Ever since AMD launched their Zen Architecture a few years ago, enthusiasts have been cheering the return of the giant. In 2017, I helped my brother build a PC with a Ryzen 5 processor, and the Ryzen hype has only grown stronger since. Most people who are building desktop PC now are either using Ryzen or at least considering Ryzen as an option. However, the adoption of Ryzen processors in laptops has been slow until recently.
Laptop vs. Desktop: Two Vastly Different Market
Because Laptops come in small form factors, enthusiasts usually don’t build them, as it would be highly impractical. In general, engineers or industry professionals draw laptop to cater to different markets and customers. You have your typical consumer laptops, premium laptops, business laptops, and gaming laptops.
The first generation of Ryzen laptop CPU was a moderate success but didn’t really put shade on the then new 8th Generation Intel Core CPU. The consensus was that Intel was still the better option and that AMD CPU made for good budgets option.
Better, yet often ignored
Fast-forward 2 generations and the AMD lineup is now beating ahead by a considerable margin. Well, at least when it comes to performance and battery life. For content creators and CAD designers, the offer is especially compelling. For instance, the AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS is the most performant laptop CPU on the market, beating its Intel competitor by at least 25%. The 4900HS is also extremely energy efficient for such a powerful design, making it an ideal compromise power user on the go. Yet, only a few laptops will feature the chip.
Indeed, AMD has always struggled with the laptop market and things are slow to change. This isn’t good news, because Intel has been raising prices on consumers for incremental improvements in the last few years. Competition at a level playing field is the only thing that can prevent that.
A Long-Standing Anti-AMD Culture
Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t know much about AMD and is more likely to buy a notebook with an Intel processor. After all, they were always told that Intel was best. “If it’s not an i, I’m am not getting it,” I heard verbatim at a store. Trust me, these beliefs that AMD processors are for children have been reinforced for decades.
In the early to mid-2000s, even when AMD was ruthlessly beating Intel on raw performance, Intel still held a far greater market share. The ridiculous amount of Pentium 4 still available on the used market some 20 years later is all the evidence we need.
At around the same time, my Computer Science teacher told me to “stay away from AMD products”. He said that they were poorly optimized for certain applications and ran hot”. Ironic given that Intel was releasing chips that were better suited at heating your office than at performing computations.
Here’s Hoping for Some Progress … Somewhere Down the Road.
If AMD Notebooks are cheaper than their Intel counterparts, they also feel cheaper. For instance, many AMD laptops on the market lack Thunderbolt 3 or have lower quality display options. However, this time around more manufacturers are offering AMD options, Lenovo, Asus, Dell Acer, HP and even Microsoft are set to release devices equipped with AMD Silicon. In the next few years, we could hope, see a rather compelling line-up.
In my opinion, USB4 could shift the momentum in AMD’s favour. You see, Thunderbolt 3 is the technology that everyone is raving about right now, and it just so happens that it was developed by Intel and Apple. It allows users to daisy-chain devices, connect to external monitors, and even use an external graphic’s card.
While it is perfectly possible the implement it on Ryzen motherboard, up until recently, you still had to pay royalties to Intel. In contrast, USB4 is pretty much a royalty-free implementation of Thunderbolt 3 as opposed to a new standard.
Once laptops equipped with USB 4 hit the market, it will be far easier for manufacturers to make premium AMD machines… If they WANT to. While Intel may have lost Apple, the battle for PC laptops is far from over, and it might take a while before competition truly benefits consumers.
Compelling Laptops Options
I’ve included a few interesting laptops with Rizen processors. These are machines I’d actually considered buying if I was on the market for a new device.
Asus ‘Rog’ Zepherus G14
The Zepherus G14 is one of the few laptops that sport a 4900HS so far. While it is at its core a gaming Laptop, it looks fairly classy. It is certainly a device I could picture myself bringing at the office, as opposed to one of those LOUD red and orange notebooks college ‘gamers’ love to show off. The keyboard is also pretty good, it’s no ThinkPad, but it’s certainly better than an XPS13. The only downside is that it it doesn’t come with a webcam, but you’re often better off with an aftermarket one.
Shout out to Lisa Gabe from MobileTechReview, who’s my favourite reviewer. She has been in the industry for decades.
ThinkPad T14 (AMD)
If you know me, you know I can’t stop praising ThinkPads and the T series needs no introduction. They have the best keyboards on the market. Unfortunately, this model is equipped with 15-watt Ultrabook Processors that are better suited for light use than heavy workloads. That being said, AMD’s Ultrabook chips have a bit more juice than Intel’s and can work for occasional video editing. My ideal ThinkPad would feature the aforementioned 4900HS, but if we keep pressuring Lenovo, maybe someday they’ll listen. Always choose the t14 over the T14s, they are thicker, but have better cooling.
Legion 5 (AMD)
This is probably the closest thing you’re going to get to a ThinkPad with AMD 4600HS. No, it doesn’t have the same outstanding build quality. No, it probably won’t survive a drop from a flight of stairs. But it does have a keyboard that is very close to ThinkPads.