Just a few years ago, you could barely find a laptop with an AMD chip. Then, they started sprouting up in a few of the best notebooks you could buy. Now, AMD says its chips will feature in 200 different laptop models in 2022 — and with the just revealed “Mendocino,” announced at Computex 2022, it’s trying to “redefine the everyday laptop” as a budget machine with decent battery life.
We’ve no idea whether it’ll deliver on that notion, but what it’s promising sounds like a good start: a new series of Ryzen laptop chips that combine four last-gen Zen 2 CPU cores with the latest RDNA 2 graphics on TSMC’s 6nm process to deliver over 10 hours of battery life on a charge — all for a price between $399 and $699. That includes both Windows machines and Chromebooks.
Now, you’re probably wondering: what does 10 hours actually mean? It could mean anything; manufacturers quote outrageous battery life estimates all the time. But we at least have a frame of reference here: “Most people are used to four, five, six hours on a notebook in the $399 to $699 space,” says AMD technical marketing director Robert Hallock. “At a minimum, we want 10 hours out of these notebooks.”
If I’m being honest, the announcement gives me a little bit of déjà vu — a decade ago at the very same Computex tradeshow, AMD was similarly trying to pitch a quad-core chip with better battery life and better graphics as the way to stop being seen as the cheapo alternative to Intel.
But back then, laptop manufacturers didn’t take the company seriously. Now, it’s clear the company has clout as those manufacturers introduce laptop after AMD powered laptop. That includes one AMD says has the longest battery life ever measured on a recent benchmark (the HP Elitebook 865 G9, of which one particular configuration managed 26.1 hours of battery life on MobileMark 2018), and an array of new gaming machines with both AMD CPUs and AMD graphics, which it’s branded “AMD Advantage.”
One of those catches the eye: Corsair is pulling a Razer this year by launching its first-ever gaming laptop, the Corsair Voyager — an AMD exclusive.
It’s the “first laptop ever designed to be a truly mobile streaming solution,” says AMD gaming boss Frank Azor, thanks in part to a secondary touchscreen that acts like an Elgato Stream Deck you can easily take on the go. (Corsair bought both Elgato and Origin PC a few years back.) The main display is a 16-inch, 240Hz panel with FreeSync Premium.
There’s also a new 16-inch Lenovo Legion Slim 7 with a 99.99Wh battery at 17mm thick, a non-slim version that has force sensors built into its WASD keys, and a new version of the HP Omen 16 that, while mostly identical physically, is the first laptop to ship with a feature called AMD SmartShift Eco that can automatically shift to integrated graphics for longer battery life in a game — 60 percent longer in League of Legends, they claim.
Some cheating detected
The fine print does suggest AMD cheated a tad there, though, dropping the graphics down to medium and setting the laptop to “Best Battery” mode (compared to high spec and “Best Performance”) to get that result.
Similarly, AMD touts earlier in the presentation that the 2.2-pound ultralight Asus ZenBook S13 “can play triple-A games at 60fps average at 1080p” using Godfall as one example, but the fine print shows that AMD ran Godfall at low settings and with FidelityFX Super Resolution turned on — so it wasn’t really rendering a native 1080p. (FSR definitely has its uses, though.)
Still, if an ultrathin laptop like the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 Pro X can get the numbers you see below, even at low spec, that seems like a pretty decent result.
This one’s got an AMD Ryzen 6800HS and Radeon 680M graphics inside, similar to the chip that Steam Deck rivals will bring to their handheld gaming PCs starting later this year. Hopefully we’ll be able to test a number of these claims before then.