Notebookcheck

Ryzen is great — so why are most AMD notebooks embarrassingly bad?

With Ryzen, AMD has come back to the desktop market as a major competitor to Intel. But what is going on with the state of AMD-based notebooks? Generally made with absolute bottom-rung components such as 1366 x 768 TN panels and slow storage and RAM, it's clear that AMD needs to get Raven Ridge (Ryzen) into laptops as soon as possible — as well as encourage OEMs to put in a little more effort.

It's no secret that AMD is back in the desktop game. The Sunnyvale-based semiconductor company has just turned its first profit — a cool US$25 million — after nearly 6 straight years of posting losses, and it's almost all because of Ryzen. Anyone who has lent even a cursory glance at tech media over the past few months will no doubt have noticed an abundance of (rightfully) positive coverage of AMD's Ryzen series chips. While the release was a bit bumpy due to lower game benchmarks, that soon gave way to a solidly positive reception. The latest news is that Ryzen 3 is the chip to buy over Intel's Core i3 on a budget, Ryzen 5 is the choice over the Core i5 for intense CPU workloads, CPU-heavy games, and multithreaded apps — and even outside of those areas, it remains competitive while at a lower platform-cost than Intel. Ryzen 7 faced tough competition from the Core i7, especially the i7-7700K in terms of performance per dollar, but only when you look at gaming and other tasks that don't make use of the R7 1800X's 8 cores and 16 threads — silicon that would cost hundreds more to get on Intel's side. And of course, there is Threadripper, which most agree is an no-brain choice over Intel's mostly bewilderingly release of the Core i9 series. Even allowing the fact that Intel is still slightly (10-15%) faster in instructions per clock, there is no denying that Ryzen has been a great success for the company and is already an excellent start for the architecture, which can only be improved and optimized in the near future.

But, this is Notebookcheck, so you'll pardon me for asking — what's been going on in the mobile department?

Ryzen's mobile platform, Raven Ridge, has a release date for the second half of 2017. Sporting 4 cores, 8 threads, and on-die Vega graphics, Raven Ridge should be able to match up well against current Kaby-Lake offerings from Intel. However, with information on Raven Ridge and the upcoming products featuring it hard to come by, all we have at the moment are AMD's 7th generation APU, Bristol Ridge.

Bristol Ridge is based on the 2016 Carrizo platform, and as such is only a modest upgrade comprising of increased clocks and DDR4 support. Bristol Ridge's main selling points are its low pricing, presence of up to 4 physical cores, and relatively superior (to Intel's HD graphics) Radeon-based integrated graphics. Additional details about the improvements made to the Bristol Ridge architecture can be found in the following articles:

Additional Bristol Ridge APUs

A9-9420 A10-9620P A12-9720P A12-9800B
Frequency
3.0 - 3.6 GHz 2.5 - 3.4 GHz 2.7 - 3.6 GHz 2.7 - 3.6 GHz
Core/Threads
2/2 4/4 4/4 4/4
TDP
10 - 25 W 15 W 15W 15W
Graphics
R5 R5 R7 R7
Lithography
28 nm 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm

Thanks to recently being loaned some 6 notebooks sporting various Bristol Ridge configurations by Computer Upgrade King USA, we thought it would be a good opportunity to look more closely at current AMD-based laptops as a whole and determine both what space they occupy in the market and what their value proposition is to consumers. Unfortunately, the answer to these questions seems to be "at the bottom" and "not much", respectively.

Overview of Reviewed Notebooks

We reviewed 6 notebooks based on AMD's Bristol Ridge and Stoney Ridge platforms, listed below:

For the sake of comparison, we have also included the following Intel-based budget notebooks in the benchmarks:

As we'll get into soon, we found the CPUs were extremely sluggish, but unfortunately that is only one of the many problems with these laptops. Nearly every SKU reviewed was let down by low-resolution TN panels, high power consumption, cheap construction, and sluggish components. The use of slow storage and limited RAM only compounds the performance issues of the AMD APUs, leading to a frustrating and unpleasant user experience.

