Last week, I tuned into the annual Computex 2021 event, held in Taipei, Taiwan. A must for anyone involved in the PC sector, this computer expo is one of the biggest, most well-attended trade shows on the planet.
Manufacturers of PCs and computing components come from worldwide to show off their latest and greatest, often seizing the occasion to announce new products and technology. AMD made a big splash at the event this year, taking a run at gaming primacy with a new notebook design framework, new laptops and new graphics technology.
Let’s take a look at what AMD’s Frank Azor announced at the show.
Introducing AMD Advantage
I believe the biggest story from AMD’s Computex show was the new AMD Advantage Design Framework, the fruits of an effort between gamers, AMD engineering and its PC partners to develop “the next generation of premium, high-performance gaming laptops.” I don’t say this lightly as AMD hit some huge Computex home runs like FSR, Tesla Model S and X wins and the disclosure that Samsung is using RDNA2 which includes ray tracing for mobile devices.
The first AMD Advantage laptops, HP’s Omen 16 and Asus’s ROG Strix G15, should arrive this month, showcasing the impressive performance, graphics and immersion AMD claims Advantage will enable for gamers. While these will be the first computers out of the gate, AMD shared that laptops from MSI and Lenovo will be coming later in 2021.
The notebook gamer conundrum – the fiddler crab
For many notebook gamers, selecting the right gaming notebook is a challenge. There are a sea of specifications out there and sometimes going just all-in on one aspect of a design will harm another element of the experience. It’s like a fiddler crab with one giant claw.
For instance, you can configure a highly-performant notebook that burns fingers as you’re playing a game. If you don’t think enough about the display you could have stuttering and tearing. Some gaming notebooks skimp on battery size and life and you can’t watch a full movie if you wanted to. My “favorite” is slow storage on gaming notebooks that take an eternity to load a game or shift from scene to scene. If you make a mistake with on specifying your gaming laptop, there’s no turning back- you’re stuck. This is different from a gaming desktop where components are mix and match.
I don’t blame OEMs for this as a very technical shopper knows better, but every gamer isn’t a surgical shopper or know the design trade-offs.
The framework essentially works like this: AMD does primary research on gamers to find what they prefer and consults with OEM partners in selecting the right discrete GPU, CPU, display and other necessary hardware components for their gaming laptops.
Premium displays, naturally, are crucial for high-end gaming laptops, and AMD has made this a priority. AMD Advantage laptops will feature tip-top 144HZ-plus displays with extreme low-latency, AMD FreeSync technology, IPS and OLED panels, 300-plus nits brightness, and 100% SRGB or 72% NTSC.
Additionally, AMD is promising 100 FPS gaming experiences at 1080P, over 10 hours of video playback on a battery charge and speeds up to three times faster due to their NVMe storage drives.
New graphics to boot
At the heart of the AMD Advantage line, including the two noted above, is another new announcement—AMD’s Radeon RX 6000M Series Mobile Graphics. AMD built these new graphics offering upon its (also new) RDNA 2 gaming architecture, which AMD says delivers 1.5X better performance than the previous generation RDNA or use as much as 43% less power, at the same performance level of the previous generation.
An aside: RDNA 2 is also the foundation of the next-generation PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and X consoles.
The 6000M Series comes with a bevy of new, compelling features. Take the AMD Infinity Cache, which cuts latency and power consumption by integrating as much as 96MB of last-level data cache into the GPU die. AMD’s Smart Access Memory, also included, enables select AMD-based laptops to achieve even better performance by giving their Ryzen processors full access to AMD’s Radeon GDDR6 graphics memory.
AMD SmartShift Technology dynamically toggles laptop power between the Ryzen chips and the graphics, optimizing resources to give the laptop a helpful boost of performance. Radeon Chill, meanwhile, monitors in-game movements and regulates frame rates accordingly, which AMD says gives the 6000M series an extension of battery life.
The last new feature of the 6000M series that I’ll note is FidelityFX, an open-source toolkit of graphics enhancement effects. Available through AMD GPUOpen, game developers can access rasterized lighting, reflection and shadow effects and more. Perhaps most exciting is that it features AMD’s new FidelityFX Super Resolution, or FSR, which gives gamers four different options for balancing image quality and performance, depending on their wants and needs.
AMD says that FSR supports ray tracing and other performance-intensive effects. For that matter, it’s purportedly capable of delivering as much as twice the framerate for select games and as much as 2.5X as much 4K performance when engaging the “Performance” setting, thanks to its optimized spatial upscaling technology. All of this is possible through the FidelityFX toolkit, which means that you may not even have to update your graphics card to access these benefits.
I’ll be writing more on FSR in the future and one thing I love is that it seems easy for developers to embrace versus other image quality enhancer solutions. AMD’s approach reminds me of FreeSync that was easy to implement, didn’t raise cost and ended up being pervasive.
Experience-based notebook implementations like Intel’s Evo and AMD Advantage for gamers are positive things for the industry. Evo is focused on mobile professionals and AMD Advantage is the first and only design framework like this for notebook gamers.
I believe discerning gamers want the combination of great performance, great display, and quality design to deliver a great experience. But researching and choosing the right gaming laptop is a confusing endeavor to many. With the AMD Advantage design framework, I believe gamers will save time researching and lower their purchase risk. I believe AMD can architect a more effective framework as it has its own gaming processor, graphics, and software stack and enable OEMs to bring their vision to life.
I applaud AMD for helping notebook gamers and making sure it wasn’t a toothless sticker and marketing program. First generation programs are never perfect and AMD Advantage will likely have some improvements with more teeth next round, but this is a very good first step. I can’t wait to get my hands on one later this month and see for myself.