Old chips, new tricks
AMD has announced two new lines of processor: the Athlon 3000 C-Series and the Ryzen 3000 C-series. The two are meant to power Chromebooks, and AMD says they’ll be shipping in over 14 designs this year.
The Ryzen 3000 C-Series includes the Ryzen 7 3700C and the Ryzen 5 3500C (four cores, eight threads, 12nm node Zen+ architecture) as well as the Ryzen 3 3250C (two cores, four threads, 14nm Zen architecture). The Athlons include the Gold 3150C (two cores, four threads) and the Athlon Silver 3050C (two cores, two threads), both built with the 14nm Zen architecture. The chips include Vega integrated graphics, which AMD says are “the most powerful graphics available in a Chromebook.”
There’s a catch, though: these chips aren’t really new (or at least, they’re not a new design). AMD’s most recent generation of mobile processors, the Ryzen 4000 series, are built on Zen 2 architecture; Zen and Zen+ are its predecessors. Specifically, last year’s Ryzen 3000 mobile series and 2000 desktop series are built on Zen+, while the Ryzen 2000 mobile series and 1000 desktop series are built on Zen. So for the three dual-core chips, we’re looking at an architecture from 2017.
And some of the chips are just clones. If you look at the specs of the 3700C, in particular, you’ll see it’s identical to the Ryzen 7 3700U (including its 10 Radeon cores clocked at up to 1400MHz), which you’ll find in systems like Acer’s Aspire 5 and Dell’s Inspiron 15. The 3500C might also look familiar: it looks like a rebranded 3500U (with 8 Radeon cores clocked at up to 1200 MHz).
AMD, to its credit, acknowledged this fact in its launch presentation. The company stated that it still felt important to rebrand the chip as a Chromebook-specific CPU: “We want people to Google this model and find a Chromebook.” Fair enough — just don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a brand-new chip.
There’s not necessarily anything wrong with using a chip that’s not the most recent, and Chromebooks commonly have lower-power chips than high-end Windows laptops do. But it’s worth noting that the only place these systems are likely to be competitive with current Intel systems is price.