Taking a look at the AMD Ryzen processor inside the Surface Laptop 3

Ryzen 7 Surface Edition
Ryzen 7 Surface Edition (Image credit: AMD)

Finally, Microsoft has unveiled its latest devices and innovations at its much anticipated October 2 Event. And, it rolled out novel products – like the Surface Neo, Surface Pro X and the Surface Buds – alongside expected follow ups like the Surface Pro 7 and, of course, the Surface Laptop 3, which brings a number of new things to the table – including a custom AMD Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 processor (CPU).

The Surface Laptop 3 is now available in 13- and 15-inch models. And, as we speculated, Microsoft's light and thin laptop will now boast the coveted 10nm Ice Lake chips, not to mention the all-but-necessary USB-C ports. But, that isn’t all.

The 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 model will have configurations on offer touting a custom AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition that Microsoft co-engineered with AMD. It will be Microsoft’s first ever 15-inch Surface laptop rocking AMD chips and graphics.

This new chip sounds very exotic, so we thought we’d get more details on what exactly it is, how good it might perform and what benefits it brings to Microsoft’s ultra-light 15-inch laptop. Here’s what we have so far.

What exactly is AMD’s Ryzen 7 Surface Edition?

As reported by Tom’s Hardware, the AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition chips in the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 models are processors that consist of custom AMD APUs with Radeon RX Vega graphics processors (GPUs), and are built on Zen+ and designed to run at 15 watts (W).

Specifically crafted for the Surface Laptop 3, these processors essentially take the graphics core architecture of Xbox One. It then adds an additional compute unit to give it extra horsepower ideal for graphics-heavy applications and games – not to mention, to make it more optimized to fit the Surface Laptop 3’s slim form factor. 

Claims of the AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition being the fastest mobile CPU AMD has ever produced and being the fastest in its class as far as graphics performance have been thrown around, even capable of scaling up to 25W.

The AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition will come in two chips: the Ryzen 7 3780U Surface Edition and the Ryzen 5 3580U Surface Edition.

The Ryzen 7 3780U is a modified version of the Ryzen 7 3700U and boasts a “hybrid-turbo-like capacity for bursts up to 4GHz of 'Zen+' CPU performance.” On the other hand, the Ryzen 5 3580U boasts Radeon RX Vega 9 GPU at 1.3GHz.

Below are the specs of each chip, as shared by Tom's Hardware.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Cores / ThreadsBase / Boost (GHz)GraphicsProcessTDP
Ryzen 7 3780U "Surface Edition"4 / 82.3 / 4.0Radeon RX Vega 11 (11 CU) @ 1.4 GHz12nm / Zen+15W
Ryzen 5 3580U "Surface Edition"4 / 82.1 / 3.7Radeon RX Vega 9 (9CU) @ 1.3 GH12nm / Zen+15W

What does this mean for you?

Technical jargon aside, what this simply means for you is this: with that additional graphics core unit, these chips will allow the Surface Laptop 3 to effortlessly handle demanding content creation tasks and even gaming. In fact, according to The Verge, Microsoft has claimed that the AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition will help the Surface Laptop 3 to outperform a MacBook Pro by 70%.

This is excellent news for those MacBook Pro fans who cannot afford Apple’s premium price tags and are looking for cheaper alternatives.

What’s the difference?

While the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 configurations touting the AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition chips will still offer impressive longevity and blazing-fast charging, Microsoft has also designed it for the consumer market. It supports FreeSync, but it also only comes with WiFi 5 and DDR4-2400 RAM, whereas the Ice Lake chips come with WiFi 6 and support for LPDDR4X-3733 RAM.

Additionally, the Ice Lake configurations are targeted at commercial and business users, which means that if your computing demands are higher than those of the typical consumer, the AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition may not suffice.

Of course, you will have to wait and see until we do a full review of the Surface Laptop 3 touting a AMD Ryzen 7 Surface Edition processor to know exactly how it rivals its Intel counterpart and the MacBook Pro.

Michelle Rae Uy
Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor

Michelle Rae Uy is the Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor here at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives.