This year we’ll see an historic fight for laptops, as AMD’s first truly competitive mobile CPU seeks to dethrone Intel’s decades-long dominance. Although full details of AMD’s mobile Ryzen 4000 chips aren’t known—and Intel has two more cards to play this year in Tiger Lake U and Comet Lake H—we think we can forecast what to expect if you’re looking for a new laptop. Join us as we make odds on who will win this match, looking at performance and battery life potential for both ultraportable (sub-three-pound) and heavier-weight (gaming/workhorse) laptops.

AMD’s weigh-in: AMD has announced a total of seven 7nm Ryzen 4000 CPUs to attack the two popular categories of ultraportable and gaming/workhorse laptops. Both of the new Ryzen 7 CPUs, the 15-watt Ryzen 7 4800U and the 45-watt Ryzen 7 4800H, feature 8 cores and 16 threads. All of AMD’s CPUs will feature a new optimized Radeon graphics cores using its Vega cores. They are, in fact, identical CPUs, tuned differently for cooling and power.

Intel’s weigh-in: When AMD-based laptops arrive, they’ll likely have to contend first with Intel’s 10nm 10th-gen “Ice Lake” laptops, with the top-dog Core i7-1065G7 featuring 4 cores and 8 threads, as well some 14nm-based Comet Lake U laptops featuring up to 6 cores and 12 threads. On the gaming/workhorse laptop front, Intel has its 9th-gen Core i7 and Core i9 lineup of “H-class” 45-watt chips, featuring up to 6 cores and 12 threads in Core i7, and up to 8 cores and 16 threads in Core i9.

ryzen 4000 vs core IDG

Intel and AMD’s top contenders for each class of CPU.

Platforms matter: It’s not just a CPU

One thing you should remember as we actually see laptops based on Ryzen 4000 CPUs, as well as Intel’s upcoming Tiger Lake U and Comet Lake H, is the fact that they are just platforms. You cannot simply say one CPU is better than the other without factoring in the laptop around it, and how it’s optimized for that CPU. You also shouldn’t compare an ultraportable, sub-three-pound laptop’s performance against a six-pound gaming/workhorse slab. Larger and heavier laptops generally have far more cooling and power potential, to push that CPU harder.

Still, if you generally try to balance one similarly configured laptop against the other, we feel comfortable saying which is likely to have the advantage over the other. And remember: Weight does matter, so we’ll render separate forecasts for ultraportable and gaming/workhorse laptops

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Single-threaded performance in ultraportable laptops

AMD’s own tests already put the Ryzen 7 4800U ahead of Intel’s most advanced Core i7-1065G7 in single-threaded performance, by a close margin of 4 percent. For most people, that’s a tie—but a moral victory for AMD.

Where it gets a little tricky is Intel’s odd circumstance of selling new 10th-gen, 10nm Ice Lake CPUs alongside “10th-gen,” 14nm Comet Lake CPUs. Although still based on Intel’s older 14nm process, these mature chips can run at clock speeds up to 20 percent faster than those in Intel’s 10nm chips. There’s a good chance that Intel’s Comet Lake U chips can slightly outperform both Intel’s 10nm chips and AMD’s 7nm chips in light-duty tasks.

Odds in favor of: AMD unless it’s Comet Lake U



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