This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.
Based on its CES 2022 product announcements, it looks like a busy beginning of the year for AMD, with a brain-melting array of something for everyone. AMD’s launch focused on better battery life while gaming, thinner gaming laptops, improved gaming performance… lots of gaming.
The company teased its next-gen Zen 4 desktop processor launch and a forthcoming desktop processor, which will incorporate its new 3D Stacking technology’s dual caches (a big 3D V-cache and the standard cache). It introduced a Radeon RX 6000S series of mobile GPUs for thin-and-light gaming laptops and an expansion of its RX 6000M series offering improvements as a result of switching to a 6-nanometer process.
There are also the Ryzen 6000 and Ryzen 6000 Pro mobile CPUs, based on an updated 6nm Zen 3 Plus architecture and with newer RDNA 2-based integrated GPUs. And AMD showed off a low-end desktop graphics card, the Radeon RX 6500 XT, aimed at what used to be the sub-$200 price class (but who knows these days). And those are just the highlights.
What’s coming to your PC
The entry-level Radeon RX 6500 XT desktop graphics card, for 1080p-class gaming, ships on Jan. 19 with 16GB GDDR6 memory and 16 compute units — that’s half the processors of the RX 6600 XT. The base price is theoretically $199, but who knows. I’ll bang my head against that wall when I come to it. ($199 is roughly £150 or AU$280, but converted prices won’t necessarily reflect international pricing.) There’s a model specific to prebuilt systems as well, the RX 6400. People, please replace your GTX 1060 already, so we can finally stop hearing about why everyone should from Intel, AMD and Nvidia.
AMD dropped a couple of hints about its next generation of Ryzen CPU architecture, the 5nm Zen 4, which will likely launch in the second half of this year. Those hints include a new AM5 socket (so you’ll need new motherboards instead of upgrading your current one), plus chipset support for PCIe 5 and DDR5 RAM. The company expressed no plans to move to a hybrid architecture combining performance and efficiency cores (a la Apple’s M1 or Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake) in the near future, saying it’s happy with the performance and efficiency it’s seen from Zen 4 thus far.
And by June we’ll most likely get the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, an eight-core gaming CPU for 105-watt power-targeted systems (mainstream gaming) which it claims outperforms both the Ryzen 9 5900X and more or less ties with the Intel Core i9-12900K for 1080p. Its secret is the 3D-stacked chip architecture AMD announced in May last year.
The company’s new Ryzen 6000 CPUs come in the usual flavors, with a couple of U-series options for general thin-and-light systems (15 to 28 watts), a few HS-series CPUs for thin gaming systems (35 watts), a couple of H CPUs for mainstream gaming laptops (45 watts) and two HX versions for high-end gaming laptops (45 watts and up). Notably, AMD’s Ryzen 9 6980HX and 6980HS are both capable of hitting 5GHz boost frequency, a first for the company on any consumer platform.
|CPU||Cores/threads||Clock (base/max boost, GHz)||GPU cores||Cache||Power target||Architecture|
|Ryzen 9 6980HX||8/16||3.3/5||12/RDNA 2||20MB||45W+||6nm Zen 3 Plus|
|Ryzen 9 6980HS||8/16||3.3/5||12/RDNA 2||20MB||35W||6nm Zen 3 Plus|
|Ryzen 9 6900HX||8/16||3.3/4.9||12/RDNA 2||20MB||45W+||6nm Zen 3 Plus|
|Ryzen 7 6800H||8/16||3.2/4.7||12/RDNA 2||20MB||45W||6nm Zen 3 Plus|
|Ryzen 7 6800HS||8/16||3.3/4.5||12/RDNA 2||20MB||35W||6nm Zen 3 Plus|
|Ryzen 5 6600H||6/12||3.3/4.5||6/RDNA 2||19MB||45W||6nm Zen 3 Plus|
|Ryzen 5 6600HS||6/12||3.3/4.5||6/RDNA 2||19MB||35W||6nm Zen 3 Plus|
|Ryzen 7 6800U||8/16||2.7/4.7||12/RDNA 2||20MB||15-28W||6nm Zen 3 Plus|
|Ryzen 5 6600U||6/12||2.9/4.5||6/RDNA 2||19MB||15-28W||6nm Zen 3 Plus|
|Ryzen 7 5825U||8/16||2/4.5||8/Vega||20MB||15W||7nm Zen 3|
|Ryzen 5 5625U||6/12||2/4.5||7/Vega||19MB||15W||7nm Zen 3|
|Ryzen 3 5425U||4/8||2.7/4.1||6/Vega||10MB||15W||7nm Zen 3|
The Zen 3 Plus update and 6nm process bring a host of power management upgrades that give rise to AMD’s claim of up to 24 hours of battery life, though that’s something companies have frequently promised over the years and rarely achieved. Integrated RDNA 2-generation graphics also mean hardware ray-tracing acceleration. That’s new for laptops but I doubt it will make that much of a difference based on the desktop cards; the faster clock speeds and larger memory cache are far more important.
