Why AMD’s New Laptop Chip Might Be Its Best Performer Yet

October 26, 2017, 4:06 PM UTC

Amid a year of well-received new product introductions, Advanced Micro Devices on Thursday unveiled what might be its most interesting and potent new chip: a microprocessor for thin laptops combining its two breakthrough designs on the same silicon.

While AMD’s new Ryzen desktop CPUs and Vega graphic processing chips have regained ground against competitors Intel and Nvidia, the newest line of mobile chips seeks to put together strengths that will be difficult to match. Intel (INTC) is strong in CPUs, and Nvidia (NVDA) is tops in GPUs, but only AMD has higher-performing chips in both realms. Dubbed the “Ryzen Mobile Processors with Radeon Vega Graphics,” the chips consume less power than desktop CPUs, making them ideal for lightweight laptops and so-called 2-in-1 designs that combine a laptop keyboard and a tablet screen.

Although the chips haven’t be tested by outside benchmarkers yet, AMD said that for thin laptop designs, its new mobile chips were 44% faster than competing chips at tasks using multiple CPU cores and 161% faster at graphics processing. AMD said it tested against Intel’s top line, low-power mobile chip: the Core i7-8550U. AMD didn’t offer any details of the new chip’s performance on tasks that only use a single core of a CPU, an area where Intel has tended to do better.

Intel offers integrated graphics and CPUs in its laptop chips, but it doesn’t have the graphics expertise to match the performance of top products from AMD and Nvidia. Nvidia doesn’t make CPUs and its mobile-oriented chips must be installed in laptops separately, a less power-efficient design.

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AMD under CEO Lisa Su has been engaged in a multi-year strategy to redesign its processors for higher performance. The mobile chips follow the summer debut of the Vega graphics line, a new CPU chip for servers, called Epyc, introduced in June and the February release of Ryzen branded chips for desktop computers. Still, Intel has hardly been standing still, creating a new higher-performance class of desktop CPUs it dubbed i9 and introducing faster chips for servers. Nvidia’s newest Volta GPU design is being sold first in the corporate server market, with cards for PCs and laptops coming next year.

AMD’s (AMD) newest chips have four separate processing cores and run at up to 3.8 GHz for CPU tasks. Graphics performance tops out at 1.3 GHZ. AMD senior vice president Jim Anderson described the new chips as “the world’s fastest processor for ultrathin notebooks.”

With AMD’s latest mobile chips, which had been codenamed “Raven Ridge,” laptop makers Acer, Lenovo, and HP (HPQ) are coming out with devices in the next few weeks. Dell and Asus will incorporate the chips in early 2018 products.

Shares of AMD, which were battered on Wednesday after the company reported disappointing third quarter results, fell another 2% in afternoon trading on Thursday. After plunging 12% on Wednesday, the shares are now up just 6% for the year.

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