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Laptops

AMD gets serious about Chromebooks at CES 2019

Scaled back AMD A-series processors take on Intel's Celeron and Pentium for Chromebooks.

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A Ryzen die with the Zen+ processor core on the left and the Vega graphics engine on the right.

AMD

AMD's early CES 2019 announcements brought us some updates on its laptop processors, which include a targeted attempt to capture some of the growing cheap Chromebook market, slightly faster mobile Ryzens and a promise to keep everyone's AMD laptop drivers up to date with the latest zero-day game-release optimizations.

Sadly, the news didn't include the much-anticipated, high-performance 7-nanometer Navi GPUs or the rumored Ryzen 3000-series desktop CPUs -- hopefully, the company's just holding back that info for its CEO's keynote on Wednesday.  

For the first time, AMD has gained a little bit of traction in Chromebooks with some partner announcements at CES such as the HP Chromebook 14 AMD and the Acer Chromebook 315. The announcements are in conjunction with the new A4-9120C and its sibling, the A6-9220C, which have slower CPU and GPU clock speeds than the 15-watt full-fat versions. That allows AMD to match the 6-watt target power draw of Intel's competing Celeron and Pentium models.

AMD claims somewhat better performance on both Chrome OS and Android apps, which is possible given that their clock speeds are still faster despite the drop.

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At CES, Asus announced its mainstream TUF Gaming FX505DY (shown) and  FX705DY laptops based on the Ryzen 5 3350H.

Asus

AMD slipped out its most recent 2000-series mobile processors in September, "H" models with current-generation integrated Vega graphics, but intended for use with discrete graphics in budget-to-midrange gaming laptops. Those are already obsolete thanks to the new 3000-series H and U processors (for ultrathins, like Intel's U models): the Ryzen 3 3200U/3300U, Ryzen 5 3500U/3550H and Ryzen 7 3700U/3750H. They're almost identical to each of their predecessors, but with the switch from 14nm to the newer 12nm process AMD has been able to eke out some speed improvements.

Finally, the company promises that starting this winter, you won't have to wait for manufacturer graphics driver updates, at least for any AMD laptops based on the 2000 or 3000 series mobile CPUs. AMD will issue regular updates so that owners can take advantage of day-zero game support. Hopefully, that will fix some of the instability problems people have complained about with AMD laptops.

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