 series.

According to AMD, what that means is, it keeps pace – and in some cases, far surpassed – the superb graphics found in Intel’s competing processor. In CS:GO, AMD claims to get 130 frames per second versus Intel’s 102, and in Rocket League it claims to crank out 110 fps versus Intel’s 80 fps.

As for battery life... AMD and its partners aren’t saying much. It does claim to have twice the performance per watt of the Ryzen 3000 series, but AMD’s last generation of processors was middling in the battery life department.

So it feels like a little bit of a red flag; however, a series of flashy new laptops using the hardware offers me a little confidence in AMD’s claims.

There’s the Lenovo Yoga Slim, which could be a nice successor to the Lenovo Yoga 700 series we already adore. There’s also the eye-catching Asus Zephyrus G14. It’s running a Ryzen 4000 series CPU, with an Nvidia GPU, and the lid is festooned in 100s of bright LEDs. This is the kind of fun and silly laptop that usually has Intel inside. As we’ve noted before, Intel kind of holds the market on cool and flagship laptops, so AMD getting its own flagship is a big deal!

The Asus Zephyrus G14 has so many lights on the back you won’t be able to blame AMD if battery life sucks. Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

But the 4000 series CPU inside is important to note too because it’s not part of the U-series of processors AMD has positioned to compete against Intel’s Ice Lake products. It’s part of a new H-series line of processors from AMD intended to compete against Intel’s own H-series.

I’m sure if we asked AMD or Intel what the H stands for they’d say “high performance,” because H-series processors are much more powerful CPUs intended for workstations and gaming laptops. While the U-series are 15w parts intended for thin and light laptops, the H-series are 45w parts intended for something much thicker.

As with the U-series, AMD naturally claims the new H-series is a lot faster than its competitors. In fact, in claims made on stage, AMD executive Frank Azor pitted it against the i7-9750H found in gaming laptops and work stations like the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and the i7-9700K. That’s a desktop CPU you will only find in the biggest and bulkiest laptops.

According to Azor, it’s 39 per cent faster than the laptop CPU and 13 percent faster than the desktop one when playing games. In 3DMark Fire Strike Physics, a synthetic benchmark intended to replicate processing tasks of 3D digital artists, Azor claimed it was 46 percent faster than the laptop CPU and 10 percent faster than the desktop one.

Notably, AMD did not highlight the H-series’ GPU performance. That’s because it’s primarily intended to appear in devices with discrete graphics. Presumably, it will have GPU performance on par with the U-series. Same goes for battery life. Don’t expect to get 12 hours of battery life on a product with AMD’s H-series CPU.

But I could be wrong. We haven’t seen a lot of H-series products announced (apart from the gaming laptop from Asus), so it’s unclear who all will use it or how.

What is clear is that AMD finally has a set of processors that seem like they can compete with Intel’s mobile offerings. I know we’re excited to test out the laptops these CPUs appear in as they become available over the next few months. So stay tuned.

Keep up with more coverage from CES 2020 by clicking here.