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High-end gaming laptops are finally switching to AMD, and it’s Intel’s fault

For the first time in a long time, high-end gaming laptops are choosing AMD over Intel. At CES 2021, companies like Asus and Lenovo moved over a majority of their PCs and gaming laptops to AMD’s new Ryzen 5000 platform. It’s a huge success for AMD, which has been the budget brand in the past, especially on the laptop front.

In 2021, however, online retailers will be filled with AMD-powered gaming machines featuring high-end graphics cards like the Nvidia RTX 3080. AMD gamers are rejoicing, but why the change? AMD will say that building trust takes time — and that’s undoubtedly true. But there’s more to it than that.

There’s no doubt that 2020 was the year AMD set out to stake a claim in the world of laptops with its Ryzen 4000 series processors — and it was a rousing success. Ryzen 4000 stuffed multi-core performance into 15-watt laptops in a way that the world hadn’t seen before. Eight cores and 16 threads in a laptop thinner than a MacBook Air? Yup — and at lower price points than the standard Intel configurations too.

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Intel showed up to CES without a new 45-watt gaming processor.

But the year came and went, and one laptop category AMD largely missed out on was high-end gaming. Brands like Alienware, ROG, and Predator stuck with Intel on their most powerful systems. We didn’t see any AMD-powered laptops with anything beyond an Nvidia RTX 2060. That was big chunk of the pie that Intel had for itself.

I would have assumed that Intel would keep that advantage going into 2021. But then, Intel showed up to CES without a new 45-watt gaming processor.

Sure, it had its 35-watt Tiger Lake-H chip — which is neat in its own right. But that processor is meant for ultrathin-and-light gaming laptops, not the kind that would sport Nvidia’s high-end graphics. Intel said its 45-watt Tiger Lake-H chip was “coming soon,” but when laptop manufacturers are wanting to update their systems to Nvidia’s new graphics, not having a new generation of processors to match may have been a problem. The delay of 10nm is starting to take its toll.

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AMD, on the other hand, struck while the iron was hot. The company launched a new series of Ryzen 5000 processors aimed specifically at this type of performance, the HX series. With the top unlocked configuration boosting up to 4.8GHz, AMD was starting to look like a serious competitor in mobile gaming. And that’s why brands like Asus ROG and Lenovo Legion bought in.

Asus, in particular, updated its entire lineup to AMD Ryzen 5000, including its most powerful systems that support the RTX 3080 like the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE. That’s a first for Asus — and a first for AMD.

Now, that doesn’t mean these companies have forgotten about Intel entirely. Some manufactures, like Razer and Alienware, will continue to support Intel, and will likely update their systems again later this year with Intel’s eventual release of its Tiger Lake-H chips. Even Asus may end up offering Intel alternatives to its all-AMD lineup.

Even so, AMD’s climb to the top is meaningful. Intel can’t rest on its laurels, thinking it has loyalty in certain segments. Everything is up for grabs these days, which makes it an exciting time to be a PC enthusiast.

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Luke Larsen
Senior Editor, Computing
Luke Larsen is the Senior editor of computing, managing all content covering laptops, monitors, PC hardware, Macs, and more.
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