Intel's (INTC 3.21%) tenuous lead in the video-gaming laptop market was threatened a little more on Monday, when Advanced Micro Devices (AMD 5.64%) unveiled two computer processors built from the ground up with mobility in mind. The Ryzen 9 4900H and the Ryzen 9 4900HS are the best-performing laptop CPUs yet among AMD's 4000 series of processors, putting Intel's top-of-the-line i9 9880H laptop gaming-capable CPU directly in its sights.
To the non-gamer, the specs won't mean much. And to the average investor, the news won't mean a whole lot more. Advanced Micro Devices has been chipping away at Intel's dominance of the central processor market since 2017, when the first Ryzen CPU was released. Shareholders have become accustomed to seeing Intel lose ground. But it's still the market leader.
Monday's announcement, however, is another warning to Intel and its investors that AMD remains a serious threat to future growth.
Newest mobile Ryzen CPU boosts laptop gaming
Of all the tech markets to prioritize, gaming laptops aren't it. Hardcore video gamers have historically been willing to sacrifice mobility for performance, steering them toward desktops rather than laptops. Not all laptops have graphics cards, and desktop computers lend themselves far better to hardware upgrades.
Improved technologies have driven a subtle shift within the video gaming industry, however. Some laptops now do offer built-in, stand-alone graphics cards, and some central processors are able to run quickly enough to handle even the most intense games without running into overheating problems. NVIDIA (NVDA 5.55%) suggested a year ago that annual sales of gaming laptops were now in excess of $12 billion, and that's without game-changing (no pun intended) CPUs that have been optimized to work with on-board graphics hardware.
Enter the Ryzen 9 4900 series of mobile-minded CPUs. Both come with eight cores, and are capable of handling 16 threads at time. They're also technically choreographed to work with up to eight cores of integrated Vega graphics processors, another Advanced Micro Devices development.
The higher-performance CPU of the two new 7-nanometer beasts can cruise at a speed of 3.3 GHz, but when necessary, can burst up to 4.4 GHz. Perhaps more noteworthy is that the better of these CPUs only needs 45 watts of electricity to operate, while the slightly slower one can operate on only 35 watts of power. That could add between an hour and two hours of useful life to a laptop's battery charge, further deflating the argument that a non-portable gaming rig is the only suitable choice for true video game fans.
Most important of all? It looks as if the new 4900HS processor outperforms Intel's Core i9-9880H... at least according to the testing AMD says it's done.
Take the bigger hint
Unfortunately, we won't know how well Advanced Micro Devices' newest mobile CPU will perform in the real world for a while, because it's not available yet. It's first slated to launch on board ASUS' ROG Zephyrus G14 sometime this spring. Other laptops with the hardware should start to show up shortly after the ASUS debut, if not before. Gamers will put the processor through its proper paces then, comparing it to Intel's latest technology on a game-for-game basis. But they can't do so yet.
For investors, though, the bigger story here is yet another indication that AMD is prepared to keep taking market share away from Intel beyond the narrowly focused gaming laptop market. Data center operators are looking for ways to consume less electricity, and the 4900's tech touches on that. Graphic designers and movie editing types want more mobility, and the 4900 touches on that need as well.
At stake is not just a leading position in the race to supply gaming laptops' most expensive components, but also a much bigger piece of the CPU and GPU markets. These segments have collectively driven nearly $78 billion worth of revenue during the past four reported quarters for NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel. Of that figure, Advanced Micro Devices only captured $6.7 billion of it, leaving lots of room for growth.