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AMD Reveals Ryzen, Athlon 3000C CPUs For Faster Chromebooks

The chipmaker’s new Ryzen and Athlon 3000 C-Series CPUs will allow OEMs like HP Inc. and Lenovo to make mid-level and premium Chromebooks for the consumer, education and enterprise markets. ‘As we’ve looked now [at] how we can continue that growth in the market, the clear answer is more performance, faster CPUs, making a bigger bet,’ AMD’s Robert Hallock says.

AMD is making a big expansion in the Chromebook space with new Ryzen and Athlon 3000 C-Series processors that the chipmaker says will enable much faster Chrome OS experiences than its previous CPUs.

The new processors, announced Tuesday, will enable OEM makers to create mid-level and premium Chromebooks for the consumer, education and enterprise markets, expanding beyond AMD’s previous niche in the entry Chromebook space with its A-Series processors.

[Related: Jason Kimrey On Intel’s Tiger Lake Offensive: ‘We’re Not Going To Hide’]

The new 15-watt processors are set to go into six new Chromebooks from HP Inc., Asus and Lenovo this year, bringing AMD’s total number of Chromebook design wins to more than 14 in 2020. Among the new Chromebooks using the new Ryzen and Athlon 3000 C-Series processors is the HP Pro c645, a Chromebook designed for enterprise customers that features up to a Ryzen 7 processor.

A day before AMD’s new processors were announced, rival Intel published a blog post touting that its new 11th-generation Intel Core processors, code-named Tiger Lake, will bring “breakthrough” performance to Chromebooks, 28 percent faster web browsing, 19 percent faster web application performance and 2.7 times faster graphics performance than the previous Ice Lake chips.

Robert Hallock, senior technical marketing manager at AMD, said with the company’s A-Series processors from last year alone, the company has grown its Chromebook market share, which is dominated by rival Intel, from 5.75 percent to more than 20 percent.

“That‘s a huge growth in about a year, year and a half time, and so as we’ve looked now [at] how we can continue that growth in the market, the clear answer is more performance, faster CPUs, making a bigger bet,” he said in a pre-briefing with journalists.

The Ryzen and Athlon C-Series consists of five processors that are Chromebook variants of AMD’s Ryzen and Athlon 3000 U-Series laptop processors from 2019, meaning they share the same basic specifications as their U-Series counterparts and aren’t based on AMD’s Zen 2 architecture that powers the 7-nanometer Ryzen 4000 laptop processors, which came out this year.

Instead, the Ryzen 3000C processors are based on the company’s older Zen+ architecture, with the Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 parts using a 12nm process and the Ryzen 7 using 14nm. The Athlon 3000C processors, on the other hand, are based on the even older Zen architecture and uses 14nm.

“I think Zen has capably proven itself as an architecture that can scale down to nine watts in mobile all the way up to 280 watts for Threadripper,” Hallock said. “Zen has a ton of street cred in in the mobile space and being able to bring that performance, that battery life, that efficiency and responsiveness to this market is important for us.”

The Ryzen 3000 C-Series is headlined by the Ryzen 7 3700C, which comes with four cores, eight threads, a base frequency of 2.3 GHz, a boost frequency of up to 4.0 GHz, a 6MB cache and 10 Radeon graphics cores running at a 1,400 MHz frequency. The Ryzen 5 3500C features the same number of cores and threads with slightly lower frequency and graphics horsepower while the Ryzen 3 3250C comes with only two cores and four threads and sports a higher base frequency of 2.6 GHz.

There are only two Athlon processors in the C-Series lineup, with the Athlon Gold 3150C featuring two course, four threads, a base frequency of 2.4 GHz, a turbo boost of up to 3.3 GHz and three Radeon cores running at 1,100MHz. The Athlon Silver 3050C, on the other hand, comes with two cores and two threads and slightly slower frequencies and graphical power.

AMD is pitching the Ryzen and Athlon 3000 C-Series processors as providing a significant boost in performance over the A-Series processors, though Hallock said the A-Series will continue to exist for entry-level Chromebooks and laptops.

Compared to AMD’s A6-9220C processor from the A-Series, the new Ryzen 7 3700C can provide up to 153 percent faster performance for modern web applications, based on measurements from the Speedometer 2.0 benchmark. Using the Kraken 1.1 benchmark to measure performance for rich web content, the Ryzen 7 3700C can be 163 percent faster. And using the Octane 2.0 benchmark for modern web app performance, the Ryzen 7 3700C can provide 178 percent faster speed.

Beyond sheer horsepower for the web, AMD said the new Ryzen and Athlon processors will also provide a significant boost in graphics, productivity and photo editing performance over the A-Series.

Compared to the A6-9220C, the Ryzen 7 3700C can provide 151 percent better graphics performance, according to the 3DMark Slingshot benchmark tool. For productivity, the Ryzen 7 can provide 104 percent faster performance, based on the PCMark Writing benchmark. And for photo editing, the Ryzen 7 can provide 153 percent faster performance, based on the PCMark Photo Editing benchmark.

AMD did not provide any performance comparisons for Intel processors like the company typically does for new processor launches. Hallock said the company does have those numbers and can make them available, but the company did not provide them in time for publication on Tuesday.

“I will say that it‘s gives and takes, right? We win some, they win some. And I think that’s what you would expect of a modern competitive CPU market,” he said in the pre-briefing. “Where AMD uniquely has the advantage, though, is that, on average, if you’re comparing two analogous systems with AMD Ryzen or Athlon inside versus our competitor in this Chromebook space, I think you’re going to find that the average AMD notebook is overall better again.”

Erik Stromquist, president of CTL, a Portland, Ore.-based company that sells Intel- and Arm-based Chromebooks to schools, told CRN that AMD has previously had performance gaps and battery life issues in Chromebooks and that having better availability, improved price-performance and adoption by original device manufacturers would push CTL to consider using AMD in the future.

“Customers are not as brand-conscious between AMD, Arm or Intel like they once were,” he said. “That really depends on the availability and price-performance ratio and, of course, ODM adoption.”

With AMD’s market share in the Chromebook space on the upswing, Hallock addressed any concerns that the demand could put a strain on supply for the segment, which is seeing unprecedented demand due to most schools going to digital or hybrid learning models as a result of the pandemic.

“We are seeing unprecedented Chrome demand for our A-Series processors,” he said in a statement after the pre-briefing. “We are increasing production to address the incremental demand requests from our customers for our processors and are focused on growing our footprint in the notebook market.”

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