AMD Unveils Mendocino Ryzen And Athlon CPUs With RDNA 2 For Mainstream Laptops
There's an entire mainstream market beyond the powerful AMD Ryzen and Intel Core processors that PC enthusiasts love so dearly. In fact, there's a ton of unit volume shipped below $700-800 baseline for laptops sporting premium, performance-targeted CPUs. And to serve this space, AMD has three new Ryzen and Athlon CPUs on the way based on its Mendocino core architecture.
As we've reported in the past, Mendocino is not completely unlike a cut-down version of the "Van Gogh" (or "Mero", or "Aerith") processor that powers the Steam Deck. It sports four Zen 2 cores, a basic integrated GPU built on AMD's RDNA 2 graphics technology, and a fraction of the L3 cache we'd usually see in a high-end Zen 2-based chip.
The L3 cache isn't the only cut to the CPUs on Mendocino. AMD did not elaborate on this change in its announcement today, but earlier leaks implied that Mendocino's Zen 2 cores are reduced from four floating-point pipes down to just two. That will reduce their performance in some types of workloads but shouldn't have too much impact for regular day-to-day productivity and media consumption tasks.
Indeed, this type of day-to-day usage is exactly the use case these chips are intended for. AMD emphasizes that, despite being based on a legacy Zen 2 CPU design, Mendocino is a brand-new modern platform, fabricated on 6nm with support for Wake-on-Voice, the full Windows 11 security stack, BGA-mounted NVMe SSDs, and fast LPDDR5 memory. All of these modern updates will definitely help with performance.
The narrow memory bus could explain why AMD did its testing with just 4GB of memory.
In addition, the integrated graphics processor on board this AMD family of CPUs is not just based on RDNA 2, but in fact is the exact same technology deployed in its Ryzen 6000 premium mobile processors early this year. That means that it offers superior efficiency and video processing support, including AV1 video decoding. Some video platforms like YouTube can leverage AV1 encoding, so this will help with battery life when watching those platforms.
Speaking of battery life, improving it has been a major goal of this release. Right at the top of its list of "low-cost laptop gripes" is poor battery life, and AMD says that Mendocino-equipped laptops can look at 12 hours of video playback as "table stakes" while commenting that some models may even be able to double that number. Of course, these are all projections because none of the laptops are actually available yet.
The three models on the way in the "AMD 7020 Series" are the Ryzen 5 7520U, Ryzen 3 7320U, and Athlon Gold 7220U. Both Ryzen models are quad-cores, with the only real difference in the two being a bit of clock rate. Meanwhile, the Athlon Gold 7220U drops a pair of cores and another bit of clock rate. A decade or so ago, a dual-core CPU at 3.7 GHz would have been at home in a performance PC; now we're talking about such a chip as the "everyday laptop" option—that's progress.
These chips are part of the "7000 Series" despite not using the Zen 4 CPU architecture because of AMD's new mobile CPU nomenclature. If you recall the decoder (reproduced above), the 7 in the beginning refers to their 2023 "Model Year", to borrow a term from the auto industry. The first 0 is just a placeholder, and then the 2 clearly indicates that these are Zen 2 processors.
In short, these chips will fill out the bottom of AMD's mobile CPU stack in 2023, although laptops sporting the chips should be launching at the very end of this year. The rest of AMD's laptop processors are due for a refresh in 2023 as well and will apparently include both Zen 3- and Zen 4-based chips, judging by the diagram above.
In fact, Lenovo, HP, Acer, and ASUS have all committed to shipping budget-minded laptops based on the new CPUs. AMD previously said that these chips would go in machines priced between $399 and $699, although the company also says that these models could be "surprisingly configurable," with a lot of options that you usually don't see on entry-level models. We'll have to see about getting our hands on one to put Mendocino through its paces, so stay tuned.