AMD Launches Picasso APUs in the 3000 series, as well as New H-Series and A-Series Processors

As anticipated, AMD updated its mobile lineup with second-generation Ryzen 3000 Picasso APUs for the 3, 5, and 7 series. Additionally, AMD released a new Athlon U-Series processor.

Two new high-performance H-series chips for mainstream gaming laptops, signaling AMD’s entry into this key market, and two new Athlon A-Series models that unexpectedly target the Chromebook market are among the other new chips from AMD.

AMD also responded to recent customer complaints regarding drivers for existing Ryzen Mobile components, which are currently only available from OEMs. Now, all Radeon software updates apply to all Ryzen Mobile Laptops, including models from prior generations. Customers will be able to obtain bug fixes and day-zero game drivers directly from AMD upon their release.

We anticipate that AMD will make additional announcements regarding the progress of its 7nm processors during Lisa Su’s keynote. For now, let’s discuss the new chips, but be sure to check back on January 9 at 9:00 a.m. PT for keynote coverage.

Picasso APUs — Ryzen 7, 5, and 3, as well as a brand-new Athlon for Good Measure

The Ryzen Mobile 3, 5, and 7 processors feature Zen+ CPU cores and Vega graphics cores in an SoC (System-on-Chip) configuration. The chips have the same basic design as the first-generation Raven Ridge processors, but as we’ve seen with the refreshed Ryzen desktop models, AMD has upgraded the cores compared to the original Zen design. AMD claims that the optimized designs offer up to 8% more CPU and GPU performance than their predecessors in the Raven Ridgeline.

Cores/Threads TDP Base / Boost Freq. (GHz) Graphics Graphics Base / Boost (MHz) L3 Cache Memory Process Architecture
Ryzen 7 3750H 4 / 8 35W 2.3 / 4.0 Radeon Vega 10 Up to 1,400 6MB DDR4-2400 12nm GloFo Zen+
Ryzen 7 3700U 4 / 8 15W 2.3 / 4.0 Radeon Vega 10 Up to 1,400 6MB DDR4-2400 12nm GloFo Zen+
Ryzen 7 2700U 4 / 8 12 – 25W (15W) 2.2 / 3.8 Radeon Vega 10 Up to 1,300 4MB DDR4-2400 14nm GloFo Zen
Ryzen 5 3550H 4 / 8 35W 2.1 / 3.7 Radeon Vega 8 Up to 1,200 6MB DDR4-2400 12nm GloFo Zen+
Ryzen 5 3500U 4 / 8 15W 2.1 / 3.7 Radeon Vega 8 Up to 1,200 6MB DDR-2400 12nm GloFo Zen+
Ryzen 5 2500U 4  / 8 12 – 25W (15W) 2.0 / 3.6 Radeon Vega 8 Up to 1,100 4MB DDR4-2400 14nm GloFo Zen
Ryzen 3 3300U 4 / 4 15W 2.1 / 3.5 Radeon Vega 8 Up to 1,200 6MB DDR4-2400 12nm GloFo Zen+
Ryzen 3 2300U 4 / 4 15W 2 / 3.4 Radeon Vega 6 Up to 1,100 4MB DDR4-2400 14nm GloFo Zen
Ryzen 3 3200U 2 / 4 15W 2.6 / 3.5 Radeon Vega 3 Up to 1,200 5MB DDR4-2400 12nm GloFo Zen+
Ryzen 3 2200U 2 / 4 15W 2.5 / 3.4 Radeon Vega 3 Up to 1,100 MHz 4MB DDR4-2400 14nm GloFo Zen
AMD Athlon 300U 2 / 4 15W 2.4 / 3.3 Radeon Vega 3 Up to 1,000 5MB DDR4-2400 12nm GloFo Zen+

Zen+ incorporates more sophisticated multi-core boost algorithms that provide a performance boost for routine desktop tasks, as well as reduced cache and memory latency. AMD also migrated from the Global Foundries 14nm node to the 12nm process, which provides higher clock speeds within the same power range despite not conferring any density advantages (meaning the transistors still have the same dimensions).

Although the new process is not smaller, design optimizations enable 100 to 200MHz of additional speed for the CPU cores (and 100MHz for the Vega cores) across the Picasso stack. Similar to the previous generation of Raven Ridge processors, the Ryzen 7 and 5 models feature four cores and eight threads, while one quad-core Ryzen 3 model lacks threading. Additionally, the two-pronged Ryzen 3 family includes two dual-core quad-thread components.

AMD increased the L3 cache size to 6MB for the Ryzen 7 and 5 models and split the Ryzen 3 chips into 6MB and 5MB variants based on the number of cores. As was the case previously, the chips support dual-channel DDR4-2400 memory.

The processors also include Vega graphics cores with speeds ranging from 1,000 MHz on the entry-level Athlon 300U to 1,400 MHz on the high-end Ryzen 7 3750H. AMD also segments based on the number of graphics compute units (CU), with models featuring Radeon Vega 3 graphics offering 3 CU, Vega 10 graphics offering 10 CU, etc.