HP Pavilion 17z ak000 (A9-9420, Discrete Radeon 530)

The HP 17z has some decent features such as a removable battery, solid speakers, and optical drive, but its performance was abysmal. Despite boosting up to 3.6 GHz, the APU is still slower than a Core i3 in many ways. In single-threaded CineBench workloads it was equal to an i3-7100U, while multi-thread workloads put it around 20% slower than an i3-4010U. The integrated Radeon 530 is (sometimes) roughly equal to a Geforce 920MX, making it 27% faster than Intel's HD Graphics 620, but it is frequently held back in this SKU by the lethargic CPU, leading to inconsistent performance below the graphics core's expected ability.

HP Pavilion 17z (A12-9720P, Radeon R7 M340)

While this SKU of the Pavilion 17z uses a supposedly better A12 APU and (strangely) both integrated Radeon and discrete Radeon R7 M340 graphics, we found that the pairing of the CPU and GPU was again a mismatch. Despite being the most powerful APU from AMD, the CPU performance was still poor, scoring around the same as an Intel 4.5W Y-series i5-7Y54 in CineBench multi-core but was barely faster than a 4th generation Core i3-4010U in single-core performance. The R7 GPU performed decently (between a Geforce 940MX and GTX 950) but was let down by the CPU, which was outdone by low-end Intel CPUs over 3 years old.

In addition, we found the laptop suffered from numerous quality control issues, including backlight bleeding, chassis flex, and, worst of all, constant crashes — in fact, around 30% of the tasks we attempted to complete to test the laptop crashed in some way.

HP 15-bw075ax (A12-9720P)

The HP 15 utilizes AMD's newest high-end mobile APU, the quad-core A12-9720P paired with Radeon R7 on-die graphics. Its CPU performance was often eclipsed by i5-4200U and i3-7100U-equipped notebooks, with the R5 GPU providing nearly the same performance of an Iris 540.

While we were impressed with the speakers, thermals, and relative gaming performance, the experience was marred by a low-quality keyboard, screen, and overall build — not to mention numerous system crashes that disrupted our testing.

HP 15-bw077ax (A9-9420)

This HP 15 SKU utilizes the A9-9420 APU comprised of a 15W dual-core CPU running between 3-3.6 GHz with an on-die R5 GPU. Due to it's dual-core design, the A9 scored dead last in CineBench multi-core tests, with the Intel Pentium N3540 performing about 16% faster. Thanks to its relatively high boost frequency of 3.6 GHz, single-core scores were more acceptable, with speeds 17% behind an i3-7100U but at least better than a Penium N3540.

Again, we found the experience was marred by very slow (and throttling) CPU and HDD performance, not to mention the poor keyboard and display.

HP Pavilion 15z-bw000 (A10-9620P, HD)

Our Pavilion 15z review unit pairs a 15W quad-core 2.5-3.4 GHz AMD A10-9620P APU with an integrated Radeon R5 GPU. While the multi-core performance was around the level of a Haswell i5-4200U, single-core performance sees the A10 trail the i5-4200U by 20-35%.

Beyond the CPU performance, we were also let down by its plastic construction, TN display, unacceptable PWM at 99% brightness, and poor battery life.

HP EliteBook 755 G4 (AMD PRO A12-9800B)

The one bright-spot was the surprisingly decent EliteBook 755 G4. While the dual-core multi-threaded CPU on the A12-9800P was significantly slower than an i5-7200U, the integrated R7 GPU at least beats Intel's HD Graphics 620 in some benchmarks (Firestrike, though not Cloud Gate).

We appreciated the solid chassis and build quality as well as the presence of an SSD and LTE modem, which was a welcome change of pace from the other laptops reviewed. Unfortunately, the EliteBook still had a poor TN panel, weak CPU performance relative to peers, and short battery life.

If anything, the EliteBook 755 G4 showed us that a competitive notebook based on AMD's Bristol Ridge is certainly possible, despite the weak CPU performance of the platform in general. However, for that to happen, OEMs need to put a little more time and effort into putting these laptops together.

