AMD’s Ryzen Mobile 6000 Emphasizes Power Efficiency Over Raw Performance

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AMD’s Ryzen Mobile 6000 family of CPUs has launched and reviews of the new CPU have popped up across the net. Reviewers are pleased with the platform overall, but the Ryzen 9 6900HS doesn’t quite match the performance of CPUs like the Intel Core i9-12900HK. It also doesn’t burn nearly as much power.

Our sister site, PCMag, evaluated the AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS in an Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 laptop. Competitor systems included top-end chips from Intel’s 10th, 11th, and 12th Generation families (Comet Lake, Tiger Lake, and Alder Lake respectively). An AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS and Apple’s M1 Max rounded out the comparison list.

Two factors to note: First, the Asus Zephyrus G14 includes a Turbo mode that improves CPU performance. HotHardware reports a CB23 score of 14,565 when the Asus laptop is in Turbo mode and 12,821 when in normal mode. This agrees well with PCMag’s CB23 score of 12,635. Second, the Asus Zephyrus system tested here uses a 35W AMD CPU. The 6900HS is not AMD’s top-end mobile part. The Ryzen 9 6980HX is AMD’s highest-end CPU, with a 45W+ TDP and slightly higher clocks. The Alder Lake-equipped MSI G76 Raider system used for comparison in these reviews is a desktop replacement-class system.

The performance gap between the 5900HS and 6900HS varies depending on the application. In some cases, the 6900HS is only 4-8 percent faster than its predecessor. Geekbench 5, however, shows a 1.18x performance difference between the two chips. Overall, benchmarks suggest that the 6900HS is modestly faster than its predecessor. Power consumption also appears to have improved.

An Evolutionary Step Forward

Unlike Alder Lake, AMD’s Ryzen Mobile 6000 is an iterative step forward for the company. The Zen 3+ microarchitecture inside the 6900HS is identical to Zen 3. In this case, the “+” refers to AMD’s power optimizations and efficiency improvements. AMD is deploying a number of new technologies for the first time with this CPU, as detailed below.

Zen 3+ is built on TSMC’s 6nm process node, with improvements to maximum clock speed and overall efficiency. The CPU and SoC support new sleep and idle states with the option to delay L3 cache initialization when waking up. Read through the list of improvements, and you can see how they collectively improve power efficiency by providing fine-grained control over the CPU’s behavior.

The picture AMD drew of the Zen 3+ core complex and SoC is a chip with substantially improved headroom and better power efficiency thanks to a number of low-level optimizations. The 6900HS clocks higher than the 5900HS, with a base clock of 3.3GHz and a boost of 4.9GHz as compared to 3GHz / 4.6GHz for the older CPU. This supports AMD’s claim that it improved the CPU’s overall power efficiency with a large number of low-level tweaks.

One difference between the two platforms that we want to mention: The Ryzen Mobile 6000 family is DDR5-only. There won’t be any DDR4-equipped SKUs in this generation of mobile products.

Performance versus Power Consumption

As expected, AMD’s Ryzen 9 6900HS is not as fast as the Alder Lake-based Core i9-12900HK in CPU tests. The new platform’s power consumption, however, is quite good. Reviewers had very little time with these systems, but battery data from Hot Hardware shows the Asus system in a very positive light. PCMag notes that the Ryzen 9 6900HS’ 10 hr 8 minute battery life was within one minute of the Ryzen 9 5900HS. Brian Westover writes:

Last year’s model clocked in at an impressive 10 hours and 9 minutes of battery life in our video rundown test. This new Zephyrus G14, which includes the Ryzen 9 6900HS processor, AMD Radeon RX 6800S GPU, and a slew of new features, clocks in at a nearly identical 10:08. And that’s with a larger display, better test results across the board, and even a brighter version of Asus’ gaudy AniMe Matrix LED lightshow on the lid (pictured above). All of that resulted in just a one-minute difference in battery life.

Measured power consumption in Handbrake with the laptop in High Performance mode was 59.5W for Apple, 93.9W for AMD, and 126W for Intel. If we translate those figures into joules based on the Handbrake 1.4 rendering times above, it means Apple’s M1 Pro used less than half the power of the Alder Lake system. AMD uses roughly 8 percent less power than Intel, which gives the Ryzen 9 6900HS a modest performance-per-watt advantage.

AMD’s New Radeon 6800S

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a few words on AMD’s new GPU, the Radeon RX 6800S. The 6800S is a TDP-binned part with a lower maximum operating frequency and fewer compute units than AMD’s Radeon 6800M. Conceptually it’s similar to Nvidia’s Max-Q program. One difference between the two is that Max-Q GPUs have the same core configuration but lower clock speeds. AMD has chosen to equip the 6800S with just 32 compute units while the 6800M has 40. While there’s precedent for doing things this way, we prefer Nvidia’s straightforward labeling.

Image by Hot Hardware

Performance on the 6800S looks pretty solid according to Hot Hardware. In absolute terms, the GPU appears to score between the RTX 3060 and the RTX 3070, while offering an occasional challenge to the RTX 3080. Laptop GPU comparisons are trickier than desktops because it’s harder to account for meaningful differences in chassis design and performance throttling between laptop vendors.

Most of the reviews available at present focus on the Ryzen 9 6900HS, not the GPU, but what tests are available suggest the chip competes reasonably well with Nvidia. In absolute terms, however, Team Green still holds performance advantages at the top of the stack.

A Solid Step Forward, But Not a Knockout Blow

The Ryzen 9 6900HS is a little hard to grade. While it’s not as fast as the 12900HK, it also uses less power. Overall efficiency is just a bit higher than Intel in at least some tests. The 6900HS improves on the 5900HS’ performance and power consumption. In tests where AMD trailed Intel’s 11th Generation, the 6900HS now matches or beats it. It will be interesting to see how Intel compares to AMD when Intel doesn’t have such a large power advantage to draw on. The Zephyrus is not an ideal competitor for the MSI G76 Raider systems that Intel sampled for Alder Lake Mobile’s launch, as the Zephyrus is a mid-size 14″ laptop and the Raider is a 17″ desktop replacement.

Generally speaking, the Ryzen Mobile 6000 family looks as though it will offer solid competition for Alder Lake, especially in <100W TDP envelopes. While it doesn’t match Alder Lake’s top-end performance, it improves on the 5900HS and matches or exceeds Intel’s 10th and 11th Generation CPUs. You can still find high-end gaming laptops with Comet Lake and Tiger Lake CPU cores, so AMD’s overall position is quite strong relative to the systems that are actually in-market.

If you’re only concerned with maximum performance, Intel’s Alder Lake is now the CPU to beat. Gamers who want a system that’s a little more balanced may find a lot to like with the Ryzen 9 6900HS.

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