AMD Delivers a Major Mobile Efficiency Milestone

Posted on June 25, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile with 38 Comments

In 2014, AMD said that it would improve the energy efficiency of its mobile processors by 25 times by 2020. But the firm has exceeded that goal: The new AMD Ryzen 7 4800H mobile processor improves on the energy efficiency of the 2014 baseline measurement by 31.7 times, the firm says, while offering “leadership performance” for portable PCs.

“We have always focused on energy efficiency in our processors, but in 2014 we decided to put even greater emphasis on this capability,” AMD CTO Mark Papermaster says in a prepared statement. “Our engineering team rallied around the challenge and charted a path to reach our stretch goal of 25 times greater energy efficiency by 2020. We were able to far surpass our objective, achieving 31.7 times improvement leading to gaming and ultrathin laptops with unmatched performance, graphics and long battery life. I could not be prouder of our engineering and business teams.”

As AMD notes, greater energy efficiency leads to significant real-world benefits, including improved battery life, better performance, lower energy costs, and reduced environmental impact from computing. And with the focus in mobile computing hardware switching to performance-per-watt these days, AMD is trying to position itself as the traditional PC chipmaker that can rise to the ARM challenge.

You know, unlike Intel.

Most readers are probably familiar with “Moore’s Law,” the observation made by Intel’s Gordon Moore that the number of components in integrated circuits would double every year. (At least originally, this was modified over time to 18 months and then 2 years.) For mobile, AMD is citing the similar “Koomey’s Law,” created by Stanford consulting professor Jonathan G. Koomey, by which energy efficiency will likewise double every year and a half.

“Six years ago, AMD challenged itself to dramatically improve the real-world energy efficiency of its mobile processors,” Dr. Koomey says of AMD’s milestone. “I have reviewed the data and can report that AMD exceeded the 25×20 goal it set in 2014 through improved design, superior optimization, and a laser-like focus on energy efficiency. With a chip 31.7 times more energy-efficient than its 2014 predecessor, AMD has far outpaced in real-world efficiency gains what would be expected from a traditional Moore’s Law pace as embodied in Koomey’s Law.”

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Comments (38)

38 responses to “AMD Delivers a Major Mobile Efficiency Milestone”

  1. madthinus

    Ryzen 4000 Laptop chips has received great reviews and is offering excellent performance compared to the best Intel has. However, deep Intel ties to OEM and general consumer demands will see them suffer to get the traction they deserve. That is a pity. These are great processors, offer better performance and power usage than any of the i7 or i9 models.

    • martinusv2

      In reply to madthinus:

      Yes I hope HP, Lenovo would now realize that AMD Ryzen chipset is now a good alternative to Intel. That remind me that Asus did bet all on AMD for their laptops.

    • behindmyscreen

      In reply to madthinus:

      The years of crap laptops having AMD chips hurts them too.

    • philbypond

      In reply to madthinus:

      Do you know of a PC maker (Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, ...) that offers the same laptop or 2-n-1 with both AMD and Intel and have they been compared in a review? It would be a way to give a boost to AMD's traction. It may be that the OEM agreements preclude that happening. I quick look at Lenovo ThinkPads shows different model numbers (like T490 & T495) for Intel vs. AMD. My guess, but not sure, is that these are "equivalent" machines that could be compared.

      • lvthunder

        In reply to PhilByPond:

        Doen't Microsoft's Surface Laptop have both Intel and AMD?

        • philbypond

          In reply to lvthunder:

          At the Microsoft website you find this.

          Surface Laptop 3 13.5”

          Quad-core 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-1035G7 Processor

          Quad-core 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-1065G7 Processor


          Surface Laptop 3 15”

          AMD Ryzen™ 5 3580U Mobile Processor with Radeon™ Vega 9 Graphics Microsoft Surface® Edition

          AMD Ryzen™ 7 3780U Mobile Processor with Radeon™ RX Vega 11 Graphics Microsoft Surface® Edition 

          When you try to configure for purchase, it only shows Intel for the 13.5" and AMD for the 15". That reinforces the notion that manufacturers make it hard to compare the processors in identical machines.

        • nicholas_kathrein

          In reply to lvthunder:

          Yes but the AMD chip in that one is the old chip design before they moved to this new design that is way better in every respect.

    • nicholas_kathrein

      In reply to madthinus:

      At this point it's really the marketing money Intel gives to everyone. The last time (12 years ago or so) when AMD came out of no ware betting Intel they used monopoly type practices to limit AMD.,_Inc._v._Intel_Corp.

      So I'm sure they are doing something similar but trying to walk the fine line on what they can get away with. When you processors are in everything is easier to squeeze the OEMs on pricing and advertising budgets that will limit AMD products.

  2. Elindalyne

    Supposedly Zen 3 will be able to squeeze even more efficiency out of the silicon to the point where AMD will finally beat Intel in single core power.

    Intel's Alder Lake stuff seems pretty interesting with the Big.little architecture change but that won't be showing up for a year +.

