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Shots Fired: Intel Says Ryzen 4000 Performance Stinks on Battery

Intel called out its rival this morning, claiming that AMD’s Ryzen 4000 mobile CPUs suffer major performance penalties when running on battery.

The company said its testing found that multiple Ryzen laptops experienced as much as a 48 percent performance drop when running on battery as opposed to being plugged into the wall. Unsurprisingly, laptops using Intel’s own 11th-gen Tiger Lake showed far less of a hit, the company said.

The Big Mac is better than the Whopper, really
While you’re likely extremely skeptical of Intel’s claims—which are akin to McDonald’s dumping on Burger King or Ford dissing Chevrolet—Intel said it has homework to back up its assertions. PCWorld, in the meantime, is in the process of trying to replicate these results.

Furthermore, we were not able to reach AMD for a response before publishing, but we will update this story as soon as the company comments. We expect something along the lines of, “The competition is getting nervous and desperate.”

To back up its claims, Intel said it tested five different AMD laptops against five different Intel laptops, running common benchmarks and its own workloads using common applications such as Word, Excel, and Acrobat, and found the Ryzen-based laptops tended to throttle down on battery and stay throttled down to apparently save battery life.

For example, Intel said, using UL’s PCMark 10 Applications test that measures the performance of a laptop doing standard Microsoft Office 365-based tasks, the five different Ryzen 4000 laptops from various vendors dropped by as much as 38 percent on battery versus plugged in.

The company claims to have found similar results in many other lightly threaded tasks and benchmarks, from SYSMark to WebXPRT to its own home-rolled tests that do such tasks as exporting PowerPoint presentations to PDF, or importing an Excel chart into Word.

Interestingly, Intel said, it found that one popular 3D-rendering benchmark, Maxon’s CineBench R20, did not suffer the same performance drop. Why? Intel said its testing found that all of the Ryzen-based laptops significantly delayed boosting clock speeds by several seconds. On most very bursty workloads that last just a few seconds, you would see a depression in performance, but in a test like Cinebench that takes several minutes to run, the Core-crushing power of Ryzen 4000 is able to shine.

Who should you believe?
As we said, if Coca Cola told you Pepsi was vile swill, you’d probably just dismiss it as marketing misdirection. In this case though, Intel’s claims and data not only need to be proven, they also need to be disproven. If Intel is somehow shading results only to have it thrown back in its face, not much is gained. In fact, that would be far worse. So we do suspect there may be some smoke here.

First, every person’s requirements of a laptop is different. We already knew that for lighter work that depends on high clock speeds and burst, Intel’s 11th-gen was the preferred platform. We also knew AMD’s Ryzen 4000 was the preferred platform for those who need a ton of cores for editing video or 3D modelling.

Both of those modes are on AC. Where Intel’s claims may change the argument is if Ryzen 4000’s performance for mundane tasks isn’t just somewhat worse than 11th-gen Tiger Lake on AC, but actually far worse on DC. That’s something reviewers should strive to find out.

And even if that proves true, consumers should still weigh the pros and cons for their own needs. If you’re willing to take worse performance on battery for doing common Office chores on a Ryzen 4000 laptop to get stupidly fast multi-core performance on AC and DC, then that’s a reasoned compromise.

At the same time, if you’re willing to accept worse multi-core performance on AC or DC to get unequivocally snappy performance when running on battery, then maybe Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake is for you.

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