Other features that come with the new platform include support for DDR5 and LPDDR5 memory, USB 4, PCIe 4, Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, FreeSync support via the integrated graphics and HDMI 2.1. It’s also DisplayPort 2-ready, which probably means it’ll need a firmware update when displays with DisplayPort 2 ship. I doubt many systems will actually ship with DDR5, since it’s still in short supply and expensive.
Along with CPUs, AMD has introduced a new set of mobile graphics processors, including a new line of lower-power S series versions starting with the RX 6800S, 6700S and 6600S. The aim is to bring an AMD option to thin-and-lightish gaming systems for high-quality 1080p play starting at around 80 frames per second (or midquality 1440p). Note that AMD considers a “light” design to be under 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms), so pay attention to screen sizes.
The company has also expanded the 6000M download with less expensive, 35-watt targeted options, the RX 6500M and RX 6300M, to compete with Nvidia’s MX chips and RTX 3050 as well as Intel’s rumored upcoming Arc discrete laptop graphics. At the pricier end, there are also new 6nm upgrades of current M-series GPUs that AMD says deliver a bump in speed and efficiency. They’re the Radeon RX 6850M XT, RX 6650M XT and RX 6650M.
AMD’s Adrenalin driver-and-more software for its GPUs will soon be getting Radeon Super Resolution as well, its upscaling tech that can work with any game, not just specifically supported ones as is the case for its higher-end FidelityFX Super Resolution. That means it will work with the integrated graphics of the new chips (the ones with RDNA 2), so you can get better frame rates while running on battery or in systems without a discrete GPU.
AMD Advantage gets smarter
Last May AMD rolled out its AMD Advantage program, which sets out the minimum set of all-AMD components and features a laptop needs to be considered a flagship AMD partner design. New components mean new criteria, so now an AA laptop has to incorporate the processors announced today (RDNA 2 graphics and Zen 3 Plus architecture) a FreeSync Premium display (which means 1080p at 144Hz or better or higher resolutions with a refresh of 120Hz or better), PCIe 4 storage and at least 16GB of dual-channel DDR5 memory.
Laptops also need to implement the company’s added Smart technologies. Those include SmartShift Max, which can shuffle power as needed between the CPU and GPU in supported games to maximize speed where you need it most. AMD claims the new technology gets up to twice the boost of its original SmartShift. There’s also a new Smart Access Graphics architecture, which intelligently switches the display connection between integrated and discrete graphics processors (a convenient change that uses less power than the typical hybrid graphics design) and SmartShift Eco, which can automatically switch between the two GPUs when it detects you’ve disconnected your power adapter. Taken together, they all promise better gaming performance and improved battery life while gaming.
The first AMD Advantage laptops, announced Tuesday, are the Alienware M17 Ryzen Edition R5 and Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. The Alienware will be available with up to the Ryzen 9 6980HX and RX 6850M XT, and it’ll be the first system to ship with SmartAccess Graphics. The Zephyrus G14 will be a thin-and-light gaming laptop with up to the RX 6800S GPU. Other models will be available from custom PC builders, who buy their laptops from equipment manufacturers such as Origin PC.
As usual, there are also Pro variants of the various processors. This is the first generation of AMD’s Ryzen Pro to incorporate Microsoft Pluton support into its own security stack. Pluton is an on-chip security technology with memory encryption that’s supplied by Microsoft and which therefore gets the company’s weekly patches and updates via the operating system. That could allow vulnerabilities to be patched more consistently and it could simplify the updates and fixes for manufacturers.
Lenovo’s new line of ThinkPad Z laptops will be the first AMD models to add Pluton using a Ryzen 7 Pro CPU.