AMD scours parts bin for old CPUs, GPUs to put in Chromebooks
Do you really need the latest and greatest cores to doomscroll the web?
To meet Chromebook users' most discerning needs, AMD has Frankensteined together a line of chips built from cast-off CPU and GPU architectures.
AMD's 7020C-series parts — the "C" standing for Chromebook — announced today stitch together the chipmaker's four-year-old Zen-2 cores with an over two-year-old RDNA-2 GPU, and a modern memory controller with support for the latest LPDDR5 DRAM and assemble it all using a TSMC 6nm process.
For reference, AMD launched its Zen-4 notebook chips in January, which feature RDNA-3 integrated graphics, and are fabbed using a 4nm process. But apart from bearing the same Ryzen 7000 name, AMD's latest Chromebook chips share almost nothing in common with those parts.
Despite the aging CPU and GPU, AMD claims the processors can achieve between 17 and 19.5 hours of battery life. This is likely down to the more modern 6nm process tech used to fab the parts. That length of time was estimated from the crXPRT battery life tests, we're told.
As you might expect these chips aren't exactly AMD's speediest. All four Chromebook-centric SKUs announced Tuesday feature a 15W TDP and AMD's Radeon 610M graphics. And before you get excited about the prospect of integrated RDNA-2 graphics — the same tech powering Microsoft's Xbox Series X|S, Sony's PlayStation 5, and Valve's Steam Deck — TechPowerUp puts the Radeon 610M's relative performance at somewhere between the 14-year-old Nvidia GeForce GT240 and a 15-year-old 9600 GT. That said, the onboard graphics supports up to three 4K monitors, which is more than can be said about Apple's vastly more powerful M2 SoCs.
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The biggest differentiator between these chips comes down to the CPU. At the bottom of the stack is AMD's Athlon Silver 7120C, a two-core, two-hardware-thread chip with 3MB of cache, and a base clock of 2.4GHz and a boost clock of 3.5GHz. Jumping up to the Athlon Gold unlocks multi-threading, two extra megs of cache, and 200MHz higher boost clock.
Things only start getting interesting when you step up to AMD's Ryzen 3 7320C and Ryzen 5 7520C, both of which feature four-cores and eight threads, and 6MB of cache. Opting for the R5 will net you slightly higher base and boost frequencies at 2.8GHz and 4.3GHz over the 2.4GHz base and 4.1GHz boost on the R3.
AMD's strategy of mashing older core and GPU designs into "modern" chips is by no means a new phenomenon. For many years buying a desktop CPU with integrated graphics also meant living with older process tech and core designs. The Ryzen 3400G, for example, launched in 2019; instead of the then-new Zen-2 core and TSMC's 7nm process, it featured the older Zen+ architecture built on GlobalFoundries' 12nm process node.
In any case, you can expect AMD's 7020C-series parts making their way into a variety Chromebooks, including those made by Dell and Asus, starting in Q2 2023. ®