For years, I have been pointing toward AMD in the mobile space as one of the ways to best compete with the Apple threat. It was simple equation- AMD had more cores per watt than anyone and in multithreaded workloads, it would perform better versus Apple.
AMD has been at the top of its game under Lisa Su’s leadership, and time and again AMD has proven itself to be worthy of design wins. The challenge for AMD is that performance does not always guarantee a design win and, for the record, design wins don’t always equal sales.
As an industry analyst, I speak with OEMs year-round, and I push for these product teams to take find the right processor partner to create a category-killer product, not just a sideline device. While we have seen Microsoft Surface laptops with AMD internals in the past, they did not benefit from using its latest and greatest technologies. It was one or two generations behind AMD’s latest.
At CES 2023, HP announced its Dragonfly Pro laptops that feature AMD hardware and AMD’s adaptive performance management framework (PMF). Let’s take a look at the HP Dragonfly Pro and how this disruptive device could be a game changer.
Why HP, why AMD and why Dragonfly?
The HP Dragonfly series is an exceptional line of business notebooks. The Dragonfly is HP’s take on thin and premium business notebooks, and it has expanded its portfolio to include two-in-one devices such as the Dragonfly Folio. I have reviewed just about every Dragonfly product and have even used a couple of them as my daily drivers when I’m on the go. HP has always put much thought into the Dragonfly series, especially from a hybrid work perspective, and if you follow any of my coverage on HP’s portfolio of devices, you will also know that HP is very intentional about sustainability, versatility and creating a personal experience with its devices.
If the Dragonfly also embodies careful and considerate design choices, taking a shot with AMD might almost seems out of left field for HP. However, I am glad that HP is putting special AMD hardware with optimizations into a laptop design like the Dragonfly. The engineering and collaboration with AMD—full of thoughtful strategic choices and small details alike—make the HP Dragonfly Pro unique in its attributes. In short, AMD and HP took many months to engineer and strategically design the AMD PMF into the HP Dragonfly Pro to yield what HP claims is optimized performance in real-world productivity and creator uses. I don’t think this is marketing fluff, but includes ral engineering work.
My question for HP is, why take the chance with AMD when Intel is already building out optimized experiences with its Intel Evo Platform? Looking back at AMD’s announcements at CES 2022, we can see that the Ryzen 6000 series of chips boasted impressive performance jumps. As we have unavoidably seen from Apple silicon, performance per watt (PPW) is the measurement to shoot for in 2023. AMD’s 7000-series processors demonstrate impressive performance and power consumption figures.
While these improvements are incredible for a stat sheet, they are less meaningful in light of what Apple is doing as a vertically integrated company. Apple inherently harmonizes the chips with its hardware because it’s all happening under one roof. HP and AMD’s goal with the Dragonfly Pro is to come together to strategically and optimally engineer the Dragonfly Pro at a deeper and more foundational level of integration.
The HP Dragonfly Pro with AMD PMF
After many months of this strategic integration comes the HP Dragonfly Pro with an AMD Ryzen 7 7736U, up to 32GB of DDR5 6400Mbps memory and Radeon integrated graphics. In this piece, my focus is on the HP Dragonfly Pro and how AMD’s PMF enables the the laptop to be a serious Apple competitor in its thin-and-light form factor. I will avoid writing this as a review since I want to write a review later, detailing whether the machine lived up to expectations.
Despite AMD and HP’s serendipitous relationship, I believe this foundational integration of AMD’s PMF in the HP Dragonfly Pro bloomed because AMD SKUs were not already a significant part of HP’s premium product portfolio. In talking with leadership about AMD’s PMF, I discovered that it is specifically optimized for the HP Dragonfly Pro down to the vapor chamber of the device.
AMD’s adaptive PMF has an automatic state management layer which, depending on the application, optimizes the system’s profile to give the best experience. The key here is to optimize for the best experience, specifically PPW, rather than the best performance. I think this is smart but, in some ways, could make the integration challenging by being over-conservative with performance. However, AMD’s adaptive PMF has been fine-tuned through months of testing, similar to how AI is trained to predict and provide specific outputs. This fine-tuning of AMD’s adaptive PMF is what makes it unique to the HP Dragonfly Pro compared to other AMD devices.
One of my favorite parts of this collaboration between HP and AMD is that both parties saw this integration as an exciting and highly motivating challenge. It took AMD and HP’s relationship to another level to tackle their mutual competition, and I believe this could lead to a lasting partnership that addresses the vertical integration of Apple.
Out of all the notebooks at CES 2023, I am most excited to get my hands on the Dragonfly Pro. The Dragonfly series is already well crafted, and AMD’s adaptive PMF should introduce exciting competition between it and Apple’s MacBook.
I caught up with HP President Alex Cho and we discussed the co-engineering with HP but also some of the surprises this platform has in store that I am not at liberty to discuss. Yet.
Is the Dragonfly Pro the device we have been waiting for to put Apple in its place?
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.