AMD’s Mobile Ryzen 4000 Series Is Looking Good So Far

By Patrick Moorhead - April 14, 2020
AMD Ryzen mobile 4000 Series is the world’s first 7nm x86 mobile processor and world’s first 8 core and 16 thread x86 for Ultrathin Laptops. 

AMD announced its mobile 4000 series processors at CES 2020 back in January with the code name “Renoir.” It is the first processor built on AMD’s 7nm architecture. If we were to picture the battle of the processor market between AMD and Intel, this would be AMD’s jump to take the last bit of high ground Intel has over AMD, that high ground being the mobile processor market. Since 2017 AMD has delivered on its promises of Ryzen with its Zen architectures taking over the high-end desktop (HEDT) processor market. Not only for consumers and enthusiasts but also cloud server chips.

At CES 2019, Lisa Su revealed AMD’s 3rd generation Ryzen series with Zen 2 architecture. I wrote a piece on how the 3900X outperformed Intel’s Core i9900K by every use-case other than gaming (1080p gaming) while being at a lower price. You can read my analysis of the Ryzen 3900X and 3700X here. AMD’s 3rd generation Ryzen Threadrippers are a similar story. The Threadripper 3970X dominated in nearly every creator-focused workload with an impressive price to performance. You can also read my analysis of the Threadripper 3960X and 3970X here. I mentioned in these articles that AMD intelligently started with channel consumer DIY desktop to show off its Zen 2-based processors. Now, AMD has a growing support of OEMs and is going for the high ground on all sides. Let’s take a look at what AMD announced with its 4000 Series Mobile Processors and the impact it will have on the mobile market. I’d like to start with some of the first reviews of the Ryzen

First Reviews of the first Ryzen 9 4900HS-based laptop

Some reviews of the first released Ryzen 4000 series laptops have come out today. All review units are the Asus Zephyrus G14 with a Ryzen 9 4900HS and an RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU. There are a couple of insights I noticed from these review units of the Gaming and content creation laptop.

Digital Trends mentioned that the only other gaming laptop, as small as the Zephyrus, is the Razer Blade Stealth 13-inch with a GTX 1650. That puts into perspective how high of a bar AMD is raising for the thin and light mobile gaming and content creation market. The 7nm architecture and the lower TDP of the 4000 HS-Series is already allowing for the smaller gaming laptops to dominate.

PCWorld did some benchmarks with the Zephyrus against laptops that were about 2.5 times its size in weight. Laptops like the Acer Predator Helios 700(10 lbs) with a Core i9-9800HK and an RTX 2080, MSI GE65 Raider (5 lbs) with a Core i9-9980H and an RTX 2070, were outperformed in multi-thread and single-thread in Cinebench R20. The same story can be said for Cinebench R15 benchmarks, excluding the Acer Predator Helios 700 with a slightly higher score in single-thread performance. The only laptop that outperformed the Zephyrus in PCWorld’s multi-threaded benchmarks was the 8.54 lb. Alienware Area 51m R1. Let that sink in. Other reviewers like TechSpot, CNet, and LinusTechTips got similar results to PCWorld for Cinebench R20 and R15 benchmarks.

TechSpot took more a content creator’s approach with its Adobe Photoshop Iris Blur, Blender, and Handbrake benchmarks. On the Adobe Photoshop Iris blur benchmark, the Ryzen 9 4900HS has a slightly lower score than the Core i9-9880H and higher than the Core i7-8750H. However, it beat out the Core i9-9880H in Blender 2.80 and Handbrake, only tying for the Core i9-9880H 90W version. Even though these benchmarks are close, the power draw comparison gives the Ryzen the advantage.

