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AMD follows Intel's lead with alphanumeric soup of new Ryzens

New high-end Ryzen laptop CPUs? Huzzah! Now what's the number again?

Analysis AMD has revealed an expanded family of Ryzen 7000 processors for laptops and desktops, and, more than ever before, they resemble the alphanumeric soup Intel deploys on its array of PC chips.

Announced at CES, the new chips include three Ryzen desktop CPUs with AMD's 3D V-Cache technology, which the company claimed are the "fastest gaming processors." They also include three standard Ryzen desktop CPUs without the extra cache, as well as various chips for different laptop segments that expand beyond the initial four mid-range and high-end chips that ushered in the Ryzen 7000 series last year.

We hope you're paying attention, because you'll need to keep track of the nuances in the increasingly diverse array of numbers and letters in AMD's CPU portfolio.

The new Zen 4 desktop chips with 3D V-Cache, which is an extra stack of cache on top of the processor, are denoted by an "X3D" suffix. As such, you have the new 16-core, 5.7GHz Ryzen 9 7950X3D; the 12-core, 5.6GHz Ryzen 9 7900X3D; and the 8-core, 5GHz Ryzen 7 7800X3D. These represent an expansion beyond the single 3D V-Cache chip that debuted last year, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D.

The new Zen 4 desktop parts without 3D V-Cache are the 12-core, 5.4GHz Ryzen 9 7900; the 8-core, 5.3GHz Ryzen 7 7700; and the 6-core, 5.1GHz Ryzen 5 7600. These are a step below in performance from three of last year's chips in the same generation — the Ryzen 7 7900X, the Ryzen 7 7700X, and the Ryzen 5 7600X — but in exchange, they cost less and have a lower thermal design power of 65 watts.

Time to get used to a new naming convention for laptop chips

Where things get more confusing are the freshly disclosed Ryzen 7000 chips for laptops, which the company now separates into five different product segments.

Unlike the desktop processors, AMD's Ryzen 7000 laptop chips follow a new naming scheme announced last September that clarifies which architecture each CPU uses. It's an important point to clear up because the company has increasingly mixed in older Zen architectures with new ones in more recent generations of laptop chips. This has led to the possibility of someone buying a laptop with a new Ryzen CPU mistakenly believing it has the most recent Zen architecture.

For example, while most Ryzen 5000 laptop processors relied on Zen 3 — which was the latest architecture at the time of their release — several of the mobile CPUs in the group used older Zen 2 cores.

The new naming scheme works like this: The first two numbers in a CPU model are the same as always, referring to the chip's generation and product family. But the two other numbers in the model's four-digit name actually stand for something now, with the third number denoting the chip's architecture and the fourth indicating whether it's higher or lower in the performance hierarchy. The alphabetical suffix at the end of the model hasn't changed, indicating what kind of form factor the chip is made for.

AMD's new Ryzen Mobile naming breakdown

AMD's new Ryzen mobile naming breakdown. Click to enlarge.

So let's apply this to the fastest laptop chip AMD disclosed this week: the 16-core, 5.4GHz Ryzen 9 7945HX. The "7" indicates it's part of the Ryzen 7000 series, the "9" shows that it's in the Ryzen 9 market segment, the "4" denotes that it uses the latest Zen 4 architecture, and the "5" means it's higher up in the performance stack. The "HX" reflects that its thermal design power is 55 watts or higher, which means the chip is designed to provide the fastest possible speeds in a laptop for things like gaming.

There are four other chips in what AMD calls the Ryzen 7045HX series, ranging from Ryzen 5 to Ryzen 9, all of which use Zen 4 cores, as indicated by the "4" in the third digit slot for the segment name. (We know it sounds like we're repeating ourselves. We just want to make sure you're following along.)

At CES, AMD announced Ryzen 7000 chips for four other segments:

  • The Ryzen 7040HS series processors are designed to provide "leadership performance" for ultrathin laptops. Pop quiz time: Which architecture does it use? Zen 4, that's correct! And yes, they are a step down in performance from the Ryzen 7045HX chips, as indicated by the "0," and they require less power.
  • The Ryzen 7035 series processors are "designed to deliver fast performance and incredibly long battery life." You may have guessed that they use the older Zen 3 architecture, but they actually use the Zen 3+ architecture, and the way you would know that is that the models have a "5" and not a "0" in the fourth digit slot. (Yeah, okay, this is getting a little more confusing now, we know.)
  • So is there a Ryzen 7030 series? Yes, there is! Those CPUs are pitched as offering a "balance of power, proven performance, and efficiency," and they use the Zen 3 architecture, not Zen 3+, because there's a "0" next to the "3." (Hmm.)
  • Then there's the Ryzen Pro 7030 series, which is almost the same as the Ryzen 7030 series, except it comes with security and management features for businesses and other organizations. Ryzen Pro has been around for the past several generations, so the Pro tag isn't new.

Thanks for clarifying, AMD. Just one issue.

It helps for AMD to provide better clarification on which architecture each laptop chip provides since the company has increasingly sourced old and new architectures for notebook processors.

However, AMD's fresh naming scheme does create a new issue for those buying Ryzen laptops: You can no longer easily figure out how the latest notebook chips compare to previous generations because the older parts are numbered differently.

In previous Ryzen mobile releases, for the most part, you would be able to look at the final three digits and alphabetical suffix of CPU models to understand how they compared to older versions.

For instance, in the old naming scheme, the Ryzen 9 6900HX from 2022 would be understood as the successor to 2021's Ryzen 9 5900HX, both of which are CPUs for high-performance gaming laptops. The same would go for the Ryzen 9 6980HX and the Ryzen 9 5980HX, which offer the top performance in their respective generations.

The old naming scheme was far from perfect. Not all CPU models had like-to-like comparisons across generations due to variants that existed in one generation and not in others.

For example, the Ryzen 7 5825U didn't have a successor in the next generation with the same final three digits, but the naming scheme at least communicated that it was better than the Ryzen 7 5800U. Then there was that issue of not knowing from the model name which architecture was being used.

Now, with AMD's new naming scheme, it's not exactly clear how all the Ryzen 7000 laptop chips line up with previous generations.

During the company's CES presentation, the company showed performance comparisons between the new Ryzen 9 7945HX and last year's Ryzen 9 6900HX. Those are the equivalent parts across the two generations, right? Well, what about the Ryzen 9 6980HX, which sits above the 6900HX in the stack? If the Ryzen 9 7945HX and Ryzen 9 6900HX are equivalent, then how are we supposed to compare the Ryzen 9 7845HX since there is no Ryzen 9 under the 6900HX?

This is just a sampling of questions AMD will likely need to address since many buyers will want to understand how the new chips improve over previous generations and which laptops they should upgrade to if they were previously happy using a notebook, for instance, with a Ryzen 5 5600U.

For a while, AMD had been seen as an underdog to the semiconductor giant that is Intel. But as the company's market share has grown, so too has the complexity of its product lines, which, at least in this respect, makes AMD's portfolio more closely resemble Intel's labyrinthine collection of CPUs. ®

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