AMD’s CEO Lisa Su delivered the virtual CES 2021 keynote this year. The company made several announcements during the event, including the launch of its Ryzen 5000 mobile processors and a preview of what we can expect when third-generation Epyc, codenamed Milan, debuts later this year.
The Ryzen 5000 mobile family will introduce some targeted improvements to specific SKUs, but it’s a bit of a mixed bag, depending on which segments you’re interested in. Customers looking for higher power, higher performance laptop chips in the 35-45W range may be happier than those in the thin-and-light markets.
A Bifurcated Refresh
There’s a range of new chips in the 35W-45W TDP segment, branded as the “HX”, “HS”, and “H” families. The new HX CPUs are for overclocking and allow for a higher TDP than typical — these are listed as “45W+” chips.
HS CPUs now have the same turbo clock as H-family CPUs, but a lower base clock and a lower TDP overall. These chips are rated for 35W instead of 45W. All of these CPUs are based on the Zen 3 architecture, which means they should deliver the 1.19x IPC improvement AMD demonstrated with the Ryzen 5000 series on the desktop, as well as features like the expanded L3 cache.
The “U” family, however, contains more rebadged Ryzen 4000 parts than it does Ryzen 5000 series chips. You can tell which is which because the Zen 2 chips have less than half the cache.
Only the Ryzen 7 5800U and Ryzen 5 5600U are based on Zen 3; the 5700U, 5500U, and 5300U are all Zen 2-based CPUs. According to AMD’s slides, the 5600U is faster in single-threaded code than the 5700U but modestly slower in multi-threaded code.
There doesn’t appear to be a refresh on the integrated GPU side of things, though AMD may have tweaked clocks or efficiency in a manner that improves performance. The company’s performance claims show small uplifts for even the Zen 2-based parts in CPU workloads, likely due to process node tweaks and other low-level optimizations. All of AMD’s disclosures focused on the CPU side of the equation, which implies the GPU isn’t changing much.
This doesn’t mean the Ryzen Mobile 5000 family won’t increase battery life and overall system efficiency — AMD claims up to 17.5 hours general usage and up to 21 hours of movie playback for the Ryzen 7 5800U — but it suggests those improvements will come on the CPU side of the equation.
And a Bit About Epyc
AMD also briefly demoed its upcoming third-generation Epyc CPUs, codenamed Milan. We don’t expect any dramatic core count expansions this cycle, and the new chips should drop in as replacements for the previous generation, as far as platform support is concerned. The company didn’t have much to show — just the results of a single benchmark claiming a dual-socket Epyc equipped with two Milan 32-core CPUs was 46 percent faster than an equivalent system outfitted with Xeon Gold 6258R 28-core chips. In single-socket performance, AMD claimed a 68 percent difference with the same Xeon system when running in a single socket.
AMD’s Milan and Intel’s Ice Lake Xeons will slug it out against each other later this year, but without more details, we can’t say much about AMD’s claims. Overall, it’s good to see Zen 3 come to mobile, but the clear focus this year is on increasing AMD’s ability to compete for higher-end gaming notebooks in the 35-45W+ TDP range, as opposed to focusing on the ultra-low-power market. Hopefully, we’ll see a more complete refresh of the entire platform next year, with the presumed arrival of Zen 4.