Today we’re covering a hotly anticipated product in the laptop space: Ryzen Mobile. We've managed to get our hands on one of the only Ryzen Mobile laptops in the wild – the HP Envy x360 – to look at how AMD’s latest mobile silicon performs.
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’re seeing AMD APUs in laptops; even today you can buy a low-end notebook with a Stoney Ridge APU inside, complete with all the wonders of an Excavator-based CPU. It’s at the high end that AMD has been absent for generations, mostly because of their slow and inefficient CPU architecture, which allowed Intel to command the mobile throne for years.
With Ryzen and the Zen architecture, everything has changed for AMD. Their desktop parts are very competitive against Intel's latest, and it's allowing AMD to re-enter the mobile space with a set of APUs actually up for a fight.
Thanks to these products, codenamed Raven Ridge, we might actually see some competition back in the ultrathin laptop market. The two APUs in the Ryzen line-up for now are the Ryzen 5 2500U and the Ryzen 7 2700U.
Both pack four core, eight thread CPUs – the same as the latest 8th gen laptop CPUs from Intel – along with DDR4-2400 memory controllers. As you can see in the table, clock speeds range from 2.0 or 2.2 GHz base, up to 3.6 or 3.8 GHz boost, right in the ballpark of Kaby Lake Refresh.
The big thing to note here isn’t the CPU though, which is a lot faster than anything AMD has produced in the mobile space for years. But it’s the GPU where AMD has a huge competitive advantage: the Ryzen 5 2500U has a Vega 8 GPU, with 8 compute cores and a total of 512 shaders, clocked up to 1100 MHz.
This GPU is easily twice as fast from a pure compute perspective compared to Intel’s UHD Graphics 620 used in current parts. It looks faster than Iris Plus graphics on paper as well, though Intel hasn’t even begun rolling out those GPUs in quad-core ultraportable SKUs.
The Ryzen 7 2700U is even faster, with more compute cores at a higher clock, but I’ll have to hunt down a product with Ryzen 7 inside to get a better idea how it performs. We’ll be focusing on the Ryzen 5 2500U today.
The impressive aspect to the new Ryzen Mobile parts is they cram both a quad-core Ryzen CPU and a powerful Vega GPU into a 15W TDP. That’s the very same TDP as Intel’s equivalent 8th gen CPUs, but with the potential for more performance. Sounds like a winner, right?
Before I get into some juicy benchmark data, I did want to talk about the test procedure, because testing with a laptop CPU or APU is different and more challenging than testing a desktop component. That’s because laptops come as entire systems, so it’s hard to lock down variables and directly compare apples to apples.
Aspects like the cooling solution (which impacts throttling), storage, memory, software clock speed tweaks, and battery life all vary between devices, and with very few Ryzen laptops on the market right now, we might be relying on data from just one laptop for a while.
The good news, though, is that the HP Envy x360 does provide a good test platform with comparable hardware to many popular ultraportables. My review unit has 16GB of DDR4-2400 in a dual-channel configuration, plus a fast 256GB PCIe SSD, which is great for reducing bottlenecks in those areas. Power consumption and battery life is harder to test and comment on, but we’ll get to that later.