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When AMD debuted its Ryzen Mobile 4000 hardware, it announced a new feature called SmartShift. Rather than statically partition available TDP between the CPU and GPU, SmartShift allows power to shift dynamically from one to the other depending on workload. Customers have looked forward to the capability debuting on AMD laptops, but information from Frank Azor suggests they’ll either be buying a Dell laptop or waiting until 2021.
First, a quick refresher: SmartShift works because data from the dGPU is shared with the SoC, with performance and thermal data passed via PCIe.
According to AMD, the benefits of using SmartShift include performance improvements of up to 14 percent “across select games.” Even assuming the median performance improvement is smaller, OEMs will cheerfully stab each other for a five percent performance advantage over a rival. Why leave the option on the table?
According to a tweet by AMD Chief Architect of Gaming Solutions, Frank Azor, only Dell will be launching a SmartShift laptop in 2020, in the form of the already-debuted Dell G5 15 SE. According to him, the performance of AMD’s Ryzen APUs surprised laptop OEMs, who might have otherwise been interested in the feature.
This is a polite way of saying that the OEMs are still leery of making long-term high-end commitments to AMD in laptops and mobile. It’s not that AMD doesn’t have share in mobile, but the company’s products are focused primarily in budget and business segments. Only a minority of the Ryzen laptops expected to launch in 2020 will be gaming-centric designs.
It’s not surprising to see this reticence, given that AMD has no strong tradition of high-performance mainstream mobile solutions. What’ll be interesting is whether Dell’s G5 15 SE becomes the model everyone stampedes to follow or a cautionary tale that illustrates consumers still aren’t willing to buy AMD for mobile gaming, regardless of what they say.
The Ryzen CPU, it must be said, probably isn’t the weak link here. While AMD’s mobile solutions have historically lagged Intel, OEMs are undoubtedly familiar with how AMD has succeeded in server and desktop. Radeon Mobile, however, has not won the same success in mobile that Ryzen has enjoyed in desktop. We don’t know what kind of business AMD has done with Navi over the past 12 months, but we know Zen has had a far larger impact on AMD’s finances over the past three years.
The GPU division will get chances to make up ground this year, thanks to RDNA2, the Xbox Series X, and the PlayStation 5, but RDNA and Navi haven’t had the same level of success against Nvidia that AMD has enjoyed against Intel. Companies may be less willing to take a bet on Mobile Radeon than they have been with CPUs.
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