AMD Renoir (Ryzen 4000 APUs) Explained

For a long period of time, we haven’t seen a big jump in the performance of Laptops. The first blame for that goes to Intel for refreshing its 2015’s Skylake Architecture multiple times without any major improvements. The second blame goes to AMD for not being competitive enough.

But now, it’s 2020, and things are about to change.

We did see a performance jump with Intel’s 10th Generation Ice Lake CPUs through IPC improvements and 10nm Process, but the low clock speeds nullified the performance gains. And the Ice Lake lineup only maxes out at 4 Cores / 8 Threads which isn’t good enough for a high-end Laptop in 2020.

In comes AMD Renoir with the Ryzen 4000 Laptop APUs. For those who are not aware of what an APU is, it’s just a marketing term that AMD uses for a CPU with Integrated Graphics (it is the same as every Intel CPU with Integrated Graphics). However, AMD’s Integrated Graphics are usually way faster than Intel ones and you can get decent entry-level gaming experience.

AMD Renoir is built using AMD’s latest Zen 2 Architecture on TSMC’s 7nm Process. If you don’t know what Zen 2 is, it is AMD’s latest CPU Architecture that helped them take over Intel’s Desktop, HEDT and Server CPUs in 2019. It is highly scalable, power-efficient, and has a higher IPC than Intel’s 9th Gen Desktop CPUs.

Laptops using the Ryzen 4000 Series will be way more powerful than previous-gen AMD and the current Ice Lake Chips and they’re going to be extremely power efficient. You should expect these Laptops to have a long-lasting Battery Life.

    What is AMD Renoir & Ryzen 4000 Series?

AMD’s Laptop Processors (and the Desktop APUs) are actually a generation behind their Desktop CPUs. Ryzen 3000 for Desktops is actually the 3rd Gen Ryzen with Zen 2 CPU Cores but for Laptops, Ryzen 4000 is the 3rd Gen Ryzen with Zen 2 Cores.

Zen 2 & 7nm

Zen 2 has a 15% higher IPC than the previous Zen+ architecture. When combined with higher clock speeds and more number of cores, the overall performance jump is significant compared to Zen+ based Ryzen 3000 Series APUs.

Both AMD’s Zen 2 and Vega architectures are extremely scalable. Even when constraining the power limits or the TDP by a good margin, the performance dip isn’t that significant.

AMD Renoir Characterstics

AMD’s Zen 2 architecture for Desktops uses chiplets but AMD Renoir uses a monolithic die. Hence, everything from the CPU Cores, GPU, and the I/O is on the same silicon die interconnected with AMD’s Infinity Fabric.

The die-size is somewhere close to ~150mm² which is much smaller than the previous generation chips, i.e. 210 mm² despite the fact that now we have 8 CPU Cores instead of 4. This was made possible due to TSMC’s 7nm Process which is twice as denser as GlobalFoundries 12nm Process.

Ryzen 4000 vs 3000

And lastly, we get significantly lower power consumption. AMD claims 20% Lower SOC Power and twice the Performance Per Watt as compared to the previous generation. And these claims are most likely true as we have already seen how power efficient the Zen 2 based Desktop chips are. 7nm is the primary reason for better power efficiency.

Renoir also supports the LPDDR4x Memory which should help in performance gain for both the CPU and the Integrated Radeon GPU. Lack of LPDDR4x Memory support on previous-gen chips was one of the many reasons why AMD Laptop CPUs were not very competitive against Intel.

How AMD achieved 2x Performance Per Watt

As we can see in the graph above, the Performace Per Watt improvement by going from 1st Gen to 2nd Gen looks negligible when we compare it against the 3rd Gen Ryzen. 7nm Zen 2 is a big leap forward.

AMD achieved twice the Performance per Watt with the help of two major factors. The 7nm Process contributed 75% to that number while the IPC and Design Improvements were responsible for the rest.

Radeon Graphics Cores

Renoir APU uses ‘Radeon Cores’ which are based on AMD’s older Vega architecture. But now the 7nm process allows higher frequency alongside some power and performance optimizations. AMD claims that the new Radeon Core is 59% faster than the Vega Core.