  3. glenn8878

    I was reemed for suggesting Microsoft pair up with AMD for Surface laptops and do customized chips. Intel won't keep the lead on mobile performance for long and it wasn't so good to begin with.

  4. JH_Radio

    Yes MS has both Intel and AMD. I believe AMD is for the consumer offerings where as you can only get the Intel thru business licensing. Paul, isn't that right?

  5. Winner

    Good to see AMD kicking Intel's lethargic butt.

    My latest desktop build was an AMD Ryzen.

  6. mattbg

    I wouldn't be surprised if I hold grudges for an unusually long time, but I can't be the only one who still buys Intel because of the residual memories of the days when "100% Intel compatible" CPUs had issues because their non-Intel chipsets didn't work with certain hardware.

    I'm sure those days are long gone... but as someone who values certainty and stability over minor performance gains and sticks with a build for years, it's just not been worth the risk or savings.

  7. evox81

    I feel like this is more of a testament to how bad AMD was in 2014, over how good they are now. That's not to diminish AMD's accomplishment, they're selling what are arguably the best products on the market right now. Prior to Ryzen, in particular the Zen 2-based chips, AMD's products (especially mobile) were trash. Looking at performance per watt, Intel is pushing about 5x what they were back in 2014. That AMD managed to increase that by 30x in the same time, yet they're just now on-par with Intel, shows why they were non-existent in the mobile space back then.

  8. dftf

    For all the people commenting "Apple made a mistake going to ARM, due to this announcement" -- yes, in one respect, but not for this reason.

    I've no-doubt Apple's team will be able to come-out with some blazing-fast CPUs and GPUs -- maybe not overtaking AMD and Intel's finest just-yet, but certainly more-than fine for lower-spec Macs, such as the mac Mini and MacBook Air.

    But the real problem with switching to ARM, so iOS apps can then run at full-speed natively, is that, when that happens, all the apps you get on macOS will just become the same apps you can get for iPhone and iPad, but with some UI adjustments (e.g. smaller icons when in "mouse mode"; use of the menubar at the top of the screen, rather than a hamburger-menu; Dock integrations; drag-and-drop support). So... if you can buy a high-end iPad, couple that with a mouse and keyboard, and even plug it into an external monitor -- is there much of a need then for a low-spec MacBook Air or mac Mini as well as an iPad, if it runs the same apps, just with some UI differences?

    I'm struggling to see why you would then need both, and it could mean less low-end mac sales...

    • glenn8878

      In reply to dftf:

      iPads have a touch premium price. Not everyone needs a touch screen for PC computing. iPad Pro is also huge for an iPad, but the screen isn't big enough for a desktop where most people use dual 24" or larger screens. You can buy a non-touch 24" screen for $150.

      • Paul Thurrott

        A what now? iPads are inexpensive and portable personal computing devices, not displays. They start at just $329. Please find a PC for that price that's worth a damn.
  9. red77star

    Apple made a major mistake. X86-X64 are about to get so power efficient with increased performance, will make ARM to look like an obsolete joke. Intel is tapping into 10nm aggressively with 7nm on a way and AMD is going to be on 5nm next year. This AMD chiplet design is amazing, especially knowing how much power they can put into it. Look at PS5 and new XBOX. Also keep in mind that Intel is planning Alder Lake next year. We are talking about 8 big x86-x64 cores along with 8 little atom cores. The things are about to get very very interesting and exciting with AMD/Intel lineup.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Ah boy. This reminds me of people in Germany counting on secret weapons to turn the tide at the end of WWII. Meaning, putting your faith in some imaginary future over understanding what is really happening right now is understandable, because things aren't turning out the way you like, but also futile.
      • red77star

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Apple market on Desktop is < 10%, and the only reason they go this high is because of x86-x64 they were running. x86-x64 is not going anywhere in fact it is the future. AMD is releasing CPUs using 5nm technology followed by Intel and both companies are about to release a big can of ass whooping in term of power/performance ratio.

        Apple does what they do and it is Apple bubble world and it works for them and that's where it ends. Their Desktop market share will stay miserably low and as far as mobile market goes...they lost that battle against Android a long time ago. Nothing will really change. I just don't know why are you so obsessed with ARM, it is pile of crap.

        Microsoft should get rid of ARM code base, WSL and all that nonsense asap. The strength of Windows was always Windows and not Apple/Google wanna be.

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to red77star:

      90% of Aple's customers don't need any performance beyond what a current MacBook Air offers. A web browser and Instagram is what they spend their time on, so maybe they'd notice if they had insufficient RAM, but chip-wise, even entry-level processor performance is just fine these days. Conversely, efficiency is EVERYTHING, as that translates to battery life and normal people do notice that big time.

      • red77star

        In reply to JG1170:

        MacBook Air is one small segment of the market and performance wise it sucks in my book.

