Comparing Intel’s Core i7 mobile chip to AMD’s Ryzen 7 mobile chip usually comes with the qualifier that every laptop implementation is different. Not this time. PCWorld had the chance to test the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 in both its Ryzen 7 and Core i7 versions, essentially identical laptops save for the CPU. This gives us the exceedingly rare opportunity to crown the best laptop processor of this generation, based on head-to head tests.

Granted, it’s not an 100-percent direct comparison. You’ll see differences in the size and manufacturer of the SSD used, for example, which has an impact on performance. Each platform has a slightly different type of Wi-Fi, which is something we didn’t test directly. And, of course, Microsoft is using the Ryzen 7 Surface Edition, a semi-custom version of AMD’s mobile Ryzen chip.

Otherwise, though, it’s pretty close: Aside from Intel’s Comet Lake, this is Intel’s 10th-gen chips up against AMD’s (current) best and brightest. Read on for our head-to-head comparison of Core i7 vs. Ryzen 7, courtesy of the Surface Laptop 3. For deeper insight on the laptops themselves, here are links to their full reviews: 

Note that the Surface Laptop 3 ships in both 13.5-inch and 15-inch configurations. Below, we’ve simply called out the specific models we tested.

Surface Laptop 3 (Ryzen 7, 15-inch) basic specs

Surface Laptop 3 15-inch Ryzen 7 primary Mark Hachman / IDG

In this corner: Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 (Ryzen 7).

Surface Laptop 3 for Business (Core i7, 15-inch) basic specs

  • Display: 15-inch (2496×1664) PixelSense, touch-enabled
  • Processor: Quad-core Core i7-1065G7 (Ice Lake)
  • Graphics: Iris Plus
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4
  • Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD
  • Ports: USB-C, USB-A, Surface Connect, 3.5mm jack
  • Camera: 720p (user-facing); Windows Hello enabled
  • Battery: 45.8Wh (as reported)
  • Wireless: 802.11ax 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
  • Dimensions: 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.57 inches (14.69 mm)
  • Weight: 3.36 pounds (tested), with charger: 4 pounds
  • Color: Platinum (metal)
  • Price: Orders start at at $1,099 at Microsoft.com; $1,599 as tested

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 Ice Lake primary Mark Hachman / IDG

And in this corner: Microsoft’ Surface Laptop 3 for Business, featuring Intel’s mobile Core i7 (Ice Lake).

What exactly is a Microsoft Ryzen Surface Edition? We’ve dedicated an entire article to explain the Surface Edition chip, but here’s the short answer: It’s a semi-custom quad-core chip with eight threads, but based on the older AMD Zen+ architecture and 12nm process. This is significant, because it’s AMD’s 7nm, Zen 2 chips that are dominating on the desktop. They’ll arrive in the mobile space in 2020.

Intel’s Ice Lake, meanwhile, is the code name for one of the new 10th-gen, 10nm Core families that Intel introduced earlier this year. (The other, Comet Lake, trades off its older “Whiskey Lake” architecture for faster clock speeds.) Intel’s said quite a bit about the Ice Lake architecture as well as its new AI capabilities. It’s also made the bold claim that its Ice Lake graphics are as good as AMD’s own. One of AMD’s historical claims to fame is the strength of its integrated GPUs. We can put that to the test today.

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Ryzen 7 versus Core i7: The battle begins

We tested head to head, with one adjustment. Microsoft configured both laptops at minimal performance levels / maximum battery even when plugged in. That’s the default configuration, and many people won’t even touch it. Still, we wanted to know what would happen if users dialed up performance to the maximum, so we tested the latter option, too.

We’ve graphed each chip’s performance—Intel in blue, and AMD in red—with the “max perf” levels outlined in black. For each, we’ll declare a winner based on the percentage difference, but only for the default, base settings. 



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