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Microsoft Embraces AMD: Custom Ryzen 7 Surface Edition CPUs Debut in Surface Laptop 3 (Updated)

(Image credit: The Verge)

Microsoft announced today at its launch event that it has infused its Surface Laptop 3 with new "AMD Ryzen Surface Edition" processors that consist of custom AMD APUs with Radeon RX Vega GPUs specifically tailored for the new 6th-gen Microsoft laptop. The new AMD processors will come in some 15" Surface Laptop 3 models, while Intel's 10th-gen 10nm Ice Lake processors will power both 13.5" and 15" models.

Microsoft touted that the laptops with AMD processors will still feature "all day battery life" and fast charging that powers the battery to 80% in one hour. Microsoft hasn't shared the technical details we're after yet, but did say that the 15W chip features custom graphics cores and that the processor is the fastest mobile variant "bar none" that AMD has ever produced.

Microsoft also claims it is the fastest processor, in terms of graphics performance, in its class. That's an interesting statement considering that AMD's chip grapples with Intel's Gen 11 graphics on Ice Lake. AMD listed the specific processors and provided a few of its internally-derived benchmarks:

Cores / ThreadsBase / Boost (GHz)GraphicsProcessTDP3DMark 11 Score3DMark Timespy Score
Ryzen 7 3780U "Surface Edition"4 / 82.3 / 4.0Radeon RX Vega 11 (11 CU) @ 1.4 GHz 12nm / Zen+15W51241126.5
Ryzen 5 3580U "Surface Edition"4 / 82.1 / 3.7Radeon RX Vega 9 (9CU) @ 1.3 GH12nm / Zen+15W~~
Intel Core i7-1065G74 / 81.3 / 3.9Iris Plus Graphics10nm / Ice Lake15W4910 (4% less)957 (18% less)
Intel Core i7-8665U4 / 81.9 / 4.8UHD Graphics 62014nm / Whiskey Lake15W2019.5 (154% less)455.3 (147% less)
Intel Core i7-8565U4 / 81.8 / 4.6UHD Graphics 62014nm / Whiskey Lake15W2237.8 (129% less)485.5 (132% less)
Ryzen 7 3700U4 / 82.3 / 4.0Radeon RX Vega 10 (10 CU) @ 1.4 GHz12nm / Zen+15W4432.3 (15% less)969 (16% less)

*AMD-provided benchmark scores

Given the relative performance and specifications, it appears the Ryzen 7 3780U used in the Surface Laptop 3 is a modified variant of AMD's 12nm Ryzen 7 3700U. AMD also says the Ryzen 7 3780U Surface Edition has a "hybrid-turbo-like capacity for bursts up to 4 GHz of “Zen+” CPU performance." Microsoft will also offer a lesser, but still customized, Ryzen 5 3580U processor with Radeon RX Vega 9 graphics @ 1.3 GHz for budget models.

We've provided a list of the systems AMD used for comparison below, but all configurations feature dual-channel memory, which is a key consideration to unlock the full graphics performance.

Microsoft says it co-engineered the platform and silicon for the AMD processor, which meshes well with AMD's continued efforts in the custom silicon space. AMD also divulged that the processor supports FreeSync. Notably, the AMD-powered models are only targeted at the consumer market and support Wi-Fi 5, while Intel's Ice Lake chips are destined for commercial users and come with Wi-Fi 6. Microsoft says it has relegated the AMD models to the consumer market because it wants to maintain consistency in the commercial market, which is possible with Intel processors because they come in both 13.5" and 15" models. It's logical to assume that Intel's vPro might also factor into the equation. Intel-powered versions of the Surface come with support for LPDDR4X-3733, while AMD models come with DDR4-2400.

The new laptops come in both 13.5" and 15" variants and will start at $999 and $1,199, respectively. Both models will ship October 22 but are available for preorder today.

The laptops come armed with a Type-C port, USB-A port, a Surface Connect Port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Notably, both Intel and AMD variants of the laptop lack Thunderbolt 3. Three colors are on the menu, with options for Cobalt, Black, and Platinum. Storage options start at 128GB and stretch up to 1TB, while memory options span from 8GB to 16GB.

The laptops mark a new level of sorely-needed sophistication that we aren't accustomed to seeing with AMD-powered laptops, which should encourage more development from other OEMs. 

“With AMD Ryzen Microsoft Surface Edition processors, AMD brings to market the most powerful mobile processors for ultrathin laptops we ever created,” said Rick Bergman, executive vice president, computing and graphics business group, AMD. “The AMD-powered MicrosoftSurfaceLaptop 3 delivers premium craftsmanship only AMD could help bring to life, combining a 15-inch laptop with a customized 15W processor to create a device that packs all the power and visual experiences of a large screen with the benefits of an ultra-thin, 3.4 pounds device. Widely recognized for offering world-class CPU and GPU performance, AMD is pleased to partner with Microsoft and continue bringing innovation to the market.”

Here are the tested platforms for AMD's performance comparisons:

  • AMD system: Microsoft Surface laptop with AMD Ryzen 7 3780U with Radeon RX Vega 11 Graphic Microsoft Surface Edition processor
  • Intel 10th Gen System:  Dell XPS 7390 2-in-1, Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, 15W TDP, 2x 8GB memory, 256GB Toshiba SSD, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 940
  • Intel 8th Gen System: Lenovo Thinkpad T490s laptop, Intel Core i7-8665U processor, 2x 4GB memory, Samsung 500GB SSD, Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • Intel 8th Gen System: HP ENVY x360 Convertible 15 laptop, Intel Core i7-8565U processor, 2x 4GB memory, Samsung 512GB SSD, Intel UHD Graphics 620

AMD also shared a blog post covering some of the new innovations, which you can read in full here.

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.