Power Consumption and Software Concerns

During our testing, we pitted the Ryzen 5 2500U-equipped notebook against Intel’s 8th generation 8250U for a reason; they are both quoted from the CPU vendors to be at a 15W TDP. However, with modern notebooks, it isn’t always that simple.

We live in an age where notebook OEMs are being provided great flexibility in adjusting the power draw of a given processor to suit the thermal capabilities of their chassis design. While this can be great for end consumers if implemented well, it makes it difficult to perform an apples-to-apples comparison of notebook CPUs.

As it turned out, this was the case with the Ryzen 5 2500U, specifically in the HP Envy x360. Performing testing with fully charged notebooks plugged into AC adapters and the same external monitor (internal displays were disabled due to potential variance), we measured how much each notebook was drawing “at the wall.”

In CPU heavy tasks such a POV-Ray, we saw a power draw of around 37W for the Ryzen 5 2500U, 14W more than the quad-core Intel processors.

Additionally, in gaming performance, we saw the 2500U notebook drawing around 41-43 Watts of power, while in the same scenario, the 8250U with integrated graphics was drawing under 30 Watts While this is still 25% less power than the Intel plus NVIDIA MX150 solution, it also provides 50% less performance.

Looking at the power draw numbers from this specific notebook with the R5 2500U, you could make an argument that it actually should be compared to Intel’s higher performance H-series parts, which are quoted at a 35W TDP. While we didn’t have any of these machines on-hand to test with, power draw is a valid concern for users looking for the best possible battery life to performance ratio out of their thin-and-light notebooks.

Recently, there have been some benchmarks on the internet suggesting that the new Acer Swift notebook with the 2500U and 2700U will be configured to run closer to the 15W TDP. We hope to get our hands on this notebook soon to provide some more performance comparisons at equal power draw!

One of the long struggles with gaming on notebooks has been the software ecosystem. In the past, notebook manufacturers were responsible for delivering new versions of the graphics drivers, repacked by their software teams.

This meant that you often had to wait much longer for notebook drivers, which meant not being able to take advantage of software optimizations for newer titles. In recent years, NVIDIA has mostly addressed this through their Project Verde driver program. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case for AMD’s latest generation of APUs.

There have been no updated drivers released for the HP Envy x360 since it’s launch in November, and likewise, owners of this notebook have been complaining to both HP and AMD about the situation. The community has figured out a (mostly) successful way to sideload the newer Radeon Software Adrenalin driver stack onto these notebooks, but that is an unsupported solution.

We plan on doing some performance testing with these new drivers and report back, but overall the situation seems bleak with a lot of finger-pointing between AMD and HP, and no one taking responsibility for the lack of driver updates for this new flagship platform.

Overall, the Ryzen 5 2500U found in the HP Envy x360 is a great effort put forth by AMD. While we might have concerns about software updates, it’s not something that AMD shouldn’t be able to address by working closely with their OEM partners on a solution.

For users concerned about battery life, the Core i5-2850U-based options would likely be a better option, even when paired with the higher-performance MX150 GPU.

However, it is very promising to see AMD going from completely uncompetitive in the notebook space with parts like the FX-9800P to very competitive with the Ryzen 5 2500U. Like the transformation the desktop space went through in 2017, I look forward to seeing a competitive AMD help shake up the notebook space.

We are still working on getting our hands on some of the more recently released notebooks with the R5 2500 and R7 2700U, and will continue to provide updates on the competitive landscape as we go, so stay tuned!

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