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AMD is making laptop CPU model numbers simultaneously less and more confusing

AMD's new naming scheme for Ryzen 7000 laptop CPUs, broken down.
Enlarge / AMD’s new naming scheme for Ryzen 7000 laptop CPUs, broken down.

AMD

Even for someone who pays a lot of attention to them, processor model numbers can be hard to parse. Ideally, each model number would communicate information about the chip’s underlying technology and capabilities, making it easy to quickly tell the difference between a new chip and an old chip or a fast chip and a slow chip. But these model numbers also serve a marketing purpose, both for AMD and for PC makers who want to advertise that their systems are using the latest and greatest chips.

AMD is making an effort to resolve this tension with a revamp of its laptop CPU model numbers, which will go into effect in 2023, when Ryzen 7000-branded laptop processors begin shipping. Here’s how AMD breaks it down:

  • The first digit now indicates the year in which the CPU was launched, with Ryzen 7000 CPUs coming in 2023, Ryzen 8000 in 2024, and Ryzen 9000 in 2025.
  • A higher second digit indicates better performance. It will no longer have anything to do with the underlying CPU architecture, as it sometimes does for older chips (Ryzen 5 5500U is Zen 2-based, for example, while Ryzen 5 5600U is Zen 3-based).
  • The third digit will now indicate the CPU architecture being used. A “1” means either the original Zen or Zen +, a “2” denotes Zen 2, a “3” denotes either Zen 3 or Zen 3+, a “4” denotes Zen 4, and a “5” will refer to the as-yet-unannounced Zen 5.
  • The fourth digit is another loose performance indicator. CPUs ending in “0” will be slower, and CPUs ending in “5” will be faster (as of this writing, those are the only two numbers in use).
  • The suffix will denote the TDP of the chip, as it currently does. HX-series chips start at 55 W TDPs, Hs-series chips start at 35 W, U-series chips range from 15 to 28 W, e-series chips are 9 W parts targeted at fanless systems, and C-series chips are just U-series chips in Chromebooks instead of Windows PCs.

AMD also provided this slide, showing how the new model numbers will work in practice for the Ryzen 7000 series (which will encompass at least four distinct CPU architectures, from Zen 2 to Zen 4).

How the new numbering scheme will break down for the Ryzen 7000 series, which will encompass a lot of distinct CPUs.
Enlarge / How the new numbering scheme will break down for the Ryzen 7000 series, which will encompass a lot of distinct CPUs.

AMD

At the low end, the Ryzen 7020 series will include Athlon, Ryzen 3, and Ryzen 5 CPUs codenamed Mendocino, which combine 2019’s Zen 2 CPU architecture with new RDNA2-based GPU cores on a refreshed 6 nm manufacturing process. Mid-range processors in the Ryzen 7030 and 7035 series will essentially be repackaged versions of current Ryzen 5000 and Ryzen 6000 CPUs, going off of the Barcelo-R and Rembrandt-R codenames. The 7040 and 7045 series, codenamed Phoenix and Dragon Range, respectively, will be the only new CPUs in the entire lineup and have new Zen 4 CPU cores.

It is genuinely useful to see the model numbers laid out like this for people who are frequently asked to parse this kind of information. But whether it actually solves a problem depends on what you think the problem is.

The new numbering will help enthusiasts identify the underlying CPU architecture of any given laptop chip without having to look it up, and it will allow AMD to “update” its laptop CPUs by taking a currently shipping processor, making small changes to the clock speed or GPU core count, and releasing it as a new processor with a new model number.

But if you think it’s a problem that AMD uses totally different naming schemes for its laptop CPUs and desktop CPUs, that isn’t going away (AMD says explicitly that it is not planning changes to its desktop numbering scheme right now).

And if you think it’s a problem that similar-looking model numbers can be used for CPUs with totally different capabilities, the new numbering might be a bit worse. As an enthusiast, I could tell you that a hypothetical Ryzen 5 7630U is a rebranded 5000-series chip and that a Ryzen 5 7635U is a rebranded 6000-series chip. But as a consumer, you’re still intended to see the number 7 and think, “Oh, this is new,” even though Rembrandt comes with big boosts to GPU performance and power efficiency compared to Barcelo. The new numbers are more transparent than the old ones, but CPU model number confusion isn’t going anywhere.

Listing image by AMD

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