CPU Benchmarks

Below you can find CPU benchmarks from Cinebench 11, 15, and PCMark 8. The 6 AMD-based notebooks have been matched against 7 budget Intel-based options. As you may quickly note, the top of the benchmark chart is generally inhabited by Intel's CPUs while the bottom with AMD's. It is unfortunately the case that AMD's current mobile offerings are regularly bested by low-end Intel chips from 2-3 years ago.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Intel Core i7-7500U
142 Points ∼65%
Acer TravelMate P249-M-3895
Intel Core i3-6100U
98 Points ∼45%
Dell Latitude 14 3470
Intel Core i3-6100U
97 Points ∼44%
Asus VivoBook Flip TP301UA-DW006T
Intel Core i3-6100U
95 Points ∼44%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
Intel Core m3-6Y30
92 Points ∼42%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A9-9420
85 Points ∼39%
HP 15-bw075ax
AMD A12-9720P
76 Points ∼35%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
AMD PRO A12-9800B
75 Points ∼34%
HP 15-bw077ax
AMD A9-9420
75 Points ∼34%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
AMD A10-9620P
72 Points ∼33%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A12-9720P
69 Points ∼32%
Dell Latitude 3180
Intel Pentium N4200
51 Points ∼23%
Dell Inspiron 11 3162
Intel Celeron N3050
34 Points ∼16%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Intel Core i7-7500U
338 Points ∼8%
Dell Latitude 14 3470
Intel Core i3-6100U
250 Points ∼6%
Acer TravelMate P249-M-3895
Intel Core i3-6100U
250 Points ∼6%
Asus VivoBook Flip TP301UA-DW006T
Intel Core i3-6100U
244 Points ∼6%
HP 15-bw075ax
AMD A12-9720P
240 Points ∼5%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
AMD A10-9620P
230 Points ∼5%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A12-9720P
229 Points ∼5%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
AMD PRO A12-9800B
222 Points ∼5%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
Intel Core m3-6Y30
216 Points ∼5%
Dell Latitude 3180
Intel Pentium N4200
175 Points ∼4%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A9-9420
138 Points ∼3%
HP 15-bw077ax
AMD A9-9420
124 Points ∼3%
Dell Inspiron 11 3162
Intel Celeron N3050
64 Points ∼1%
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Intel Core i7-7500U
1.66 Points ∼68%
Dell Latitude 14 3470
Intel Core i3-6100U
1.11 Points ∼45%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
Intel Core m3-6Y30
1.04 Points ∼43%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A9-9420
1 Points ∼41%
HP 15-bw077ax
AMD A9-9420
0.96 Points ∼39%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A12-9720P
0.94 Points ∼39%
HP 15-bw075ax
AMD A12-9720P
0.93 Points ∼38%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
AMD PRO A12-9800B
0.9 Points ∼37%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
AMD A10-9620P
0.81 Points ∼33%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Intel Core i7-7500U
3.75 Points ∼11%
Dell Latitude 14 3470
Intel Core i3-6100U
2.75 Points ∼8%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
AMD PRO A12-9800B
2.7 Points ∼8%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A12-9720P
2.7 Points ∼8%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
AMD A10-9620P
2.66 Points ∼8%
HP 15-bw075ax
AMD A12-9720P
2.6 Points ∼8%
Asus Zenbook UX302LA-C4003H
Intel Core i5-4200U
2.47 Points ∼7%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
Intel Core m3-6Y30
2.4 Points ∼7%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A9-9420
1.65 Points ∼5%
HP 15-bw077ax
AMD A9-9420
1.56 Points ∼5%
PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Intel Core i7-7500U
5033 Points ∼77%
Asus VivoBook Flip TP301UA-DW006T
Intel Core i3-6100U
4121 Points ∼63%
Dell Latitude 14 3470
Intel Core i3-6100U
3982 Points ∼61%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A9-9420
3976 Points ∼61%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
Intel Core m3-6Y30
3773 Points ∼58%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
AMD PRO A12-9800B
3765 Points ∼58%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
AMD A10-9620P
3669 Points ∼56%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A12-9720P
3518 Points ∼54%
HP 15-bw077ax
AMD A9-9420
2961 Points ∼45%
HP 15-bw075ax
AMD A12-9720P
2891 Points ∼44%
Dell Inspiron 11 3162
Intel Celeron N3050
1321 Points ∼20%
Creative Score Accelerated v2
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Intel Core i7-7500U
4862 Points ∼51%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
AMD PRO A12-9800B
3292 Points ∼35%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A12-9720P
3219 Points ∼34%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
Intel Core m3-6Y30
3198 Points ∼34%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A9-9420
3174 Points ∼33%
HP 15-bw075ax
AMD A12-9720P
3111 Points ∼33%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
AMD A10-9620P
3075 Points ∼32%
HP 15-bw077ax
AMD A9-9420
2350 Points ∼25%
Dell Inspiron 11 3162
Intel Celeron N3050
1613 Points ∼17%
Home Score Accelerated v2
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Intel Core i7-7500U
3978 Points ∼65%
Acer TravelMate P249-M-3895
Intel Core i3-6100U
3149 Points ∼52%
Dell Latitude 14 3470
Intel Core i3-6100U
3074 Points ∼50%
Asus VivoBook Flip TP301UA-DW006T
Intel Core i3-6100U
2960 Points ∼49%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A9-9420
2897 Points ∼48%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
Intel Core m3-6Y30
2831 Points ∼46%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
AMD A12-9720P
2783 Points ∼46%
HP 15-bw075ax
AMD A12-9720P
2722 Points ∼45%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
AMD A10-9620P
2624 Points ∼43%
Dell Latitude 3180
Intel Pentium N4200
2314 Points ∼38%
HP 15-bw077ax
AMD A9-9420
2005 Points ∼33%
Dell Inspiron 11 3162
Intel Celeron N3050
1632 Points ∼27%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
AMD PRO A12-9800B
1579 Points ∼26%

