How AMD bringing the heat to Intel this year?

AMD has really been bringing the heat to Intel this year, with incontestable wins for its 7nm CPUs in the desktop space, high-end desktop space, and server space. The one thing everybody has been waiting with bated breath for is mobile—while Intel brought limited supplies of high-performance 10nm Ice Lake parts to market, AMD has remained pretty silent about mobile. The most I could ever get out of my AMD folks was a sort of “we can’t talk about that yet,” with suspicious little yellow feathers floating out of their mouths, but no real detail.

Yesterday at CES, that final shoe dropped—Ryzen 4000 mobile is here, and it brings AMD’s recent trademark of high core and thread counts and jaw-dropping low TDPs to the mobile arena. The flagship U-series part, Ryzen 4800u, offers eight cores/16 threads on only 15W TDP, and although we’ve got nobody’s word for it yet but AMD Performance Labs’, it appears to whip the high-end Ice Lake i7-1065G7 solidly across the board in tests ranging from Cinebench R20 to 3DMark, Adobe Premiere, and more.

Of course, performance is only half the battle in ultralight form factors—power consumption is the other. It shouldn’t be any surprise that AMD is showing massive performance-per-watt increases over the first two generations of mobile Ryzen, given those performance numbers with a 15W TDP. The bigger question—and one that can’t be so quickly answered—is how well Ryzen 4000 series systems will idle. And unfortunately, that’s not a question AMD can entirely control themselves.

In the mobile arena, integration is crucial to system performance—everything from motherboards to firmware to cooling is incredibly one-off and proprietary to each final system build. When designing a new laptop, just slapping a processor and some RAM on a reference board design and calling it a day won’t cut it.

This “insufficient integration” problem has plagued

laptops for years, with OEMs not doing the same level of integration work on AMD builds as they have on Intel. The common “wisdom” among buyers has been that AMD laptop CPUs just sucked—but Microsoft proved that line of thinking wrong with 2019’s Ryzen-powered Surface 15, which does have the years of integration work and attention to detail necessary to make a great mobile system.

We won’t really know how well the OEMs have—and will—do with Ryzen 4000 series CPUs until we get some systems on hand to test. But we have high hopes that the sheer, unprecedented power the new 7nm mobile designs offer will leave OEMs more excited and willing to build premium, well-designed products around AMD than they have been in the past.