We shouldn’t expect much from battery life. With a 7nm architecture and 35W TDP, battery life is expected to be better than other gaming laptops but not close to what we see with ultra-thin laptops. LinusTechTips reported getting a battery life of 10 hours, which is better than the Dell XPS 2-in-1 on the same test. The test was with light office work, brightness turned down, and the back-lit keyboard off. Others, like CNET, got around 6 hours of battery life. This is still a practical amount for what is primarily and gaming and content creation laptop. Battery life is also a difficult factor to consider, especially with only one review device, since the battery is dependent on many other variables.

Giving the mobile processor market what it wants

The Ryzen 4000 series represents AMD’s next generation of disruptive performance for ultrathin laptops as well as gaming laptops and laptops for content creation. The 4000 H-Series is for high-end gaming with a larger TDP, the Ryzen 4000 U-Series is for ultrathin laptops, and the Ryzen 4000 HS-Series is a mix of the two.

Ryzen 7 4800H has 8 cores, 16 threads, and a TDP of 45W. From AMD’s testing, the Ryzen 4800H performed 5% greater for single-thread performance and 46% higher for multi-thread performance in Cinebench R20, 25% faster 4k video encoding using Adobe premiere, and 39% performance on 3DMark Firestrike Physics. All tests were done in comparison with ASUS Zephyrus -M GU502GV system with Intel Core i7-9750H. The 4800H isn’t even AMD’s most powerful in the lineup. The 4900H has a higher base clock at 3.3 GHz compared to the 4800H base clock of 2.9 GHz and a higher graphics frequency at 1750 MHz compared to the 4800H at 1600 MHz. AMD has not released benchmarks of the 4900H but expects them to be better. The Ryzen 5 4600H is the other processor in the H series with 6 cores, 12 Threads, and a TDP of 45W.

Product specifications for AMD’s Ryzen 4000 H-Series and HS-Series processors. 

The 4000 U-Series is AMD’s ultra-thin class of Ryzen processors. The U series will directly compete against Intel’s 10th Gen “Comet Lake” and “Ice Lake” processors. Intel’s Ice Lake is built off a 10nm architecture with a maximum 4 cores. The Comet Lake is built off a 14nm architecture with a maximum of 6 cores. Not only do the Ryzens have more cores and threads, but they also boast a smaller 7nm architecture with Zen 2. For the record, I equate Intel’s 10nm process with TSMC’s 7 nm process.

The Ryzen 7 4800U is also the first Ultra-thin x86 processor with 8 cores and 16 threads. From AMD’s tests, it outperforms Intel’s Core i7-1065G7 and i7-10710U in single-thread, multi-thread, and graphics performance. The test was done on a Dell XPS 7390 with Intel Core i7-1065G7 and a Dell XPS 7390 with Intel Core i7-10710U using Cinebench R20 for the single-thread and multi-thread test and 3DMArk Time Spy for Graphics performance. When comparing Intel’s Core i5 and Core i3 processors to AMD’s Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 5 processors, AMD has more cores in every matchup. It’s not all about cores as many applications aren’t super core hungry, like games.

Product specifications for AMD’s Ryzen 4000 U-Series processors. 

The 4000 HS-Series is a mix between both raw gaming and content creation power and mobile performance. Across the board, the 4000 HS-Series has s TDP of 35W Compared to the 4000 H-Series with a 45W TDP. The lower TDP allows smaller form factors compared to the H-Series and better battery life without compromising gaming and content creation performance. The Ryzen 9 4900HS has 8 cores, 16 threads, 12MB of cache, and a graphics frequency of 1750 MHz. AMD has released benchmarks for content creation and FPS for AAA and E-Sports games and say it outperforms Intel’s Core i9-9880H in multi-thread performance on Cinebench by a margin of 28%, in video transcoding on Handbrake by a margin of 23% and image rendering on Blender by a margin of 56%. The test was done using an ASUS ROG G14 laptop with a Ryzen 4900HS and an MSI P75 Creator laptop with a Core i9-9880H. All AAA games surpassed 60 FPS, including Total War: WH2-Battle, Civilization IV.

