What makes the Ryzen 7 Surface Edition inside the Surface Laptop 3 so custom

Microsoft’s 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 running a “custom” AMD Ryzen CPU was one of the big surprises of Microsoft’s new Surface lineup, unveiled October 2.

Although the chip is still under fairly tight wraps, PCWorld had a chance to chat with AMD officials about its big splash with the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3, as well as the future of AMD in Microsoft products.

And yes, it was a big splash for AMD, which has seen huge success on desktop with Ryzen, but a more muted response on laptops thus far. AMD’s main problem has been resistance against going into expensive laptops.

AMD VP Jack Huynh told PCWorld that the new Surface Laptop 3 is the culmination of a two-year journey with Microsoft that grew out of work on the Xbox. Microsoft’s involvement led to optimizations that AMD hasn’t seen in some time. “Having the opportunity for the first time to have Windows, Office, Skype all optimized on AMD silicon was key to bring this experience to life,” Huynh said.

The chip itself looks very familiar to many but for the “Surface Edition” moniker on the package.

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A picture of the Microsoft Surface Edition Ryzen 7 3780U surfaced soon after the new laptop was released. It’ll feature a quad-core chip built on a 12nm process and up to 11 graphics compute units.

Inside it’s a quad-core APU using AMD’s Zen+ cores, with simultaneous multi-threading enabled to bring the total thread count to eight. Although it uses a 3000-series model, it’s still built on the slightly older 12nm process.

With its boost speed matching the Ryzen 7 3700U’s 4GHz, the only noticeable difference is an extra Radeon Vega-based graphics compute unit—the Ryzen 7 3780U features 11 compute units instead of 10.

The lower-end Ryzen 5 3580U found in lower-priced versions of the Surface Laptop features 9 compute units. AMD didn’t confirm the exact clock speeds, but Tom’s Hardware reported the the CPU clocks look exactly like those of today’s Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 mobile parts, with the Ryzen 7 3780U ranging from 2.3GHz to 4GHz and the Ryzen 5 3580U ranging from 2.1GHz to 3.7GHz. Both are low-power-consumption, 15-watt TDP chips.

But if you’re thinking these are just Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 variations with one more graphics compute unit, big whoop, that’s where AMD says you’re wrong.

surfacelaptop3 9 Microsoft

What makes it custom

For this project, AMD and Microsoft collaborated closely on the processor’s firmware and software stack. AMD officials say the chip’s firmware was essentially “rebuilt” for the Surface Laptop 3.

The most obvious feature is the ability to receive all updates directly through Windows Update—something most Surface users are accustomed too.

More importantly, AMD officials said the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3’s Ryzen features predictive algorithms and will boost to higher speeds than off-the-shelf Ryzen 7 3700U chips. It essentially “learns” from the system’s behavior and can tell if you’re just editing a document or encoding video. It makes appropriate adjustments for performance and battery life.

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