AMD (AMD) used its CES event to unveil an anticipated notebook processor refresh, as well as a 64-core monster of a desktop chip whose performance and price tag both raised eyebrows.
AMD's third-gen Ryzen Mobile notebook processor line, unveiled by CEO Lisa Su at a Monday afternoon CES press event, consists of 7 chips packing CPUs that sport between 4 and 8 cores and support between 4 and 16 simultaneous threads. The chips also contain GPUs packing between 5 and 8 cores.
As was widely expected, the chips are collectively known as the Ryzen 4000 family. Like AMD's third-gen Ryzen desktop CPUs and second-gen Epyc server CPUs, which launched last year, they're made using a 7-nanometer Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) manufacturing process and Zen 2 CPU core microarchitecture.
Notably, AMD claims the Ryzen 4000 line won't merely deliver major performance gains relative to comparable, second-gen, Ryzen Mobile processors that launched a year ago, but also roughly twice the power efficiency at load. The company attributes 70% of the gain to manufacturing process advances, and 30% to design and microarchitecture improvements.
AMD is promising its new 15-watt notebook processors will deliver big performance gains.
Five of the seven Ryzen 4000 chips feature 15-watt thermal envelopes (TDPs). As such, they're aimed at ultrabooks, notebook/tablet convertibles and other mainstream form factors, and will square off against Intel's (INTC) popular U-series notebook processors. The other two feature 45-watt TDPs, will target more performance-hungry notebook buyers and are pitted against Intel's H-series notebook processors.
Separately, AMD followed up on the November launch of its first third-gen Ryzen Threadripper high-end desktop (HEDT) CPUs, which respectively sport 24 and 32 cores, by unveiling a 64-core sibling known as the Threadripper 3990X. The 3990X will cost a whopping $3,990, or roughly twice as much as the 32-core 3970X, when it launches on Feb. 7th.
Su showed the 3990X, which has lower clock speeds than AMD's other third-gen Threadripper CPUs, outperforming the 3970X by about 50% when running the Cinebench R20 content-rendering benchmark. And amusingly, it beat a 56-core, $20,000, Intel Xeon server CPU by 30% in a rendering test.
Given its pricing and price/performance relative to the 3970X, the 3990X is likely to be a niche product. But there's nothing like it for now in the HEDT market, and thus it bolsters AMD's newly-won status as a premium desktop CPU brand.
Also unveiled by AMD:
- The Radeon RX 5600 series, a line of mid-range desktop and notebook GPUs featuring 6GB of graphics memory.
- The Radeon 5700M, an anticipated high-end notebook GPU featuring 8GB of graphics memory.
- A pair of low-end, dual-core, notebook processors known as the Athlon Gold 3150U and Athlon Silver 3050U.
- SmartShift, a technology that dynamically shifts power between Ryzen 4000 processors and paired Radeon GPUs to increase performance. AMD claims SmartShift can boost gaming performance by up to 10% and content-creation performance by up to 12%.
AMD vs. Intel in Notebooks
With Intel's Core desktop CPUs and Xeon server CPUs still exclusively relying on a 14nm manufacturing process node that (although improved over the years) first arrived in 2014, AMD's 7nm desktop and server CPU launches have put it on very strong competitive footing in terms of price/performance and power efficiency.
Things are a little more complicated in the notebook processor space. Here, Intel has launched a notebook platform (codenamed Ice Lake) that's based on a 10nm process node that's competitive with TSMC's 7m node, and which also features an improved CPU core microarchitecture (known as Sunny Cove) and supports a more powerful integrated GPU architecture (known as Gen11).
However, since Ice Lake hasn't scaled to the same CPU clock speeds as Intel's most powerful 14nm notebook processors -- a next-gen 10nm platform known as Tiger Lake that's due towards the end of 2020 is expected to fare better -- the chip giant has also been rolling out a new 14nm notebook platform known as Comet Lake. U-series and ultra-low-power Y-series Comet Lake processors arrived last summer, and Intel indicated on Sunday that H-series Comet Lake chips will be launching soon.
As a result, AMD's Ryzen 4000 series will be squaring off against both 10nm and 14nm Intel notebook processors. And based on the numbers that AMD shared on Monday, the company's latest notebook offerings look fairly competitive, even if a lot will depend on a particular user's needs.
AMD claims that its most powerful 15-watt Ryzen 4000 chip, the 8-core Ryzen 7 4800U, outperformed Intel's most powerful 15-watt Ice Lake chip, the 4-core Core i7-1065G7, by 4% in a single-thread benchmark, and by 28% in a graphics benchmark. With the 4800U featuring twice as many cores/threads, it had a 90% edge in multi-threaded performance.
A benchmark comparison shown during AMD's CES event.
Intel's most powerful 15-watt Comet Lake chip, the 6-core Core i7-10710U, would have probably fared better in terms of multi-threaded performance. But it also would have probably fared worse in terms of single-threaded and graphics performance. And then there's also the Ryzen 4000 line's power efficiency improvements to consider.
Intel's H-series might still be able to claim a high-end CPU performance lead this year over AMD's 45-watt Ryzen 4000 chips (integrated GPU performance has limited importance here, since buyers of such powerful CPUs are likely to use discrete GPUs). AMD claims its most powerful 45-watt chip, the 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H, beats Intel's 6-core Core i7-9750H CPU (it launched last spring) by up to 5% in single-threaded workloads and 46% in multi-threaded workloads. But Intel also offers a pair of 8-core H-series chips, and is prepping more powerful, Comet Lake-based, 8-core offerings.
Overall, however, AMD's Ryzen 4000 launch does put it on stronger footing than it has been in a long time in a notebook market that accounts for a solid majority of PC shipments. Though time will tell by just how much it does so, AMD, whose stock has baked in its share of good news in recent months, does look poised to add to the notebook processor share gains it saw last year.