This week I am attending CES in Las Vegas covering a lot of consumer electronic news. Every year, I see companies taking the stage launching a wide spectrum of products and this year was no different. Silicon is red hot right now in every tech sector and that includes chips for notebook and desktop computers.
I attended several keynotes and press conferences including AMD’s CES keynote where they announced its Ryzen 4000 Series Mobile Processors, code-named “Renoir.” AMD has been slowly improving IPC, performing well in mobile graphics and increasing the number of Ryzen Mobile designs in recent years, and I was interested to see if they could continue to the momentum with this launch. Take note that AMD has doubled its laptop computing market share from 7% to 15% since Ryzen’s introduction.
AMD’s new mobile processors range from 4 cores and 3.8GHz boost clock to 8 cores and 4.3GHz boost clock from 15 to 45W. The new chips contain more efficient “Zen 2” cores built on 7nm TSMC process tech and up to 8 Radeon GPU cores built-in. They will be housed in premium ultrathin, gaming and content creation and enterprise-level systems.
The “Zen 2” architecture improvement gives the processors higher clock frequencies, better power efficiency, and as AMD claims, 15% higher IPC performance vs. 2nd Gen Ryzen mobile. That is a massive amount of IPC uplift in a single generation. This could be the perfect storm of performance for AMD in the mobile space considering it already performs well in multi-threaded and graphics-intensive workloads. If the performance of Renoir is everything AMD has promised, these parts will immediately compete with the likes of Intel Ice Lake and Comet Lake parts and beyond with Tiger Lake.
AMD added some exciting new features to Renoir.
Just to name a few, it has managed to pack 8 cores in an ultrathin notebook, doubled the size of L3 cache, added WiFi 6 connectivity, and 7nm allows for around 2x the transistor density. The number of cores packed into these chips at 15W and 45W TDP’s is impressive. Like Ryzen desktops, These systems are going to perform nicely in productivity, gaming, and content creation scenarios.
Although AMD shied away from any direct battery life claims at the keynote, it promised 2x better power efficiency vs. 2nd Gen Ryzen mobile. I am not sure yet how the power efficiency will translate to the number of hours of battery life, but 12 hours of MobileMark was the standard for the last generation. I understand that battery life performance is variable from system to system and is dependent heavily on form factors, display size, and other factors but I was disappointed to not see an updated battery life claim for these 7nm chips.
When compared to Intel’s recent launches of Ice Lake and Comet Lake, the two greatest differences I spotted initially from these chips are the number of cores (6 cores compared to 8) and updated Radeon Graphics. Additional cores don’t necessarily equate to a better computing experience but rather the efficiency of those cores does. AMD addressed its typically single thread disparity versus Intel and gave users more ceiling to enjoy multi-thread applications with Renoir. This means a user should enjoy a responsive PC while still being able to edit photos or render videos in Adobe Premiere. With this launch, I predict AMD will likely remain on top of laptop integrated graphics with this iteration of Ryzen + Radeon in the mobile market. These products are positioned well I think they provide a lot of value to an end customer when in an affordable system.
AMD SmartShift technology looks interesting, too. I like to characterize SmartShift as “power sloshing” between CPU and GPU, moving power between the two subsystems. The notion is when you’re performing CPU task, the CPU can divert power from the GPU and the same with the GPU. AMD says SmartShift technology provides up to 10% greater gaming performance and up to 12% more content creation performance.
I am always suspect on anyone’s performance claims until I have waded through the benchmarks. I haven’t had the chance to do that yet, so let me share what company is saying.
AMD says that:
The AMD Ryzen 7 4800U performs:
- Up to 4% greater single-thread performance and up to 90% faster multi-threaded performance than the competition (Cinebench R20 1T and nT)
- Up to 18% faster graphics performance than the competition (3DMark11)
The AMD Ryzen 7 4800H performs:
- Up to 5% greater single-threaded and up to 46% greater multi-threaded performance than the competition (Cinebench R20 1T and nT)
- Up to 25% faster 4K video encoding using Adobe Premier than the competition (Adobe)
- Up to 39% greater gameplay physics simulation performance than the competition (3DMark Firestrike Physics)
The last three years, AMD has delivered what it says it would deliver, so I have no reason to doubt these claims. To get a more complete picture, we need to see a wider variety of scores from a wider variety of benchmarks from third-party reviewers. Intel will likely hit on ML benchmarks versus AMD. One of the challenges there is that there aren’t many software titles that currently support DL Boost and it’s really hard to sell futures.
AMD said it expects to have 100+ mobile systems in the market in 2020 and the company showed a long list of OEM partners that are intending to manufacture Renoir systems. It included the “who’s who” when it comes to OEM’s. Names like: Dell, HP, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung and many more were shown during the keynote.
AMD’s partners seem to be particularly impressed with their H-Series chips for gaming and content creation. This was validated by AMD doubling the number of gaming notebooks in the market vs. last year. AMD appears to be gaining the trust of these OEMs after delivering the past few years in the mobile space. If it continues to deliver in mobile, I could see partners doubling down on the amount of AMD powered designs.
What AMD needs to be the most successful
In recent years, under the leadership of Lisa Su, AMD has been on a tear, making big promises and delivering on them. For this product to be considered a big success we are going to need to see AMD’s biggest notebook portfolio ever and for them to win the confidence of key etailers and retailers.
A hurdle AMD will have to jump out of the gate is the disparity of shelf space vs. Intel at key retailers like Best Buy, Micro Center, and Dixons. If AMD can solve that part of the puzzle, it will likely see much better market adoption and success in the coming year. Commercial is another matter and I’ll wait for the company’s “Pro” launch to weigh in.
AMD also needs to continue to win designs with these major OEMs. It goes without saying that the more designs supported, the higher chances you have to drive volume. I don’t see Intel sitting back on their heels while AMD continues to take market share, so this journey isn’t going to be easy. Regardless, this is the most equipped AMD I have ever seen in laptop computing and things are going to get interesting.
I will weigh in more definitively on Renoire and its chances to drive share and profits as I see more details of the marketing plan and side by side performance comparisons.
Ryzen 4000 Series powered notebooks are set to begin shipping this quarter. With 100+ Ryzen mobile systems set to be in the market in early 2020, we are witnessing a lot of growth of OEM confidence in this iteration of Ryzen laptop solutions. If Ryzen can deliver the power efficiency and performance claims we saw in the keynote, then AMD could be set to take more notebook market share from in the coming months. With Tiger Lake coming right around the corner, AMD needs to make hay while it can.
Note: Moor Insights writers and researchers contributed to this analysis.