GPU Benchmarks

It's a small irony that the leader of our chart of budget notebooks here is driven by an AMD Radeon R7 M445 GPU paired with an Intel Core i7-7500U. As we already noted, AMD's graphics cores performed fine but were consistently held back by the anemic power of the CPU cores in our samples from CUKUSA.

3DMark
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Physics
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Radeon R7 M445, 7500U, SanDisk X400 SED 256GB, SATA (SD8TB8U-256G)
3696 Points ∼9%
Dell Latitude 14 3470
HD Graphics 520, 6100U, Toshiba MQ01ACF050
2451 Points ∼6%
Asus VivoBook Flip TP301UA-DW006T
HD Graphics 520, 6100U, Samsung CM871 MZ7LF128HCHP
2449 Points ∼6%
HP 15-bw075ax
Radeon R7 (Bristol Ridge), A12-9720P, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-60JC3T1
2401 Points ∼6%
Asus Zenbook UX302LA-C4003H
HD Graphics 4400, 4200U, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E680 + 24 GB SanDisk SSD U100 Cache
2369 Points ∼6%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
Radeon R5 (Carrizo), A10-9620P, Avolusion MD1TBLSSHD
2338 Points ∼6%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
Radeon R7 M340, A12-9720P, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-60JC3T1
2258 Points ∼6%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
2116 Points ∼5%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
Radeon R7 (Bristol Ridge), PRO A12-9800B, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
2035 Points ∼5%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
Radeon 530, A9-9420, Avolusion MD1TBLSSHD
1535 Points ∼4%
HP 15-bw077ax
Radeon R5 (Stoney Ridge), A9-9420, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-60JC3T1
1375 Points ∼3%
Dell Inspiron 11 3162
HD Graphics (Braswell), N3050, 32 GB eMMC Flash
748 Points ∼2%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Graphics
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
Radeon R7 M340, A12-9720P, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-60JC3T1
10116 Points ∼5%
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Radeon R7 M445, 7500U, SanDisk X400 SED 256GB, SATA (SD8TB8U-256G)
9617 Points ∼5%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
Radeon 530, A9-9420, Avolusion MD1TBLSSHD
6377 Points ∼3%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
6178 Points ∼3%
Asus Zenbook UX302LA-C4003H
HD Graphics 4400, 4200U, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E680 + 24 GB SanDisk SSD U100 Cache
5848 Points ∼3%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
Radeon R5 (Carrizo), A10-9620P, Avolusion MD1TBLSSHD
5804 Points ∼3%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
Radeon R7 (Bristol Ridge), PRO A12-9800B, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
5278 Points ∼3%
Dell Latitude 14 3470
HD Graphics 520, 6100U, Toshiba MQ01ACF050
5238 Points ∼3%
Asus VivoBook Flip TP301UA-DW006T
HD Graphics 520, 6100U, Samsung CM871 MZ7LF128HCHP
4724 Points ∼3%
HP 15-bw077ax
Radeon R5 (Stoney Ridge), A9-9420, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-60JC3T1
3661 Points ∼2%
HP 15-bw075ax
Radeon R7 (Bristol Ridge), A12-9720P, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-60JC3T1
3477 Points ∼2%
Dell Inspiron 11 3162
HD Graphics (Braswell), N3050, 32 GB eMMC Flash
2208 Points ∼1%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Score
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 5567-1753
Radeon R7 M445, 7500U, SanDisk X400 SED 256GB, SATA (SD8TB8U-256G)
7092 Points ∼12%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
Radeon R7 M340, A12-9720P, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-60JC3T1
5704 Points ∼10%
Asus Zenbook UX302LA-C4003H
HD Graphics 4400, 4200U, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E680 + 24 GB SanDisk SSD U100 Cache
4409 Points ∼7%
HP Pavilion 15z-bw000
Radeon R5 (Carrizo), A10-9620P, Avolusion MD1TBLSSHD
4365 Points ∼7%
HP Pavilion x2 12-b000ng
HD Graphics 515, 6Y30, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
4330 Points ∼7%
Dell Latitude 14 3470
HD Graphics 520, 6100U, Toshiba MQ01ACF050
4181 Points ∼7%
Asus VivoBook Flip TP301UA-DW006T
HD Graphics 520, 6100U, Samsung CM871 MZ7LF128HCHP
3915 Points ∼7%
HP EliteBook 755 G4
Radeon R7 (Bristol Ridge), PRO A12-9800B, Samsung PM961 MZVLW256HEHP
3897 Points ∼7%
HP Pavilion 17z 1EX13AV
Radeon 530, A9-9420, Avolusion MD1TBLSSHD
3749 Points ∼6%
HP 15-bw075ax
Radeon R7 (Bristol Ridge), A12-9720P, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-60JC3T1
3162 Points ∼5%
HP 15-bw077ax
Radeon R5 (Stoney Ridge), A9-9420, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-60JC3T1
2673 Points ∼5%
Dell Inspiron 11 3162
HD Graphics (Braswell), N3050, 32 GB eMMC Flash
1540 Points ∼3%

