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AMD might have just enabled MacBook-like gaming laptops, but I’m still skeptical

AMD revealed its new Ryzen 7040U series processors for laptops, with bold claims that the chips not only beat the competition from Intel but also outpace the MacBook M2. Perhaps most impressive is that AMD says the processors can handle 1080p gaming with their integrated graphics, possibly enabling a string of thin and light gaming laptops.

I’m still skeptical, mostly on the back of AMD’s vague benchmarks and lack of battery testing. Let’s get performance out of the way first, though. As you can see in the chart below, AMD is claiming the integrated Radeon 780M GPU can outpace Intel’s Iris Xe graphics by upwards of 239% at 1080p.

Gaming performance for AMD's Ryzen 7040U processors.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Iris Xe graphics aren’t built to be gaming powerhouses, and for what it’s worth, neither is the Radeon 780M. However, it still provides up to 12 RDNA 3 cores, allowing you to play games demanding like Cyberpunk 2077 and Far Cry 6, even if it’s at lower quality settings.

That’s an exciting offer, especially if you’re in the market for a laptop that can handle day-to-day tasks and some light gaming on the side. Testing on this iGPU shows that it’s capable of delivering about 60 frames per second (fps) at 1080p in games like Forza Horizon 5 and Horizon Zero Dawn, be it with lowered graphics settings and some upscaling. That kind of performance in a wattage range around Apple’s M2? Sign me up.

The problem is that it’s not clear how AMD’s top chip from the range will actually perform in practice. All of AMD’s benchmarks were run on a reference board, not inside an actual laptop. Furthermore, AMD hasn’t provided any concrete numbers, instead opting for the dreaded percentage increase charts that tend to be misleading.

My biggest area of concern, however, is battery life. AMD is claiming that the range offers “exceptional battery life” and the “freedom to unplug.” That’s great, but some numbers would go a long way given that AMD is comparing its new processors to the Apple M2. As you can read in our MacBook Air M2 review, it offers some of the best battery life you can get in a laptop.

AMD Ryzen 7040U performance versus Apple.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

At the very least, AMD is saying the Ryzen 7 7840U can outperform the Apple M2, if only slightly. From web browsing to image editing to 3D rendering, AMD’s chip takes a slight but undeniable lead. It really excels in multi-core benchmarks, however, nearly doubling the performance of Apple’s M2.

Ryzen 7040U Intel.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It clobbers the competition from Intel, as well. AMD says the Ryzen 7 7840U offers around a 30% boost over the Core i7-1360P at the low end and more than double the performance in tasks like media encoding. That’s while staying in the 15-watt to 30W range that both Intel and Apple fall in, as well.

All of AMD’s performance numbers come from the Ryzen 7 7840U, but it’s not the only chip in the range. There are three other options, ranging from four cores to eight, and from the Radeon 780M with 12 RDNA three cores to the Radeon 740M with four.

Specs for AMD's 7040U series.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Although it’s important to wait for solid benchmarks for battery life and gaming performance, which should be forthcoming from AMD in short order, the prospect of a truly thin and light gaming laptop is exciting. We should see the first models with these laptops in the coming months, with designs arriving from Razer, Lenovo, and Acer, among others.

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Jacob Roach
Senior Staff Writer, Computing
Jacob Roach is a writer covering computing and gaming at Digital Trends. After realizing Crysis wouldn't run on a laptop, he…
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