Why didn’t AMD use Navi/RDNA instead of Vega?
According to Robert Hallock, the Senior Technical Marketing Manager at AMD, the schedules for Renoir didn’t lineup with Navi so they had to go with Vega. But I am hoping for RDNA or RDNA2 based iGPUs in Ryzen 5000 APUs and this should be a really good jump in performance & power efficiency. However, the biggest improvement in the performance of Laptops would probably come with Ryzen 6000 Series (Zen 4) which is expected to be on 5nm and support LPDDR5 Memory.

Even though the Ryzen 7 3700U has 10 Vega Cores, it is weaker than the 8 Radeon Cores of Ryzen 7 4700U. In fact, the Integrated GPU for 4700U is about 28% better than the 3700U.

If you’re wondering how AMD managed to make the existing Vega iGPU faster, they did it by Performance and Power Optimizations, Higher Frequency due to 7nm Process, Driver Enhancements, LPDDR4x Memory and by pairing it with a much faster CPU Core (Zen 2).

Summing up, the secret sauce for the incredible performance gains & power efficiency was the New Zen 2 CPU Architecture, Improved Radeon Vega Cores, and 7nm Process.

AMD SmartShift

During AMD’s presentation at CES 2020, they also unveiled their new SmartShift technology.

AMD SmartShift intelligently shifts power consumption between CPU & GPU in order to maximize the performance for the task at hand.

Every laptop has a limited power budget and every task utilizes a CPU and GPU differently. SmartShift optimizes the power budget for both the CPU and the GPU dynamically in order to maximize the performance for a given task such as Gaming or Rendering.

AMD Smartshift Technology

For example, when you’re gaming, SmartShift will reduce the power budget of the CPU and give it to the GPU and vice versa for a CPU intensive task such as Rendering. You shouldn’t confuse it with Nvidia Optimus. These are two entirely different technologies.

However, SmartShift requires a Laptop to have both the Ryzen powered CPU and Radeon powered dedicated Graphics.

According to AMD, SmartShift will improve gaming performance by up to 10% and content creation performance by up to 12%.

    AMD Renoir Lineup

The Ryzen 4000 Series Notebook Processors are divided into three different categories. First up, we have the U-Series with low power consumption (15W) for Ultrathin Laptops.

Renoir Product Classification

H-Series Processors have a TDP of 45W and they are meant for High-End Systems. You can expect these chips in Gaming Laptops. The last one is the Ryzen Pro Series which is meant for Business & Professional Laptops.

Ryzen 4000 H Series

The H-Series has two SKUs, Ryzen 7 4800H and Ryzen 5 4600H. The TDP of these APUs in 45W but the OEM can configure it between 35W to 45W. These two have 8 and 6 cores respectively with SMT enabled.

I expect them to perform extremely well for both Content Creation & Gaming. Interestingly, the H-Series chips don’t have the most powerful Integrated Graphics in the Ryzen 4000 Series. But that wouldn’t be much of an issue considering most of the Laptops with H-Series Processors will be paired with a powerful discrete Graphics Card from Nvidia or AMD.

Ryzen 4000 U Series

Even with the U-Series, AMD managed to bring in 8 cores at the top end. As of early 2020, Intel has no 8-Core Laptop CPU at 15W.

Ryzen 7 lineup has 8 cores, Ryzen 5 has 6, and Ryzen 3 has 4 cores. However, SMT is disabled in 4700U, 4500U and 4300U.

These have a 15W TDP which OEMs can configure between 12W to 25W. At 12W, you can expect an extremely good battery life without sacrificing much performance and at 25W, you’ll get the best performance possible for these processors at the expense of battery life.

The Ryzen 7 4800U packs the most powerful Integrated Graphics we have even seen in Laptops. It has 8 Radeon Cores at a Frequency of 1750 MHz.

Here’s the whole lineup. You can also check out AMD’s Website for an in-depth look at the SKUs.

