At last weeks Microsoft event an new AMD APU was announced powering the 15” Surface Laptop 3. There is also an Intel Ice Lake variant, but what we’ve never seen before is AMD being positioned as more premium than Intel. It’s only available in the 15” version and it’s $200 more expensive than the Intel version. The “Surface Edition” APU is a modest tweak to AMD’s existing product. It comes with 11 Vega graphics units in a 15W TDP, when all of AMD’s other parts in this segment have either 10 GPU units in 15W or 11 units in 35W. And it’s just the beginning of a long term hardware collaboration between the two companies.
According to Anandtech, who interviewed two AMD executives, Jack Huynh and Sebastien Nussbaum. AMD is working with Microsoft on a multi-year product life cycle that covers multiple hardware generations, as well as multiple products. The reason Microsoft used a relatively modest Ryzen CPU is that’s the chip AMD knew it would have available when Microsoft and AMD started the design process over two years ago.
According to AMD, working with Microsoft as a semi-custom partner means providing them with additional knobs and dials to turn, both during the hardware design phase and while co-developing drivers and software for the platform. The two companies apparently worked closely together in areas like power efficiency and voltage control. Between 50-70 percent of this work has benefited or will benefit the larger Ryzen Mobile ecosystem.
AMD Ryzen Surface Edition tech specs
Ryzen 5 3580U
|Ryzen 7 3780U|
Vega GPU cores
Max boost clock
The Ryzen Surface Edition is made up of two parts, the CPU and GPU, and both have their own importance. The GPU is the significant hardware change compared to other Ryzen laptops in that Microsoft gets an additional GPU core on both the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7. Microsoft gets Vega 9 and Vega 11 on the Ryzen 5 and 7 respectively, whereas everyone else “only” gets Vega 8 and Vega 10. While one additional core doesn’t make a massive difference, it still makes a difference, and considering how good AMD’s integrated graphics are, the more cores you can get the better.
The Vega GPU cores are paired with four Ryzen CPU cores with eight threads. The CPU cores are still based on AMD’s previous generation architecture, the 12nm Zen+, not the new 7nm Zen 2. The base and boost clocks appear to be the same as the non-Surface Edition chips they’re based on.
What Microsoft’s work with AMD means in terms of raw power is around 1.2 teraflops performance at peak, which is the equivalent of an Xbox One. This power is more geared toward creator tasks, like video editing and photo processing, but it should also be able to power some recent games at lower resolutions and settings. We’ll need to test it fully to find out what it’s really capable of, with the extra cores over similar Ryzen chips, and whether Microsoft and AMD have really nailed battery life here. We’re still skeptical of “All day battery life” but we’re always hopeful that someone will live up to this claim in real world testing.
We hope that the 15” Surface Laptop 3 lives up to they hype it’s creating. Personally, I upgrade my notebook every 2 years and this is the year that my Surface Book Performance base says good-bye. I’m not thrilled that I can’t flip the screen away of my Surface Laptop 3, I do like to do that when I’m watching Netflix. I don’t own a TV, so the work like device the tablet mode provided is something I liked. However, I can get over it, as long as this beast packs the punch I need when I’m editing video.
Pre-orders are on now and availability starts on Oct 22nd!