At Computex today AMD unveiled a new mobile platform that takes its older Zen 2 architecture and reworks it as a mainstream laptop platform with an emphasis on long battery life, connectivity, and affordability.
AMD calls this mobile platform Mendocino, and it’s expected to launch in Q4 of 2022. It features a revamped Zen 2 4C/8T architecture that’s been reworked on TSMC’s 6nm process, down from the 7nm node it was originally built on. The other big upgrade is it features the company’s latest RDNA2 graphics, as compared to the Vega-class GPUs that shipped with the Ryzen 4000 and Ryzen 5000 families. AMD says this will grant this platform the same benefits found in its high-end 6000-series chips. That includes best in class graphics, battery life, and video encoding/decoding (relative to the intended market). AMD says people usually expect a handful of hours of battery life in this price segment. But with Mendocino, it’s targeting 10 hours, at a minimum. The goal is to basically bring premium features into more affordable laptops. These laptops are targeting an MSRP of $399 to $699.
The news of Mendocino’s existence is particularly interesting in light of the news that AMD is also now partnering with MediaTek. Last last year it announced it had co-engineered a new Filogic 330P Wi-Fi chipset for its upcoming mobile and desktop platforms. It delivers Wi-Fi 6E including coverage for 6G, as well as Bluetooth 5.2. This combination lets AMD deliver a complete platform to OEMs, and is a direct threat to Intel’s bread and butter. Intel has always had all the bases covered including CPU+GPU+connectivity, so this is AMD offering a similar package. Intel has always dominated the market for affordable laptops, so AMD is looking to change that.
As far as the architecture goes, AMD has pulled a fast one on everyone. It seemingly remade its Zen 2 architecture for Valve’s Steam Deck, but lo and behold it’s also for Mendocino. The combination of the smaller Zen 2 cores along with TSMC’s “evolution” of its 7nm process could be a potent combo. TSMC claims 18 percent higher logic density on 6nm versus 7nm, so there’s real gains to be had. Its Zen 2 refresh could therefore offer great general performance and exceptional battery life at a low price point. Last year there were rumors that Sony would tap this node for a 6nm PS5 die shrink, but it’s not clear if that actually happened.
Also, Intel doesn’t have a lot of processors aimed at this market segment with Alder Lake. It has a bevy of Core i3 and i5 15W processors but it’s unclear what the TDP of Mendocino will be. On the Steam Deck, the Zen 2 APU is listed as having a 4-15W TDP, with its iGPU offering two CUs running at 1GHz to 1.6GHz. Intel might match Mendocino with older Tiger Lake chips, which Zen 2 is well positioned to compete against.
With Mendocino covering the low-end of the mobile segment, AMD is also targeting the high-end too. It’s already announced its upcoming Dragon Range lineup of high-performance mobile chips. That platform will be based on Zen 4 though, which is launching this fall. Dragon Range will follow in 2023, and take on Intel’s Alder Lake HX Extreme platform, which uses desktop chips in a mobile form factor. It’s also possible that by that time there will be a Raptor Lake version. Either way, the battle for mobile supremacy is definitely heating up, in all segments of the market.
Editor’s Note: While there’s no proof AMD did this on purpose, the codename Mendocino recalls Intel’s legendary budget overclocker, the Celeron 300A. We’ll be curious to see if AMD’s platform is similarly good for mobile users who want a high-efficiency mobile platform that punches above its weight class.