APU Name Core/Threads Base/Boost Frequency Graphics L2+L3 Cache TDP
Ryzen 7 4800H 8/16 2.9/4.2 GHz 7 CU at 1600 MHz 12 MB 45W
Ryzen 7 4800U 8/16 1.8/4.2 GHz 8 CU at 1750 MHz 12 MB 15W
Ryzen 7 4700U 8/8 2.0/4.1 GHz 7 CU at 1600 MHz 12 MB 15W
Ryzen 5 4600H 6/12 3.0/4.0 GHz 6 CU at 1500 MHz 11 MB 45W
Ryzen 5 4600U 6/12 2.1/4.0 GHz 6 CU at 1500 MHz 11 MB 15W
Ryzen 5 4500U 6/6 2.3/4.0 GHz 6 CU at 1500 MHz 11 MB 15W
Ryzen 3 4300U 4/4 2.7/3.7 GHz 5 CU at 1400 MHz 6 MB 15W

When compared to Ryzen 3000 APUs, AMD has doubled the cache for the Laptop chips as well. But it is nowhere close to the enormous 32MB cache for every Zen 2 CCD in Desktops. However, a monolithic die should help with latencies when compared to the Desktop variant.

All members of Ryzen 4000 Mobile Series support LPDDR4x Memory which is a decent upgrade from the previous generation. But unlike Zen 2 based Desktop CPUs, these do no support PCIe 4.0.

AMD also launched the Athlon 3000 Series APUs based on the Zen architecture for entry-level Laptops. But it is neither a part of the Renoir Lineup nor it uses the Zen 2 Cores. However, they have pretty decent specs and can be a good alternative to Intel Pentium for entry-level Laptops.

    Renoir vs Ice Lake vs Comet Lake

Though Intel finally managed to launch their 10nm Ice Lake Processors, they are handicapped by the low cores and clock speeds and aren’t the best choice for high-end Laptops. But Intel has an alternative for that and that’s the 9th Gen Coffee Lake Refresh and 10th Generation Comet Lake based on 14nm.

In the Comet Lake lineup, Intel is yet to officially launch the high-end H-Series. But from the Coffee Lake series, Intel has two CPUs that can compete with Ryzen 7 4800H and these are Core i9-9980HK and Core i9-9880H. But these are neither in the same price bracket nor they have the faster Integrated GPU that is present in Ice Lake.

If we compare the 15W U-series from both Ice Lake & Comet-Lake, Intel is limited to Quad-Core CPUs which are inferior in Multi-Threading performance. In fact, AMD claims that the 4800U is 90% faster than Core i7-1065G7.

Comparison with Intel

Intel managed to improve the GPU extensively in Ice Lake chips to the point where it came pretty close to beating AMD’s Vega iGPUs and even outperformed it in some games. But with Ryzen 4000 Series, AMD has again pushed Intel behind in the Graphics department.

Intel might be able to compete with AMD again in the Graphics Department but only after they launch their next-generation Tiger Lake chips with Intel Xe Graphics.

CPU Performance

In Cinebench R20, the Ryzen 7 4800H actually managed to outperform the 95W Core i7-9700K Desktop CPU by a decent margin. It is mainly due to the fact that 9700K has half the Threads. This isn’t surprising either as the 65W Ryzen 7 3700X Desktop CPU also crushes the 9700K by a big margin.

However, on sustained performance tests, most Desktop CPUs will outperform the equivalent Notebook ones.

The performance difference in Multi-Threaded workloads between the U-Series CPUs of Intel & AMD is even bigger as we have seen in the previous slide.

H-Series Cinebench Performance

Graphics Performance

The Integrated GPUs in the Renoir lineup is the best we have seen to this date. Gaming at 1080P Low without a dedicated GPU is now a reality. Older titles and less graphics-intensive games can easily cross 60FPS at 1080p High.

However, you’ll have to stick with 720P Low/Medium for graphically intensive games.

Ryzen 7 4800U APU Performance

While the performance of some games in both Ice Lake and Renoir is close, AMD wins by a big margin in some of the other titles. Even though AMD marketing slides are usually in-line with the performance difference in third-party reviews, you should still take it with a grain of salt and wait for the actual reviews and side-by-side comparisons.