        • Paul Thurrott

          MacBook Air is the most influential PC design in history. It's the reason laptops have basically all become Ultrabooks. It's also hugely profitable, as is Apple's entire Mac family. Unlike most of the PC market. The Mac is the reason the premium PC market exists. Having owned several of them, and given that I review numerous PCs every year, I can state with a certain degree of credibility that MacBook Air performance does not suck.
          • sscywong

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            It's quite disappointing that SONY failed to nail their VAIO 505 series notebook... Which Steve had also said he wanted VAIO to run OS X... That's definitely the benchmark when Steve decided to make MBA...

            Only if SONY could get the battery life right.... But history is history...

            • Paul Thurrott

              Sony definitely held a special place in the PC market for a time. They used to have a Sony store in Boston I'd visit, it was sort of an early take on the Apple Store.
    • ontariopundit

      In reply to red77star:

      "Intel is tapping into 10nm aggressively with 7nm on a way and AMD is going to be on 5nm next year. "


      "things are about to get very very interesting and exciting with AMD/Intel lineup."

      Don't forget that Apple buys access to the same technologies that AMD and Intel do! Apple too will be able to pump out a much more dense chip.

      AMD doesn't do all of its own R&D. It buys it. They all do!

      • red77star

        In reply to OntarioPundit:

        7, 5nm technology is one thing, another thing is CPU design and ARM performance wise is joke in that department. AMD designs CPU just like Intel does. I am not saying ARM won't work for Apple, but that's is a little bubble world of Apple.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to red77star:

      You are assuming the Apple Engineers aren't as good as the Intel and AMD engineers. Plus if the Apple chips aren't as good they can just as easily switch back. Their software is still going to support Intel for many years.

    • glenn8878

      In reply to red77star:

      Are you saying Apple should get their chips from AMD instead? Not the same. Intel should be kicked to the curb. Intel hasn't improved in performance for years. Performance already plateaued for 5 years. Getting more energy efficient will cost performance. ARM has no such limitation since it was already energy efficient from the start. Apple has ramped up performance for 10 generations and there's no stopping them.

    • evox81

      In reply to red77star:

      Apple's move to ARM really was never about efficiency, or even performance. It's just about further consolidating their ecosystem. So they won't see it as a mistake.

      • red77star

        In reply to evox81:

        It is Apple doing Apple thing and it does not matter at all.

      • jdmp10

        In reply to evox81:

        No doubt this is one of the main reasons to moving away from Intel, to be wholly in charge of all (most) aspects of hardware and software on their systems. It gives them a lot more marketing power as well since having everything in-house boasts security, performance, efficiency of all their systems. It's taken Google over a decade with Android to finally come to the realization that Apple's approach in many ways was the right way all along. Whether or not the monetary reward or value is there, it's something any OS maker has to do is make their own reference hardware regardless if they license their OS out to others like Microsoft and Google does.

        • red77star

          In reply to jdmp10:

          I am not going to be surprised if their market share drop big time when Hackintosh people find out they cannot run new Mac OS on their X86-X64 computers lol. I know that Apple will drop x86-x64 quickly.

          • ontariopundit

            In reply to red77star:

            "their market share drop big time when Hackintosh people find out they cannot run new Mac OS on their X86-X64 computers"

            Shake head. Rinse. Repeat.

            Umm. The inability to built a Hackintosh will affect Apple's market share? What!

            Hackintoshes do very, very little to keep Mac users in the Mac ecosystem. They are a pathway for some non-Mac users to enter, but that's about it. Plus, a Hackintosh does not generate any form of income for Apple. The OS is pirated. And, are people really going to shell out money for software and services on a device that is unstable?

            I've built two Hackintoshes over the years. I learned a LOT from doing so but it didn't prevent me from buying a Mac. For someone who actually needs or wants to use a Mac a Hackintosh is not viable--it's far too unstable compared to the real deal.

            Ironically, building those two Hackintoshes over the years did cause me to stop buying Macs. I had this great hardware (on paper) without a great OS (don't get me wrong Mac OS X was a great OS but it wasn't great on non-Apple hardware... even though every component was handpicked to be the "most" Hackintosh compatible item available).

            Windows was cheap. I got it from work for a song (something like $10 for Windows 7 Ultimate). It wasn't as good as Mac OS X but it did run better on my Hackintosh. I'd spent all this money on building my own Hackintosh without much to do with it.

            So, what did I do with my speed demon? Install the rather mediocre Windows. Now, I've now spent many years on Windows and have enough Windows laptops and desktops in the house to ensure that each person in my family of 5 had at least one viable Windows computer available to them during covid-19 distance learning.

            That said, I recently picked up a 10 year old Mac and have rediscovered the OS. macOS 10.13 has a lot going for it. Aside from (poor) compatibility with Chrome macOS is a much more powerful operating system than is Windows 10. It has a scripting language that is so much more accessible than what is available through Windows (sure, VB is a great language but there are so few resources out there on how to use it as a scripting language that it's always more efficient to fire up a Mac and create my own scripts in bash... which is 99% compatible with all the Linux resources out there).