We tested the IdeaPad Slim 7 with Intel and AMD CPUs, and found a clear winner

AMD released its Ryzen 4000 series laptop CPUs to enormous success, producing some of the best-performing laptops you can buy today without jumping to Intel’s 45-watt processors. Many of the best examples of Ryzen-based laptops have been low-priced machines, and one of our favorites so far has been the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7.

I recently received an Intel version of the IdeaPad Slim 7. It’s identical to the AMD version in its chassis, display, keyboard and touchpad, and everything else that’s not tied to the chipset. The difference is that while the AMD version runs with a 25-watt, eight-core Ryzen 7 4800U CPU, the Intel version I’m comparing is equipped with a 10th-gen, quad-core Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU, and an Nvidia GeForce MX350 discrete GPU.

Price — A question of value

Pitting a lowly Core i5 against the mighty Ryzen 4000 — especially this one — isn’t quite apples to apples. The Ryzen we received is at the top of AMD’s product line for mobile, while the Intel chip is mid-range.

But pricing isn’t as reflective of that as you might expect. The Intel version with the Core i5, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), the GeForce MX350, and a Full HD display costs $770. The AMD version with the same RAM, storage, and display costs $900. That’s a difference of only $130 in Intel’s favor. Consider that the IdeaPad Slim 7 with a Core i7-1065G7, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD is priced at $1,050, on sale. AMD’s Ryzen chips aren’t really priced to compete with the top of Intel’s range, but instead span budget to mid-range laptop configurations.

Lenovo IdeaPad S940 review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

So, in this case, going for the Intel Core i7 means you’ll have to spend $150 more, and even then, you only get half as much solid-state storage. And, according to our benchmark results, the Ryzen 7 4800U dominates the 10th-generation Core i7 right along with the Core i5, meaning you spend more money for a machine with a slower processor.

AMD clearly wins on value, even if our tested configurations put the AMD model at a slightly higher MSRP than the Intel version.

Design — Nothing to see, except Thunderbolt 3

The AMD and Intel versions of the IdeaPad Slim 7 are nearly identical except for the chipset. The only meaningful difference between them is that the Intel version comes with Thunderbolt 3-enabled USB-C ports, while the AMD version does not. That means that you’ll have better display support with the Intel version, be able to connect to more external devices, and even plug in an external GPU enclosure if you need more gaming power.

Otherwise, these are nicely designed and well-built clamshell laptops. They fit into small footprints and suffer from small palm rests as a result, but we had no complaints about the laptop’s overall design.

CPU Performance – A blowout for AMD

This is a clear win for AMD. The Ryzen 7 4800U is an extremely fast eight-core, 25-watt CPU that runs rings around the 15-watt, quad-core Intel Core i5-1035G1. In every benchmark we use, the AMD version is faster.

We started with Geekbench 5, where the AMD IdeaPad Slim 7 scored a 1,101 in the single-core test, and 5,778 in the multi-core test. That compares to the Intel version at 1,081 and 4,150. AMD wins in both single-core and multi-core performance, though the single-core results are essentially a tie. That means the Intel version will still feel plenty quick in most tasks. But when it comes time to do serious work, the AMD hardware will be quicker.

Lenovo IdeaPad S940 review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Next, we ran both machines through our Handbrake test that transcodes a 420MB video from H.264 to H.265. Here, the AMD version took just over two minutes while the Intel version took about 4.5 minutes. Handbrake will use as many cores as you offer it, and so again the Ryzen’s extra cores made an enormous difference. Note that the AMD’s score is competitive with many laptops running Intel’s 45-watt CPUs, and it’s much faster than 15-watt Core i7s. That includes the latest Tiger Lake iterations that we’ve managed to test.

Switching to Cinebench 20, the AMD version scored 482 in the single-core test and 3,255 in the multi-core test. Again, that’s much faster than any 15-watt Intel part that you can buy and competitive with some of Intel’s 45-watt parts. The Core i5 was much slower, finishing with 355 in the single-core test and 924 in the multi-core test. Quite the difference.

GPU Performance — Both have game

The Ryzen 4000 series CPUs have relatively powerful integrated graphics built-in, certainly faster than anything Intel has supplied (with the possible exception of Intel’s new Iris Xe). Our IdeaPad Slim 7 review, based on the AMD model, noted its gaming performance was close to that of entry-level GPUs like Nvidia’s GeForce MX250.

The Intel IdeaPad version I’m using has Nvidia’s GeForce MX350 built-in, so that provides an opportunity to compare the Ryzen 7 4800U’s Radeon graphics newer entry-level Nvidia hardware. As it turns, it’s a close call.

In 3DMark, the MX350 scored 3,955 in Fire Strike and 11,998 in Sky Diver. That compares to 3,528 and 12,277, respectively, for the Radeon graphics. It’s a split, then, but the results are close enough overall that it’s fair to call this one a tie.

As casual gaming laptops, the AMD and Intel versions are essentially equal.

In Civilization VI, the Intel IdeaPad managed 51 frames per second (fps) at 1080p and medium graphics, compared to the AMD IdeaPad at 45 fps. The MX350 gets the win. Switching to ultra graphics, however, I saw a tie at 24 fps. That’s a lower frame rate than most people would prefer, but it is playable in a turn-based game like Civilization VI.

I don’t have the AMD IdeaPad benchmark numbers for Fortnite, but according to our review, it provided for a smooth experience at 1080p. The Intel IdeaPad hit 37 fps in 1080p and high graphics, which I would qualify as “smooth,” but dropped to 24 fps in epic graphics. I’d call this one a draw. Both GPUs can handle Fortnite as long as you keep your expectations in check.

As casual gaming laptops, then, the AMD and Intel versions are essentially equal. Both can run some modern titles at 1080p if you’re willing to settle for medium or low detail. That’s a good result for both machines, although it’s more impressive given that the Radeon GPU is an integrated solution, while the Nvidia MX350 is a separate chip.

Battery life — Ryzen scores surprisingly well

Not all the Ryzen 4000 laptops we’ve tested have offered solid battery life, but the IdeaPad Slim 7 was a strong performer. It did extremely well with its 61 watt-hours of battery and its 14-inch Full HD display. The AMD IdeaPad wasn’t strong in our most demanding Basemark test that stresses the CPU and GPU, hitting just under 3.5 hours, but it went for 16 hours in our web browsing test and 18.6 hours in our video looping test. Those are phenomenal results.

The Intel version did well in the Basemark test, lasting for a solid 4.75 hours. On the web test, though, it ran for almost 10 hours, which is a good score but still a full six hours less than the AMD version. The Intel version made it to 12 hours on the video test, which is closer to average than the AMD version’s eight additional hours.

It’s a bit of a surprise to see the Ryzen 7 4800U do so well compared to the Core i5, but there you have it.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that AMD owns the laptop performance crown with its Ryzen 4000 series. Throw enough cores at a problem, and it tends to go away. It’s also strong in graphics, matching the latest entry-level discrete GPU.

Dollar for dollar, you’re better off with AMD at this point. We’ll have to wait for more Intel Tiger Lake machines to come onto the market to know if AMD will hold onto its place at the top, and that’s a comparison that we’re looking forward to conducting.

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