AMD’s minimal presence in the laptop market during the dark days of Bulldozer and its progeny is no secret to anyone who follows this stuff. The company made big step toward reversing its fortunes with the release of its Ryzen Mobile APUs at the end of 2017, though. In our test of the Ryzen 5 2500U, we called it “AMD’s best and most competitive mobile APU” ever. Now, AMD looks set to continue that trend onward and upward with its second-generation Ryzen Mobile APUs.
The Ryzen 5 2500U and Ryzen 7 2700U were well-situated to handle the mainstream Windows laptop market, but this time around, AMD intends to offer something for users at almost every price point. Down at the bottom of the market, AMD is introducing a couple of chips for Chromebooks, which we’ll peek at in another article. On the higher end, AMD has some processors headed for gaming notebooks. The majority of the Ryzen Mobile chips are aimed at the general laptop-buying populace, though.
Ryzen Mobile APUs
(Base / Boost)
|Ryzen 7 3750H||35W||4C / 8T||2.3 / 4.0 GHz||10 CUs (640 SP)||1.4 GHz||12nm|
|Ryzen 7 3700U||15W||4C / 8T||2.3 / 4.0 GHz||10 CUs (640 SP)||1.4 GHz||12nm|
|Ryzen 5 3550H||35W||4C / 8T||2.1 / 3.7 GHz||8 CUs (512 SP)||1.2 GHz||12nm|
|Ryzen 5 3500U||15W||4C / 8T||2.1 / 3.7 GHz||8 CUs (512 SP)||1.2 GHz||12nm|
|Ryzen 3 3300U||15W||4C / 4T||2.1 / 3.5 GHz||6 CUs (384 SP)||1.2 GHz||12nm|
|Ryzen 3 3200U||15W||2C / 4T||2.6 / 3.5 GHz||3 CUs (192 SP)||1.2 GHz||14nm|
|Athlon 300U||15W||2C / 4T||2.4 / 3.3 GHz||3 CUs (192 SP)||1 GHz||14nm|
Eagle-eyed gerbils will no doubt have already noticed a number of interesting qualities in this chart, but let’s get the bad news out of the way first: No, these aren’t based on wonderfully revised Zen 2 processor cores, and they’re not fabbed on a 7-nm process. Indeed, to our experienced eyes, these chips appear to be very closely related to AMD’s extant Raven Ridge silicon, with CPU cores based on Zen+ and GPU power provided by Vega compute units.
Still, let’s examine the new chips a bit. The most obvious descendants from the first-generation Ryzen Mobile processors are the Ryzen 7 3700U and Ryzen 5 3500U. They gain 100 MHz over their predecessors (the Ryzen 7 2700U and Ryzen 5 2500U, respectively) in base clock, boost clock, and GPU peak clock rate, but otherwise appear to be identical. That allows the Ryzen 7 3700U to top out at 4.0 GHz on one of its four CPU cores, although we suspect the 15W TDP won’t allow them to sustain such speeds for long.
On that note, you may notice the addition of two models ending in a new “H” designation. On paper, the Ryzen 7 3750H and Ryzen 5 3550H appear to be identical to their “U”-designated siblings, save for an additional 20W tacked onto their TDP ratings. The extra power could allow these chips to keep their clocks much closer to those lofty peak speeds. AMD says that while the Ryzen Mobile “H” APUs have the same graphics capabilities as their siblings, they’re really intended to be paired with discrete graphics cards in gaming notebooks.
A die shot of one of the new chips, with Zen cores and Vega GPU helpfully indicated. Source: AMD
All of the processors we’ve talked about so far have four physical cores with SMT enabled, endowing them with eight logical cores. By contrast, the Ryzen 3 3300U is a pared-down version of its Ryzen 5 cousins that loses SMT, a bit of clock rate, and another two GPU compute units. It’s still a quad-core Zen+ processor that starts at 2.1 GHz and tops out at 3.5 GHz, which means this chip could be the one to look for in low-cost laptops.
Meanwhile, the Ryzen 3 3200U and Athlon 300U keep SMT but instead lose a pair of CPU cores, leaving them with two physical and four logical cores. These two chips are a significant step down from the rest of the new Ryzen Mobile family, although there’s not much separating them from each other besides some clock rate. Both of these processors also lose half their GPU compute units compared to the Ryzen 3 3300U, leaving them with just 192 shader cores.
Notably, AMD indicates that the two dual-core APUs are fabbed on GlobalFoundries’ 14nm process rather than the 12nm process of their cousins. We asked AMD about this, and the company confirmed that these chips have all the same refinements and improvements—whatever those may be—despite being fabricated on the older process. That is to say, they’re new silicon, not harvested older chips.
The proof is in the processing
AMD offered the smallest sneak peek of the performance of its new processors, although given their apparent close relationship with previous-generation Ryzen Mobile chips, we feel like we know the story already. The company made direct comparisons, pitting its Ryzen 5 3500U against Intel’s Core i5-8250U and its Ryzen 7 3700U against Intel’s Core i7-8550U, and in both cases it claims its latest Ryzens beat out the competition.
Specifically, AMD claims that its second-generation Ryzen Mobile processors are 14% faster in PCMark 10 Essentials, 27% faster in Photoshop, and equally as fast in Office. Those results are a little surprising, as our own testing put the Core i5-8250U well ahead of the Ryzen 5 2500U in PCMark 10’s Essentials and Productivity tests. Both chips do very well, though, and certainly the Ryzen 5 2500U’s performance was more than “good enough.” There’s no reason to expect the Ryzen 5 3500U to be anything but faster than its predecessor.
In gaming tests, AMD pitted the Vega GPU inside its Ryzen 7 3700U against the Intel UHD Graphics 620 built into the Core i7-8565U. To the surprise of absolutely no one reading this text, the Ryzen 7’s integrated Vega graphics enjoy a significant lead over the competition, although the gap isn’t as wide as you might expect—especially given that our own testing showed the Ryzen 5 2500U’s integrated graphics wiping the floor with Intel’s solution. Of course, as AMD itself notes, results will vary with testing environment.
Speaking of these processors’ graphics parts, AMD announced that starting in the first quarter of this year—that is to say, real soon now—all Ryzen Mobile processors will use the same graphics driver as every other Radeon. That means you won’t have to suffer on an ancient driver because your system vendor didn’t approve the latest one. That’s good news for long-suffering laptop gamers who have had to use unofficial hacks and workarounds to make games play nice due to the negligence of their system’s OEM.
Coming soon to a laptop near you
AMD says that the first notebooks to use these CPUs will be available in Q1 this year, and that more systems will continue to arrive throughout 2019. The chip vendor specifically names Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Huawei, Lenovo, and Samsung as companies preparing Ryzen-based laptops, but we’d be surprised if those are the only folks working on AMD portables.
All in all, our greatest complaint about the first-generation Ryzen Mobile processors was simply how difficult it was to get our hands on one. AMD says those Ryzen Mobile APUs were a “great success” in 2018, but also tacitly acknowledges the limited selection of laptops so-equipped by noting that the company expects to have 33% more design wins with its second-generation chips. That can only be seen as a good thing for not just AMD, but also laptop buyers who should get to enjoy the benefits of renewed competition in 2019.