AMD Could Rescue the Windows Thin and Light Laptop Market from Apple

To be clear, if someone had time travelled to 1995 and informed me that AMD’s CPUs might “save” the laptop market from Apple in 2023, I would have instantly inquired how many beers they had consumed.

After all, the PC business existed in a very different time and location in the late 1990s. Intel was the uncontested monarch of the industry — notably in the desktop sector, since laptops were still in their infancy — and its company-owned foundries enabled it to deliver new CPUs on a cadence that not only impressed but also kept competitors like AMD at away.

As someone who worked at Compaq as part of the team that qualified and marketed AMD processors for its Presario consumer brand PCs as a hedge against Intel’s invincible pricing strategy, AMD had a reputation for being easy to work with but with a Keystone Kops knack for bad, sometimes abysmal, execution.

How rapidly things changed at AMD once CEO Lisa Siu joined in 2012.

New AMD Chips Might Challenge Apple Silicon

In late 2020, Apple shocked the PC market by launching its own processors, nicknamed Apple Silicon. Numerous technical magazines and industry pundits were quickly delighted with the new CPUs’ performance and battery life, particularly when compared to AMD and Intel’s x86 architectures.

Mac desktops and laptops immediately became trendy, in-demand commodities because Apple owns the complete hardware and software stack, allowing the corporation to optimise its macOS for heightened performance. While Windows PCs continue to dominate the market (about 58% vs. 30% for macOS), Apple sales have climbed significantly in recent years.

However, the Windows laptop market may be on the rise. AMD has introduced a new laptop CPU for thin and light devices that the firm claims beats Apple’s M2 model from a year ago. Is this a legitimate success for AMD, or is the business focused on certain performance indicators that misrepresent the full picture?

Some Important Background

Intel unveiled the Core i9 13980HX a few months ago, a “notebook” CPU — a generous word, at best — that it boldly claimed beats Apple’s current fastest processor, the M2 Max. Although the particular claims of performance triumphs in certain areas were technically correct, they were subject to several constraints.

First, the Intel CPU was a completely useless “notebook” chip since it lost all of its performance benefits the minute it went on batteries and consumed watts like a thirsty guy trapped in the desert. Furthermore, it generated a lot of heat, requiring fans to work at full capacity anytime a laptop did anything difficult. Finally, at over seven pounds, it wasn’t exactly trim.

Nonetheless, with a more powerful video card and continual plugged-in use while wearing noise-cancelling headphones, it surpassed the M2 Max for a few popular but specialised processor-intensive apps. Although the discounts were too significant to be a strong enough enticement for most Apple customers, Intel wriggled to get one of its CPUs on the same playing field.

With its ongoing improvement in desktop and mobile computing, power and chip efficiency, and integrated graphics capabilities, Intel has accidentally conceded that Apple’s M-series is the de facto market leader. With the exception of dedicated gaming rigs, Macs were significantly faster than any Windows PC in everyday use, beginning with the first M1 computers.

It’s AMD’s Time To Step Up to the Plate

The 7840U, the newest member of AMD’s Ryzen 7 family, looks to be the chip that everyone in the PC industry is talking about.

This chip instantly stands out as a significantly more viable contender than Intel’s 13980HX. Unlike Intel’s deceptive “notebook” classification, the 7840U is a CPU designed primarily for thin-and-light laptops. As a result, it must generate less heat and work more efficiently, and this is only for openers.

Because AMD only released this new chip at the end of April, no production machines have yet to use it in real-world testing, which is critical. Despite this, AMD recently provided a series of ambiguous benchmarks that it claims show superior performance over Apple’s basic M2 CPU, which is utilised in the Mac mini, MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and two iPad Pro models.

AMD Ryzen 7840U vs. Apple M2

Because there isn’t a genuine system to test this on, it’s unclear whether the 7840U can maintain this seemingly outstanding performance on batteries and how much power it needs for comparable workloads. The relatively generic descriptions of the main areas of comparison, the small differences in all but two categories between the two chips, and the lack of specifics and sourcing for any of the findings raise issues that must be tested in real-world testing.

Even if we accept AMD’s comments on their face value, a deeper look reveals that the business only claims unique advantages in two of the six areas that its marketing team selected as “proof” of its supremacy. The other four outcomes may be basically tied within the margin of error of the benchmark test.

Real-world testing on actual devices can, without a doubt, differ dramatically from marketing department standards. Still, based on these and other early data, AMD looks to have truly if only partially challenged Apple’s M2 monopoly and decisively trounced Intel’s Core i9 13980HX, raising more doubts about how far Intel is behind.

With that in mind, the Ryzen 7 7840U is a fully integrated laptop CPU that seems to compete in certain areas with the regular M2 processor and maybe the M2 Pro. That is a significant accomplishment. Even if the testing suite numbers are comparable, there are other factors to consider, as games forced to run on the Intel Core i9 13980HX laptop mentioned above had a severe performance drop when forced to run on battery power.

Closing Thoughts

It’s too soon to pronounce AMD’s 7784u the new heavyweight champion, capable of competing with, if not beyond, what Apple has done with its M2.

AMD understands the implications here in terms of reputation. We may assume AMD measured the parameters for their comparison table while the laptop was connected to AC power and without taking into account things like heat and battery usage. That approach seemed to me to be absolutely rational.
But let’s be clear about something. My encounters with AMD have confirmed that the company is working tirelessly to provide the best-performing technology. Unlike Intel, AMD officials are not contemptuous of Apple’s technical capabilities in my interactions with them.

The post-pandemic PC industry is now in a growth slump that is unlikely to end for several quarters. HP, Dell, and Lenovo have created some of the most attractive laptop designs in recent years. However, in the absence of best-in-class CPUs, consumers and business customers may be prepared to seek non-Windows options, despite Apple’s normally higher costs.

If AMD’s 7840U performs as expected, it will provide a much-needed boost to the Windows laptop market. Nobody wants any firm, even Apple, to function in a vacuum.

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