AMD Brings Zen 4 Architecture And AI To Its Mobile Processors At CES 2023

By Patrick Moorhead - January 31, 2023
Lisa Su on stage at CES 2023. AMD

AMD Chair and CEO Lisa Su kicked off CES 2023 with the opening keynote, highlighting all of the ways AMD is disruptively advancing its product markets. AMD announced new mobile and desktop processors, mobile graphics, new AI products and what it calls “adaptive computing” solutions.

In addition to chips, CES is where major OEMs like Dell, HP and Lenovo announce their newest laptops and notebooks. You can read about my coverage of Lenovo devices here and the newest Dell peripherals here. HP also announced its newest consumer Dragonfly Pro with specially optimized AMD CPUs and GPUs.

Zen 4 and RDNA 3 are coming to mobile

Laptops have become even more popular over the past couple of years because of the digital transformation of businesses and the societal trend toward more remote and hybrid work. Whether it’s used for gaming, content creation or hybrid work, having a device that is both portable and performant enables the user to be productive and versatile. Although performance and portability are not mutually exclusive, leaning toward one almost always comes at the cost of the other. The desire to have both performance and portability is why performance per watt (PPW) has become the metric of choice for mobile computing. AMD’s biggest announcement for computing at CES is that it’s bringing its Zen 4 CPU architecture and RDNA 3 graphics architecture to its mobile processors.

AMD launched the Zen 4 architecture for desktop processors in September 2022, achieving significant improvements in PPW compared to its previous generation of CPUs. You can read senior analyst Anshel Sag’s coverage of AMD’s Zen 4 architecture and its Ryzen 7000 desktop announcements here.

I want to highlight that AMD’s Zen 4 architecture built using TSMC’s 5nm process node, which has allowed AMD to achieve much better PPW generationally. The smaller process node allows for denser silicon but also means that the chips get hotter faster, which is why AMD reported higher performance gains the lower the power draw. We should see AMD’s Zen 4 architecture perform most efficiently in the mobile space, where the power draw must be low.

Lisa Su holding up an AMD Ryzen 7040 series mobile processor. AMD

At CES, Lisa Su announced new Ryzen 7000 series mobile processors, bringing the Zen 4 architecture and integrated RDNA 3 graphics architecture to the mobile space. I am very interested to see how AMD’s Ryzen 7040 series stacks up to Intel’s 13th Gen Core processors and Apple’s current and future M2 processors. While all three companies are chasing PPW, AMD is the only one that does not have a set of efficiency and performance cores. Rather than differentiating between two processing cores, one of which is optimized for less-demanding tasks and a lower power draw, AMD is relying on the overall power efficiency of its Zen 4 architecture. Spin it up and down quickly. I believe we should see AMD give Apple a run for its money with respect to PPW.

The Ryzen 7040 series processors feature up to eight cores and 16 threads with a thermal design power (TDP) of 35 to 45 watts. AMD also announced the Ryzen 7045HX series with up to 16 cores and 32 threads and a TDP between 45 and75 watts. The 7045HX series is designed for gamers and content creators. AMD says that it demonstrates 18% faster single-threaded performance and 78% faster multithreaded performance over the last generation, the Ryzen 6900HX.

AMD also announced its Radeon RX 7000 series mobile graphics processors for laptops and PCs built on the RDNA 3 architecture. This new series features new compute units that share resources among rendering, new AI accelerators and AMD’s second-generation ray-tracing accelerators. On the video side, the AMD Radeon RX 7000 series features full AV1 encoding support as well as support for DisplayPort 2.1. Like the last generation Radeon 6000 series, AMD has “M” SKUs for max performance devices and “S” SKUs for thin-and-light notebooks.

Although I do not see the Radeon RX 7000 series outperforming Nvidia’s latest RTX 40 series GPUs, I do believe it could challenge Nvidia’s lower price point GPUs because of certain advantages. The DisplayPort 2.1 supports 4K displays at 480 Hz or 8K displays at 165 Hz, which in the long run makes it future-proof. The Radeon RX 7000 series could target more of a budget-conscious consumer and, paired with an AMD processor, would be AMD Advantage-certified laptops.

Ryzen processors incorporate AI

The last big announcement from AMD on the mobile side is its Ryzen AI technology, which AMD says is the first dedicated artificial intelligence hardware in an x86 processor. AI was a huge digital trend in 2022, and I see it becoming only more ingrained and “real” in our digital ecosystems. —what a big announcement that was for Microsoft at its Surface event last year. It brought AI- and machine learning (ML)-enhanced video-call experiences to Windows devices that have support for neural processing units (NPUs)—such as the new AMD Ryzen 7040 series processors.

AI should continue to be a rising trend in 2023, and I believe we could see even bigger announcements for natural language models than what we saw with ChatGPT in 2022. AI models that do natural language processing have intensive processing requirements, and as we see more AI use cases, I believe AMD’s Ryzen AI and other NPUs could receive much more attention.

New Ryzen desktop processors with 3-D V-Cache

AMD also announced three new processors in the Ryzen 7000 desktop series that feature its 3-D V-Cache technology. AMD claims the Ryzen 7000X3D is the fastest gaming processor in the world. It had great success last year with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, its first consumer desktop processor to support 3-D V-Cache, . The Ryzen 7000X3D devices benefit from generational improvements, including DDR5 memory and the Socket AM5 chipset.

AMD also announced new 65-watt TDP desktop processors. These new Ryzen 7000 series desktop processors should compete with Intel’s 13th Gen Core processors, which also draw 65 watts. AMD will use these new processors to target consumers who desire more power efficiency.

AMD’s data center announcements

AMD also made two new announcements for the data center with the AMD Alveo V70 AI accelerator and the first integrated data center CPU and GPU, the AMD Instinct MI300.

The Alveo V70 is the first AMD AI accelerator to feature its XDNA architecture, the same architecture that Ryzen AI technology is built on in the Ryzen 7040 series. The Alveo V70 is built for the data center and is positioned to compete with Nvidia’s T4 GPU accelerator. AMD says its XDNA architecture will allow for pervasive AI and give companies the ability to scale AI workloads.

The Instinct MI300 is designed for high-performance computing and AI performance. AMD says that the MI300 accelerators leverage a groundbreaking 3-D chiplet design combining AMD CDNA 3 GPU architecture, Zen 4 CPU cores and high-bandwidth memory chiplets. AMD claims that it has eight times the performance and five times the PPW under AI workloads compared to the MI250. The MI300 accelerator is also being used in the El Capitan supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The fact that it’s being used in the El Capitan supercomputer tells me that this accelerator is a beast.

I think AMD will continue to do well in HPC environments where the end users can write their own software stacks. I am taking a wait and see attitude on those end users who leverage libraries, particularly CUDA ones.

Wrapping up

With its Zen 4 CPU architecture and RDNA 3 graphics architecture, I think AMD is providing a powerful combination of performance and portability that is attractive to gamers, content creators and hybrid workers alike. We could see AMD trade blows with Apple on PPW based on this combination.

AMD is also well-positioned for the continued rise of AI and ML in our digital ecosystems. AMD will be able to continue to scale its XDNA architecture for offerings in the data center with its Alveo V70 and in the mobile consumer space with Ryzen AI technology. I’m excited to see how well AMD’s new mobile GPUs and CPUs do against Apple, Intel, NVIDIA and Qualcomm.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.