AMD’s been having a moment in the PC space. Actually, it’s been a five-year moment for the company that started with the first generation Threadripper desktop processor and has been getting even better as time has gone on. The company’s Zen architecture has been integral to bringing AMD back into the fight with its Ryzen chips. Through dogged work and innovation, AMD has beaten some of its biggest rivals to the punch, bringing some of the first 7 and 5-nanometer chips to market.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jason Banta, Corporate Vice President and General Manager, Client OEM for AMD about the company’s current renaissance and it’s plan for the future for laptops, desktops and beyond. Read on to learn more about AMD’s plan to appear in even more laptops in the coming years.
AMD’s recently revealed its Ryzen 7000 desktop chips alongside some of the mobile chips. Instead of going after the high-performance market, the 7020 class of products has its sights set on the mainstream audience. It’s a solid strategy for AMD as it looks to get even more of its chipsets into a wider range of laptops. Plus, it plays into the company’s playbook of giving more performance for less. However, the 7020 utilizes the company’s Zen 2 architecture instead of the Zen 3 or upcoming Zen 4 architecture. But there’s a method to AMD’s madness.
Banta elaborates, “There is a really strong need for you know, a more affordable mainstream product and the notebook space. When somebody goes and buys a notebook in that space. We don't want that to be an extreme sacrifice of performance or capability. So what we did is we brought our Zen 2 architecture, one of our very high end CPU core lines, as well as our RDNA 2 graphics product line. We brought that together in a mainstream product, bringing all the latest video and collaboration capabilities and productivity and brought that into mainstream notebooks, not just the premium space so more people can really access that performance that people know from the Ryzen brand.”
So while it’s all but certain that AMD will be playing in the premium space sooner rather than later, it’s good to see them take this approach, especially in the current economy. Not everyone has the $2,000-$4,000 for a tricked-out gaming laptop, but they potentially have the funding for a jack-of-all-trades system. Something that can deliver strong gaming and multitasking performance with a healthy battery life.
It’s a sound plan. One that Anshel Sag, Principal Analyst, Smartphones, Wireless, PC, 5G & XR agrees with. “I think AMD needs to continue to focus on innovation and delivering value to consumers. One of the biggest mistakes companies make when they become leaders is starting to squeeze users too hard on pricing. That opens them up to their competitors, taking away their share and eventually winning consumers away.”
And speaking of battery life, it’s something that AMD has excelled in over the past few years. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 knocked our socks off with a battery life of 11:32 awhile back, crowning itself as our longest lasting gaming laptop. It’s a great look for AMD, one that the company wants to repeat in the commercial space.
“[W]e're gonna continue investing here as we move from seven nanometer, six nanometer to five nanometer or four nanometer, says Banta. “As we keep going into more and more advanced technologies. We're gonna see that battery life improve, and the architecture improve and so we're going to keep investing in that space, and make sure battery life is a strong part of our story.”
Another place that AMD has been winning is its Advantage line of laptops. These all-AMD systems not only sport an AMD CPU and Radeon RX GPUs, they also have the company’s Smart Technologies. A proprietary suite of software. It’s a multipronged approach designed to squeeze out every bit of responsiveness, performance and endurance. Laptop has reviewed a few of these systems including the Alienware m17 R5, which stood toe-to-toe with the competition.
Sag agrees and sees the program as the potential keys of success for the company. “I have been very impressed with what they did with the Alienware m17 AMD Advantage laptop and I think that kind of platform-level innovation will really help them to compete more with Intel who is an incumbent in the space.”
And according to Banta, AMD Advantage is only getting started. “We are expecting to see a lot more Advantage notebooks in the market…[A]s we grow our portfolio and CPU space, we've grown our portfolio in the Radeon space, particularly in notebooks. We're seeing more opportunities to bring those Advantage solutions to bear. So are you know the percentage basis and total number, expect those Advantage systems to grow into ‘23 as well as in the ‘24.”
And while gaming is in AMD’s (R)DNA, the company also has its eyes on other spaces such as business and content creation. Which, if the company is looking to increase its presence in the mobile space is vital. So far, we’ve only seen AMD in action in gaming rigs and a few commercial systems. However, I’d love to see AMD in more of the ultrabook market in laptops like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360. With AMD’s proven battery longevity, it could be a big win for mobile professionals.
“It would be nice to see an ultra-low power platform from AMD,” says Sag “but that might require them adopting ARM cores or RISC-V and I'm not sure how much appetite they have for that yet.”
AMD has heard your requests and they’re definitely working on it.
“We're very, very passionate about, you know, business users, business notebooks, professional notebooks, that commercial space is a place where we're growing as well, states Banta. “Ultra-thins, we’re very passionate about that space as people are more mobile now. And you know, using portable notebooks…need longer battery life, etc…So we've invested there and really, really tried to understand that audience what they care about, because it's changing there.”
So what does the future hold for AMD? It’s a foregone conclusion that AMD is looking to expand beyond gaming, the market all but demands it. Plus, with the current state of the economy, it makes sense to show up in a wider range of systems –– not just the one-offs we’ve got from OEMs over the years. The last few years have been a case study in what the company can do in the mobile games space, but according to Sag, the company’s future definitely lies in gaming and beyond.
“I think for AMD it will be a combination of high-performance, business and thin and light consumer. I would expect them to continue to expand design wins across all categories and serve as a valid alternative to Intel in many scenarios.”
One place AMD has its eyes on is the nascent foldables market. It’s an area that’s ripe for innovation in not only form factor, but components and software.
“…[Y]ou see foldable screens – you see all types of new things coming out. So we’re going to continue investing there; our position is to be at the forefront of those types of forms,” states Banta. “So over the course of the next year, we’ve got some very, very interesting, unique industrial designs that are going to be coming out – some stuff we’ll talk about at CES and so on. We lean into that more. Previously, you saw AMD fairly consistently in more of the clamshell and convertible-style designs, but now – more of those cutting edge, avant-garde-type form factors – you’re going to see more of those going forward.”