AMD has not indicated when it will release PIB (Product-In-Box) variants for use in standard desktop computers.

AMD has provided its performance benchmarks that compare the new chips favorably to Intel’s Core i5-8250U in office applications and gaming on integrated graphics. As with any vendor-supplied benchmarks, these should be treated with caution.

The Ryzen H-Series

The new AMD Ryzen H-series processors are the most intriguing addition. AMD is testing the gaming laptop market, so the company increased the TDP of its H-Series processors to 35W. The H-series chips have the same number of CPU cores, 6MB of L3 cache, Vega graphics cores, and base/boost frequencies as the U-series chips.

The higher TDP rating permits the processor to operate in turbo mode more frequently and for longer durations. AMD anticipates that OEMs will pair this processor with discrete graphics cards to power mainstream gaming notebooks, so the fine-grained power delivery system now allocates a larger portion of the available power budget to the CPU cores rather than the Vega graphics.

Additionally, AMD revealed specifications for one of the first laptops to be released with an H-Series processor. Unfortunately, many laptops and notebooks with Ryzen processors continue to include lower-end components, such as hard drives instead of SSDs and low- to mid-quality panels, but the ASUS TUF Gaming notebook delivers a Radeon RX560X 4GB and a FreeSync-capable IPS panel. Additionally, up to 32GB of DDR4-2400 and a 256GB NVMe SSD are available, making this the type of platform AMD has been sorely lacking.

Given the similarities in specifications between the H-Series and the U-Series, it is easy to conclude that the new H-Series is more of a branding move to convince OEMs to make higher-end notebooks with Ryzen processors than a significant upgrade over the U-Series. In any case, the H-Series is a welcome addition to the Ryzen Mobile product line, particularly if it encourages hesitant OEMs to create premium designs. In the first quarter of 2019, these new products will be released.

Here Come the Chromebooks Powered by AMD

Cores / Threads TDP (Typ.) Base / Boost GHz Radeon Graphics GPU Cores GPU Frequency
AMD A6-9200C 2 / 2 6W 1.8 / 2.7 R5 Series 3 / 192 (GCN 1.2) 720 MHz
AMD A4-9120C 2 / 2 6W 1.6 / 2.4 R4 Series 3 / 192 (GCN 1.2) 600 MHz

To compete in the Chromebook market, AMD is reviving its older 28nm process and Bristol Ridge architecture. The two new A-Series processors do not utilize the 12nm Zen+ manufacturing process. Instead, they represent a gradual evolution of the existing Carrizo, which produces Excavator cores. Bristol Ridge APUs utilize a 28nm process and Polaris-style GCN (Graphics Core Next) cores, indicating that these chips are based on an aging architecture.

It is therefore surprising that AMD has managed to reduce the A-Series below the 6W threshold and enter the Chromebook market. Two cores and two threads are paired with three Radeon R5 or R4 graphics cores on each of the dual-core processors. AMD claims that the new A-Series processors meet the 10-hour battery life requirements for Chromebooks and address a strategic need to extend its product stack deeper into the low-power market to compete with Intel’s Pentium and Celeron processors.

The Competitive Landscape

AMD presented slides illustrating how the notebook market is shifting to place a greater emphasis on Chromebooks, premium, and mainstream devices. AMD states that it is targeting the mainstream and premium segments, which will result in increased sales of processors with high margins. AMD also reports 33% more design wins with OEMs in 2019. Now it has H-Series processors to compete at the high end and A-Series processors to compete at the low end. That should pave the way for further expansion.

However, there are some exceptions. We would have expected AMD to make battery life claims for the Picasso APUs, given the advantages of the more efficient manufacturing process. Perhaps AMD chose to prioritize performance over battery life, but this is an area where the company should strive to improve.

Infuriatingly, OEMs have continued to bring Ryzen Mobile products to market with subpar panels and storage options, among other shortcomings. It appears that AMD’s strategy with the H-Series is to encourage OEMs to improve their Ryzen notebook performance.

Moreover, AMD requires a secure foothold in the notebook market. The company has made significant gains in the desktop PC market, even extending Zen to lower price points with its new Athlon processors, but the notebook segment accounts for two-thirds of the entire client market, making it strategically significant.

Intel claims that 10nm chips will be commercially available (in volume) by the end of 2019, and these are widely anticipated to debut in notebooks. We fully anticipate that AMD’s desktop PC processors will utilize the 7nm process this year, giving the company its first-ever process lead over Intel. However, the timing of AMD’s 12nm refresh suggests that the company will not bring its 7nm chips to the notebook market this year, whereas Intel plans to release notebooks with 10nm processors by the holidays. Intel and AMD will therefore continue to compete with their current process nodes for the majority of the year, assuming Intel can keep its processors in stock despite its limited production capacity.

Regarding the remainder of AMD’s anticipated announcements, which will likely be made during Lisa Su’s keynote, check back on January 9 at 9 am PT for additional coverage.

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