Vega graphics upgraded

AMD said it has stepped up its integrated Vega graphics for 59% performance per graphic computing unit. The improvement comes from the 7nm architecture Vega from its 12nm architecture. It has a 25% higher graphics clock while maintaining its 15W power envelope and 77% higher peak memory bandwidth.  It is also on its 2nd generation multimedia engine with 31% encoder speedups.

SmartShift and System Temperature Tracking (STT) v2

AMD has improved on its STT to boost overall clock performance. STT v2 uses diodes placed strategically on hotspots of the chassis to calculate temperatures. The temperature of the chassis goes directly to the SoC of the optimized GPU and CPU boost decisions. Boost duration can be extended by up to 4x by considering chassis temperatures over thermal temperatures. STT v2 also intelligently works alongside SmartShift in dGPUs.

SmartShift platform control shifts the power between the APU and the dGPU.

AMD’s SmartShift technology intelligently optimizes the TDP between the CPU and the GPU by shifting power between the two depending on the power need. AMD was the first to combine a high-performance CPU and high-performance GPU into what we know as an APU. SmartShift recognizes when a workload is GPU or CPU intensive and instantaneously shifts power to boost the clock speed. SmartShift happens so fast that it saves power when shifting workloads. The result AMD says are 10% higher framerates when gaming and 12% faster content creation. Both tests were done with a Ryzen 4800H with an RX 5600m on 3Dmark 11 and The Division 2 at 1080p max settings.

Battery life

A key component to mobile processors is having excellent battery life. With the Zen 2 architecture, Ryzen is expected to be more power-efficient. However, power management and power efficiency go hand-in-hand for the best battery. AMD uses multiple system elements-user preferences, operating system, BIOS and drivers, hardware- to optimize performance and battery life. Ryzen processors focus on faster and more accurate clock control by using systems like SmartShift. It focuses on transitioning in and out of power states without being counterproductive. Compared to last year’s 3000 series, the Ryzen 4000 series mobile processors have a quicker transition state from active to idle, more intelligent transitions between states, and longer periods of being idle. AMD says the result is 59% less power consumed.

Software enhancements for gamers

AMD’s focus for its Adrenaline 2020 edition software is performance, stability, and features. AMD’s Radeon software app provides quick access to games, updates, and performance settings.

·        AMD’s Radeon image sharpening sharpens details of games while allowing the user to adjust the degree of sharpness and can also be toggled on/off in game. It has the support of DX 11, 12, and Vulkan graphics as well as DX 9 on RDNA discrete graphics.

·        AMD’s Radeon Anti-Lag reduces lag in game by reducing workloads between the CPU and GPU. It has support for DX 9 and DX 11 games.

·        AMD’s Radeon Boost increases the motion-based resolution for smoother games.

·        AMD’s Power Saver saves power by regulating framerates depending on the movement in-game.

Wrapping up

The Ryzen 4000 series is the first 7nm architecture in a laptop, and the first x86 8 core, 16 thread ultra-thin processor on the market. AMD is addressing mobile gamers and content creators, ultra-thin laptops, and thin and light gamers and content creators. I believe that for the first time in a long time, there will be significant competition in the high-end, premium mobile market. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one of these products and seeing more reviews and tests from other devices.

The AMD-based Yoga Slim 7 starts at $849.99 in the US. Dell’s G5E with Ryzen H-Series and Radeon 5600M will be available in Q2 of 2020. The ASUS’s 14-inch ROG Zephyrus G14 is to ship between Q1 and Q2 of this year and priced between $1,049.99 for the base model and $1,999.99 for the highest priced model. Other systems are projected to be available from OEMs as early as Q2 2020.

AMD has delivered well on its Ryzen desktop processors. While notebooks are a more difficult design and success relies even more on sales and marketing, I believe it has many interested OEMs partners who are expected to launch its systems globally this year. With that said, I believe Intel has locked up most of the notebook ODM and OEM resources which will govern future AMD share gains.

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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.