Conclusion

Quality of other components aside, the performance numbers are quite damning for what's currently available in the mobile segment from team red. Yes, these laptops are competing in the price range generally reserved for N-series or Core i3-based notebooks, but they are falling significantly short of the experience either these two budget processors from Intel offer. The iGPU performance is commendable as it is generally a step above all but Intel's most expensive Iris Pro integrated GPUs, but when it comes to real world performance and user experience, the Excavator cores let the GPU performance down.

And then there is the very real issue of the quality of the whole package. Numerous SKUs had significant quality-control problems that in the most serious cases prevented us from even conducting our tests for review, but in all cases lower the overall user experience. Looking at the scores, you have to honestly question why one would purchase one of these laptops over Intel's offerings at similar price-points.

A 28nm process, Bristol Ridge just can't compete with Intel's 14nm mobile platforms on power consumption or performance. AMD needs Ryzen in the mobile market yesterday, and even then they will face an uphill battle to turn consumers (often earned) negative preconceptions about AMD-based notebooks around. They need to put out compelling, attractive, high-performance laptops that leverage the high core-count of Ryzen over Intel. According to AMD's marketing slides, Raven Ridge will indeed do that, but if it doesn't happen soon it may very well be too late.

Intel's 8th generation Coffee Lake CPUs are bringing 4 cores and 8 threads to 15W CPUs — probably within the next few months. Beyond that, 6-core 12-thread 45W CPUs will be coming out not long after that. Will Raven Ridge be able to compete?

AMD has done a great job with Ryzen on the desktop, but they must not forget that it is the notebook PC market that has the best prognosis for future growth, and that is also where Intel holds the greatest lead over them. Not only do they need to hurry up and get a new process into laptops, but they need to prod OEMs into making many of those laptops high-margin luxury or gaming notebooks (where the market has the most growth) rather than reserving AMD for bottom-rung budget laptops that leave a bad taste in the user's mouth.

Assuming no delays, Ryzen notebooks should be coming later this year, and we look forward to reviewing them in full then.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Ryzen is great — so why are most AMD notebooks embarrassingly bad?
Douglas Black, 2017-07-30 (Update: 2018-05-15)
Douglas Black
Douglas Black - News Editor
Douglas Black is a technology analyst, teacher, writer, and DJ. He is also Managing Editor of UltrabookReview.