Power Efficiency

Power Efficiency is another big factor where AMD finally has a big advantage over Intel. AMD has claimed that Renoir has 2x Performance-per-Watt as the previous generation. In other words, you can get the same performance while consuming half the power or you can get double the performance while consuming the same amount of power. And AMD managed to do it in just one generation. Isn’t that impressive?

We will need to wait for actual Laptops to compare the power efficiency of both Ice Lake and Renoir but given that how power efficient the Zen 2 based Ryzen 3000 Desktop CPUs are, there’s a very good chance that the upcoming Ryzen laptops will consume less power than their Intel counterparts.

    The right time to buy a Laptop?

I’ve started this article by writing that it’s been a really long time since we have seen a big performance jump in the Laptops until AMD announced Renoir. And it is just the beginning of the few big performance jumps that are coming in the next few years.

If AMD continues to deliver as per its Roadmap and Intel tries its best to stay competitive and not delay its products, I expect the next few years (2020 to 2023) to be an excellent period for buying a new Laptop.

If you’re looking for a Laptop in 2020, it is the perfect time to grab one with one of the AMD Ryzen 4000 CPUs. At the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, you should see even better Laptop Processors after the launch of Intel’s Tiger Lake and AMD’s Zen 3.

Are Laptops now as Powerful as Desktops?

No. Laptops are still not very close in performance. Just like the new technology is helping Laptops become faster, it is doing the same for Desktops as well.

The Desktop Ryzen 7 3700X and the Mobile Ryzen 7 4800H have very comparable specifications with eight Zen 2 Cores each. However, 3700X has 4 times the L3 cache and has a higher boost speed of 4.4 GHz. With its higher TDP of 65W, the 3700X can reach a better All-core Frequency as compared to 4800H.

Lastly, Laptop cooling solutions are not in the same league as the Desktops ones and there’s very little space in the systems for good airflow. They end up throttling pretty fast and the clock speed reduces in order to reduce the temperatures. If you want high-performance that can sustain for long periods, Desktops are still the way to go.

And the Ryzen 7 3700X isn’t the most powerful mainstream Desktop CPU either. The Ryzen 9 3950X has 16 Cores and 64MB of L3 Cache. We also have High-End Desktops (HEDT) with Quad-Channel Memory Support and the flagship AMD Threadripper 3990X has 64 Cores/128 Threads.

Upcoming Laptops with Ryzen 4000 APU

AMD is expecting a launch of more than 100 Laptops in 2020 based on Ryzen 4000. The first products based on this lineup are expected to arrive within a few months so you should keep an eye on the latest product launches if you’re planning to get one.

Asus Zephyrus G14

One of the first Renoir based Laptop is Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 and Zephyrus G15. Both these Laptops have the Ryzen 7 4800HS Processor which is basically a 4800H with TDP lowered to 35W.

Another product we saw at CES was the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 with the Ryzen 7 4800U. This makes it the world’s thinnest and lightest laptop to feature an Octa-Core x86 CPU.

Lenovo Yoga Slim 7

It has 16GB LPDDR4x RAM and Wi-Fi 6 Support. Considering the specification, it seems to be a great choice if you’re in the market for a thin and light laptop that packs a lot of processing power underneath.

What’s next for AMD?

It feels like there’s no stopping AMD in the x86 CPU market for quite a while. Their aggressive CPU Roadmaps with the latest Fabrication Nodes and IPC improvements with every generation can push Intel behind by a big margin in the upcoming years.

Now AMD has complete domination over Intel on the x86 Market with better products not only in the Desktops and Workstations but also in the Servers and Laptops.

Sometime in Q3 2020 (Most likely between July and October), I’m expecting AMD to launch Zen 3 based Desktop and Server CPUs. Zen 3 based Threadripper should follow up in Q4 with the next-generation Laptop CPUs in early 2021.

Just like Zen 2, the rumors are pointing out that it could be another big jump in the performance with the help of architectural improvements and the new 7nm+ Process.

In the APUs, Zen 3 based Laptop chips will probably feature the next-generation Navi architecture instead of Vega and it will likely crush Tiger Lake’s Integrated Xe Graphics.

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