Around a year ago, I claimed that gaming laptops were lying to us. It was hard not to when you couldn’t trust the spec sheet to give you an idea about how a laptop would perform. I hoped my annual check-in would bring some improvements, but unfortunately, the situation with gaming laptops has only gotten more complicated.
First, we have to check in on GPUs. Last time around, I focused on the Total Graphics Power (TGP) spec in mobile
My main gripe, at the time, was that very few laptop brands actually listed the TGP alongside the
Brands that went on to list TGP as a spec in the last generation have backpedaled with a new generation of
Similarly, Alienware has yet to update its power range for new RTX 40-series
TGP is so important because it still represents massive performance gaps in
For example, the RTX 4080 inside the Lenovo Legion Pro 7i is faster than the
I can tell you that the Zephyrus M16 tops out at 145 watts of max TGP — 15W less than what’s possible with the card — but not the TGP of the RTX 4080 inside the Legion Pro 7i because Lenovo doesn’t list it. We’re already seeing performance gaps between two high-end, 16-inch
Nvidia is well aware of this issue, thankfully. The company tells me that if you normalize the wattage between two different GPUs, such as the RTX 4080 and
I’m not advocating that TGP ranges go away. That would vastly limit the design space available to laptop brands. However, clearer branding would go a long way to inform shoppers. Narrow TGP ranges would help, as well. At the moment, even a few watts in either direction can have an impact on performance, making it hard to trust the name of the
Even with recent laptop GPUs experiencing growing pains, it’s clear that brands are aware of how important TGP is. I’m hopeful, at least, that clearer TGP listings will start flowing out over the next couple of months. Unfortunately, AMD has introduced a new problem for laptop shoppers to contend with: CPU naming.
Informed shoppers know to look at the first number in a CPU name to figure out which generation it’s from. A “13” in front of an Intel processor means that it’s a 13th-gen CPU, while a Ryzen 7000 CPU is from AMD’s most recent generation. That’s the assumption, but AMD isn’t delivering on it.
Ryzen 7000 mobile CPUs don’t all use AMD’s most recent Zen 4 architecture. Instead of the long-standing tradition of the first number in a processor name noting the generation, for AMD, it now notes the model year. The third number, instead, notes the architecture it uses. Confused? I don’t blame you.
The chart above shows how the new naming scheme breaks down practically. This convention can lead to some very unfortunate situations. For example, you can theoretically have a Ryzen 7 7710U, which would carry AMD’s original Zen architecture despite being branded as a Ryzen 7000 processor. Keep in mind that AMD debuted the original Zen architecture in 2017.
I don’t think anything malicious is going on here, to be clear. It’s very unlikely that we’ll see a high-end laptop sporting an architecture that’s half a decade old, and AMD is making some attempt to separate the older architectures with a different colored badge. There’s an argument that AMD was attempting to simplify its branding by having older architectures in budget-focused machines fall under the same category as its flagship chips.
Even if that was the intention, the result is far different. CPU naming conventions are notoriously complex, but there has been a lot of work by AMD and Intel to simplify the process for an average buyer. Up until AMD’s shift, you could at the very least look at the generation and the Ryzen 7 or Core i7 branding and get a general sense of where the processor fell in the lineup. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it worked.
AMD’s new naming convention makes that process far more complicated. Not only do buyers need to know about the model year and lineup segment, but they also need to know about architectures and which number showcases the architecture the processor is using. And that’s before we get into wattage ranges with mobile processors, which are confusing on their own.
Between year-old architectures in processors and broken naming on mobile
There’s a clear path forward here. For GPUs, we need more branding to determine which are more powerful and which are less powerful. TGP numbers help and should be listed as a critical spec. But even some branding on Nvidia’s end to note
For CPUs, it’s a matter of staying consistent. There’s room for convention changes like AMD is rolling with, but it seems tone-deaf and intentionally misleading given the established naming conventions laptop buyers have used for decades. Maybe instead of segmenting older architectures under new names, AMD could just sell those processors as the older generations they are. They’d probably sell a lot fewer
Ultimately, though, the best way to avoid these pitfalls is to read individual laptop reviews. I’m always an advocate for clearer spec sheets so shoppers are informed about what they’re buying, but it doesn’t look like the situation with
This article is part of ReSpec – an ongoing biweekly column that includes discussions, advice, and in-depth reporting on the tech behind PC gaming.
- To celebrate its milestone, here are the best (and worst) examples of RTX in games
- The best PC gaming hardware of 2023: GPUs, CPUs, monitors, and more
- Don’t wait for new GPUs. It’s safe to buy a gaming laptop now
- Don’t believe the hype — the era of native resolution gaming isn’t over
- Windows is holding back the future of handheld gaming