As of this morning, AMD is launching its Ryzen Mobile 4000 family — at least, officially. The original plan, before Covid-19 screwed up the planet, was this to be a full launch review. AMD worked with Lenovo to design a launch platform for this debut, but the widespread disruption of hardware shipments from China made it impossible for AMD to seed the system. AMD is still sending hardware samples for review, but it’s taking longer than expected.
While we don’t have a formal system review to bring you today, we can discuss the improvements AMD showcased at its event in Austin earlier this year. Mobile has been AMD’s weakest segment for years, and while the company made inroads with the Ryzen 2000 and Ryzen 3000 APU families, the Ryzen Mobile 4000 looks to be in another class entirely.
Intel’s historical strength in mobile is based on three broad pillars: superior performance-per-watt, superior performance in absolute terms, and what I’ll call “incumbent” advantage. Because Intel has always dominated the top end of the laptop market, people shopping for top-end laptops expect them to carry Intel CPUs. OEMs have been willing to invest more in optimizing for Intel because customers are willing to pay more money for Intel systems.
AMD’s Ryzen Mobile 4000 series is intended to attack each of these pillars.
Right now, Intel’s mobile product line is split between Ice Lake and Sky Lake. The company has had to bend itself into knots to find a way to position both solutions as the respective “best” of their categories. The slide below is AMD’s, but it’s a fair representation of how Intel has represented the Comet Lake / Ice Lake dichotomy.
Ice Lake is more entertainment-oriented, with a much faster GPU. Comet Lake has more CPU cores and theoretically higher burst performance but a weaker GPU. AMD’s goal is to obviate the choice by shipping a CPU that’s faster than both. The Ryzen 7 4800U is an 8C/16T CPU intended to beat the Core i7-1065G7 and the Core i7-10710U.
The i5 and i3 are both positioned similarly, with respect to Intel’s CPUs:
Given that we haven’t had any significant hands-on time with the system yet, beyond a brief test on-site, we’ll withhold comments on AMD’s performance until we can actually evaluate it. From what we saw, though, these figures look solid.
Performance per Watt / Battery Life
Improving performance is all to the good, but the only way to make effective use of those performance gains is to also boost performance-per-watt. The new onboard Vega GPU has been optimized for higher clocks and lower power while remaining in the same 15W TDP as previous-generation chips.
According to AMD, the PpW improvements in Zen 2 came from several sources. We’ve discussed the efficacy of new nodes versus fundamental architectural improvements on multiple occasions at ET, but while it’s harder to squeeze performance out of a new node, AMD appears to have done well with Zen 2. The slideshow below covers some of AMD’s improvements to the underlying CPU architecture and shows AMD’s products at the top of the 45W / 35W stack. There are two new “HS” chips that target 35W TDP for top-end performance in a bit more of a power-sipping package. Click each slide to open it in a new window.
Battery life, however, has always been a problem area for AMD. Even with the Surface 3, the Intel Core i7-1065G7 was well ahead of the Ryzen 7 3780U, at 614 minutes to 450 according to Anandtech.
AMD wants to change that with the Ryzen Mobile 4000 family. The slideshow below walks through some of the major changes, including a 20 percent drop in overall SoC power consumption, significantly improved power efficiency, and drastically reduced the time to enter or exit power-saving mode. The slideshow below steps through the specific improvements AMD made to the Zen 2 mobile core to reduce power consumption, including some truly impressive gains for Infinity Fabric.
We don’t have any personal testing data to show to back these claims up, obviously, but the gains AMD is claiming for its 7nm chips are in-line with what we’ve expected the company to deliver.
The Importance of OEM Wins
That brings us to the third major piece of the puzzle, as far as AMD’s ability to take on Intel: decent OEM optimizations.
Microsoft’s AMD-powered Surface 3 was the first well-optimized, premium system win the company has had in a very long time. AMD showed off a number of design wins for the Ryzen Mobile 4000 family as a whole, but the system the company showcased the most — the one we were supposed to be testing for this review — is the new Lenovo Yoga Slim 7.
I got to spend some time with this diminutive system at AMD’s event, and while we had no time for independent benchmarking, my initial impression of the system was positive. We are quite looking forward to having hardware in-house to test.
It’s impossible to pretend Covid-19 isn’t throwing a pall over these events, since we would have hardware in-hand for testing if a worldwide pandemic hadn’t occurred, but AMD has assured us systems will be on their way as soon as possible.
At the very least, AMD fans can look forward to the company being far more competitive in mobile than it has been in years past. Between the battery life improvements, additional cores, and higher efficiency, Ryzen Mobile looks like it’ll pack one hell of a punch when it becomes available… at some point in the future.
Top image credit: Public Domain
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