What’s new in AMD’s Ryzen mo­bile pro­ces­sors?

Could there fi­nally be a mo­bile com­peti­tor to chal­lenge In­tel’s dom­i­nance?

HWM (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - By Koh Wanzi

It’s been a busy year for AMD, with the com­pany in­tro­duc­ing three brand new con­sumer prod­uct lines with its Ryzen and Ryzen Thread­rip­per CPUs, and Radeon RX Vega graph­ics cards.

But those have mostly fo­cused on desk­tops and the high-end en­thu­si­ast and gam­ing mar­ket. Now, AMD has set its sight on lap­tops with Ryzen mo­bile pro­ces­sors that fea­ture in­te­grated Radeon Vega graph­ics.

To­day, prac­ti­cally ev­ery lap­top you buy runs an In­tel pro­ces­sor, and those that are paired with dis­crete GPUs – which are of­ten from NVIDIA – end up be­ing quite thick and heavy com­pared to your av­er­age ul­tra­book. AMD’s Ryzen mo­bile chips hope to change that by bring­ing de­cent gam­ing per­for­mance to a new breed of slim and light note­books.

In fact, sys­tems from Acer, HP, and Len­ovo have al­ready been an­nounced with the new hard­ware. Here’s what you should know about the new Ryzen mo­bile CPUs.

1. THEY USE VEGA GRAPH­ICS

Zen cores and Vega GPUs are linked on a sin­gle piece of sil­i­con us­ing AMD’s In­fin­ity Fab­ric interconnect, which AMD says of­fers higher band­width and lower la­tency than the PCIe in­ter­face. This also pro­vides a sin­gle co­her­ent con­trol and data in­ter­face to in­te­grate and man­age the full SoC.

In­fin­ity Fab­ric acts as the bridge be­tween the CPU, GPU and other SoC com­po­nents, such as the mul­ti­me­dia and dis­play en­gines, DDR4 mem­ory con­trollers, and I/O and sys­tem hub. One ben­e­fit of this ap­proach is its mod­u­lar­ity, so AMD could swap out de­signs quicker. For in­stance, while Ryzen mo­bile only sup­ports DDR4 now, it could con­ceiv­ably be con­fig­ured for lower power LPDDR4 later on.

That said, AMD is also claim­ing graph­ics per­for­mance on par with NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 950M GPU, which is more pow­er­ful than the in­te­grated graph­ics on In­tel’s new 8th gen­er­a­tion Core prod­ucts.

2. IM­PROVED PRE­CI­SION BOOST

Ryzen mo­bile sup­ports most of the same SenseMI fea­tures as their desk­top coun­ter­parts, in­clud­ing things like Pre­ci­sion Boost, Pure Power, and Ex­treme Fre­quency Range (XFR). How­ever, the new Pre­ci­sion Boost 2 tech­nol­ogy adopts a new turbo fre­quency model.

In­stead of sens­ing how many cores and threads are un­der load, and work­ing from there to de­ter­mine volt­age, the fre­quen­cies on Ryzen mo­bile chips are based on CPU tem­per­a­tures, cur­rent, and load. In ad­di­tion, it also con­sid­ers other in­puts such as data from skin tem­per­a­ture sen­sors and bat­tery life.

AMD de­scribes this new al­go­rithm as be­ing more op­por­tunis­tic, where the chips will pro­vide the best pos­si­ble turbo fre­quency, re­gard­less of the num­ber of threads be­ing used.

Ryzen mo­bile pro­ces­sors can also take ad­van­tage of gran­u­lar 25MHz ad­just­ments, thus al­low­ing the sys­tem to main­tain a higher fre­quency and bet­ter per­for­mance.

3. XFR IS HERE, BUT IT ISN’T AVAIL­ABLE ON ALL CHIPS

While the desk­top Ryzen pro­ces­sors sup­ported XFR across the en­tire prod­uct stack, not all Ryzen mo­bile chips will do so. How­ever, this is more a re­sult of the ther­mal lim­its of the de­signs of in­di­vid­ual note­books, as op­posed to any de­lib­er­ate pro­ces­sor level fea­ture seg­men­ta­tion on AMD’s part.

In other words, XFR will only be se­lec­tively avail­able on cer­tain lap­tops that have been over-en­gi­neered to sup­port higher power draws, such as the Acer Swift 3.

The mo­bile vari­ant of this is called mo­bile XFR, or mXFR, but es­sen­tially it will work the same as its desk­top vari­ant, which is to un­lock an even higher boost clock fre­quency than the ad­ver­tized turbo range for the pro­ces­sor, as long as cer­tain cool­ing and op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments are met.

4. BET­TER BAT­TERY LIFE

AMD worked to im­prove power con­sump­tion, which is cru­cial for any mo­bile pro­ces­sor. One of the ways it’s do­ing that is by ad­ding ex­tra sleep states via the use of power gat­ing. For in­stance, a sin­gle core can be mostly pow­ered off, but still have its L3 cache ac­tive and avail­able for use by another core.

Fur­ther work has also been done to en­able more parts of the SoC to re­main off when the dis­play re­freshes, so power con­sump­tion is over­all lower. In ad­di­tion, the GPU now has a VP9 decoder, and AMD says play­back time is ef­fec­tively dou­bled. Stan­dard 1080p H.264 play­back saw some mod­est im­prove­ments as well, go­ing from 10.6 hours to 12.2 hours.

On top of that, Ryzen mo­bile will use per-core fre­quency and volt­age al­go­rithms, which al­low fine-tun­ing of volt­age and fre­quency for each core and the GPU based on ex­ter­nal sen­sors, avail­able power, and cur­rent load.

Ryzen mo­bile uses a sin­gle quad-core Zen-based CCX, as seen in the rec­tan­gle on the left. The Vega CUs are in the blue rec­tan­gle on the right.

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