AMD Ryzen 4000 Laptops powered Microsoft device arrives soon

Microsoft could be measuring up to release Surface devices equipped with AMD’s newly-launched Ryzen 4000 APUs.

First AMD-powered Surface device was launched by Microsoft last year in the form the 15-inch variant of the Surface Laptop 3, which packs a custom Ryzen 7 CPU with integrated Radeon RX Vega 11 graphics. At the time, the two firms touted the chip as “the fastest mobile processor AMD has ever made.”

The Ryzen 5 4500U (codename Renoir) is based on AMD’s latest Zen 2 microarchitecture and manufactured on TSMC’s 7nm FinFET process. The hexa-core processor has a 2.3 GHz base clock and a boost clock that climbs to 4 GHz. The Ryzen 5 4500U runs within the 15W envelope, so it’ll be a good fit for Microsoft’s slim devices.

The Ryzen 5 4500U has an integrated graphics with six Vega Compute Units (CUs) that tick up to 1,500 MHz. However, it would appear that Microsoft might kick the graphics aspect of the Surface device up a notch by pairing it with a discrete graphics card from the AMD camp as well.

Unveiled at CES in January, Ryzen 4000 chips are the first laptop-specific ones from AMD to be based on the company’s latest 7-nanometer production process. AMD claims the new chips, codenamed “Renoir,” will offer better computing and graphics performance than both previous-generation Ryzen laptop chips as well as many Intel Core CPUs. The 3DMark 11 submission doesn’t specify the exact model of the device’s graphics card but points to 3GB of onboard memory. AMD currently has four Navi-based mobile graphics cards, and of those four, only the Radeon RX 5300M comes with 3GB of (GDDR6) memory.

Diving in

The processor is a hexa-core Zen 2-based Renoir APU manufactured on TSMC’s 7nm FinFET process that’s designed with thin and light devices in mind. The 15W chip has a base clock speed of 2.3GHz and a boost clock of 4GHz, and in addition to the APU’s six CPU cores, it also integrates a Radeon RX Vega 6 integrated GPU that runs up to 1,500MHz.

While the device’s identity remains unknown, it looks set to be a powerful machine, with leaks claim the Ryzen 5 4500U easily outperforms Intel’s 10nm Ice Lake Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU; early benchmarks show Intel’s 10nm chip is some 29% slower when compared to its unreleased AMD rival.

It’s refreshing to see manufacturers going all in with AMD. Nowadays, you can find a lot of laptops that either use an AMD processor or graphics card, but rarely do you see one that employs both (the MSI Alpha 15 is one example). There are still a lot of options in AMD’s arsenal, such as the Ryzen 7 4800U, Ryzen 7 4700U for CPUs and RX 5500M or RX 5600M for graphics. It’ll be interesting to see what combination Microsoft might come up with in future Surface products.

However, as pointed out by Tom’s Hardware, the leaked listing suggests Microsoft could be planning to ramp things up in the GPU department by pairing the APU with a discrete graphics card from AMD. It doesn’t specify the exact model of the device’s GPU but points to 3GB of onboard memory.

We don’t yet know when Microsoft is planning to show off its next-generation Surface devices, but if Redmond sticks to its typical launch schedule, expect to see another AMD-powered device from Microsoft sometime in October.

H Series vs. U Series

The most powerful Ryzen 4000 chips will show up in large, bulky gaming laptops and workstations. Among these models, identified by an “H” in their model names, is the flagship Ryzen 9 4900HS, an additional chip that AMD announced on Monday. It’s an eight-core, 16-thread behemoth with a 3GHz base clock speed and a 4.3GHz boost clock speed. Its closest competitor is the Intel Core i9-9880HK, also an eight-core chip, which is available in the Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch.

Other previously announced H-series chips include the eight-core Ryzen 7 4800H and the six-core Ryzen 5 4600H. Aside from core count and the Ryzen 5 4600H’s slightly lower base clock speed, the main difference between these two chips are their Radeon graphics silicon: the Ryzen 7 4800H has seven graphics cores with a frequency of 1.6GHz, and the Ryzen 5 4600H has six graphics cores with a frequency of 1.5GHz.

Chart of AMD Ryzen 4000 Laptop Processors
AMD Ryzen 4000 Laptop Processors

While H-series chips are intended to operate at 45 watts (their thermal design power rating, or TDP) some laptops will have versions with a 35-watt TDP. They’ll be designated with an “HS” in the model name. The first such laptop is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, pictured above.

While these H-series chips are the most powerful of the bunch, they’re overkill for the ultraportable laptops that make up the bulk of the market and are crucial to Renoir’s success. So the majority of the new Ryzen 4000 chips will be part of the U series, which consume even less power, with TDP ratings of 15 watts or 25 watts.

The flagship U-series chip is the Ryzen 7 4800U, which has the same number of cores and threads as the Ryzen 9 4900HS. The key difference (other than reduced power consumption) is clock speed: the Ryzen 7 4800U can run as slow as 1.8GHz during light workloads, almost three times slower than the Ryzen 9 4900HS.

Better Performance, in Most Cases

What kind of performance can you expect if you buy a flagship ultraportable laptop with a Ryzen 7 4000-series chip instead of a Intel’s latest 10th-generation Core i7? According to AMD’s internal performance tests, the Ryzen 7 4700U is 36 percent faster than the Core i7-10510U at encoding a video using the Handbrake app. It’s also 24 percent faster at rendering an image in Blender, and 39 percent faster at performing digital content creation as measured by the PCMark 10 benchmark.

The new Ryzens also appear to have some advantages when it comes to gaming, though it depends on the title. AMD says the Ryzen 7 4800U was able to achieve 108 frames per second (fps) while playing Counter Strike: Go compared with 69fps for the Core i7-10510U. But performance on Fortnite is tied, at 62fps.

The same types of performance differences are true of productivity tasks as well. The Ryzen 7 is about 10 percent faster on the PCMark 10 overall benchmark, though it performed slightly worse than the Core i7 while running Microsoft Office applications in AMD’s tests.
Related

We haven’t been able to corroborate these results, since Ryzen 4000-series laptops aren’t shipping yet, but benchmark results that leaked earlier this year appear to support at least some of AMD’s claims.
All-Day Battery Life

Other than performance, battery life is one of the key requirements for many laptop shoppers, and it’s something that AMD says it has greatly improved with Renoir. Previous AMD chips weren’t well-optimized to take advantage of times when the laptop doesn’t require as much power, such as when it’s asleep or during low-power activities like typing an email.

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