Making sense of the AMD Ryzen Microsoft Surface Edition processors

Panos Panay with Surface Laptop 3
Panos Panay with Surface Laptop 3 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Until now, all Surface Laptop configurations, as with Surface Pro and Surface Book have been powered by Intel. Microsoft has shaken things up a little not only by adding a 15-inch model, but by powering it with AMD hardware.

There's plenty of buzz about the Surface Edition Ryzen processor and the claims of "best in class performance", but what, actually, is it? Well, it's not as custom as you may think, but that doesn't make it any less impressive.

AMD Ryzen Surface Edition tech specs

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Header Cell - Column 0 Ryzen 5 3580URyzen 7 3780U
Vega GPU cores911
GPU clock1300 MHz1400 MHz
Base clock2.1 GHz2.3 GHz
Max boost clock3.7 GHz4.0 GHz
System memory2400 MHz2400 MHz
Memory channels22

You can check out the complete spec list for the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 at AMD. On a hardware level, GPU aside, they're basically identical to the Ryzen 5 3500U and the Ryzen 7 3700U. The fact that these both exist already with the magic 15W TDP Microsoft was looking for makes using them an easy choice.

So what are AMD Ryzen Microsoft Surface Edition processors (besides a mouthful)?

Surface Laptop 3

It sounds pretty awesome, right? A special edition processor just for the Surface Laptop 3. And it is. I'm excited, and you should be too. I love Ryzen and I'm happy to see it inside a flagship Windows 10 laptop like this one.

But we shouldn't get carried away by the whole "custom" thing. While it is, it's more of a beefed-up, optimized version of what you can already get in some other laptops. It's still an exclusive design, but based on existing hardware.

It's different, but it's not a lot different.

The Ryzen Surface Edition is made up of two parts, the CPU and GPU, and both have their own importance. The GPU is the significant hardware change compared to other Ryzen laptops in that Microsoft gets an additional GPU core on both the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7. Microsoft gets Vega 9 and Vega 11 on the Ryzen 5 and 7 respectively, whereas everyone else "only" gets Vega 8 and Vega 10. While one additional core doesn't make a massive difference, it still makes a difference, and considering how good AMD's integrated graphics are, the more cores you can get the better.

The Vega GPU cores are paired with four Ryzen CPU cores with eight threads. The CPU cores are still based on AMD's previous generation architecture, the 12nm Zen+, not the new 7nm Zen 2. The base and boost clocks appear to be the same as the non-Surface Edition chips they're based on.

It's Ryzen and it's good

Ultimately, the hardware is worth being excited about, and no doubt the collaboration has resulted in a number of optimizations under the hood, especially with claims of all-day battery life. My own Ryzen laptop, while decent, certainly doesn't last all-day.

But the whole "Surface Edition" thing appears mostly a marketing tactic. That doesn't mean any of the claims are false, it just means that for the most part it's a rebadging of existing Ryzen chips, tossing an additional GPU core on and then optimizing it for the Surface Laptop 3.

Technically it's custom, but a better label would be customized. Other Ryzen laptop buyers aren't being left far behind.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

  • From looking at the measurables on the AMD Ryzen 3700u vs the Intel Core I7-1065G7 it seems that the Intel chip is quite a bit better. How much of a difference does the upgraded graphics on the 3780u make? I'm wondering if the cost isn't substantially different whether or not anyone interested in the 15" Surface Laptop 3 would be better off getting the business variant which is available with the Core i7-1065G7 processor and the ancillary benefits that come with that (Wifi 6, etc...)
  • Personally, I'm looking past this generation product and looking longer term. Ryzen mobile is still based on the older architecture right now. However, eventually, we'd expect Navi based integrated graphics and a move to the 7nm Zen 2 platform. I think that'll be when real benefits start to show their face.
  • I like that we can get a Laptop 3 with 32GB Memory, which I've ordered to replace my Surface Book 2. However, I'm concerned about the CPU performance with this AMD CPU. I've always liked Intel CPUs and was looking forward to a 10th gen CPU. I'm Sure bit disappointed that they went this route or didn't give us a choice for CPUs if you need that much memory.
  • You can get an Surface 3 laptop with 32GB of Memory through the Microsoft Business store: That version has the Quad-core 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-1065G7 Processor instead of the AMD Ryzen.
  • Even that's a little confusing. When you look at the specs, it shows the AMD even though you're picking an i7. I'm not sure which is accurate.
  • Their website is still kind of a mess. The business laptop specs are here: There is no Ryzen option on the Surface Business version of the 15". The pricing is $100 more but I think that is strictly paying for Windows 10 Pro vs Windows 10 Home on the consumer Ryzen 15" model.
  • Their site is definitely a mess. It's as if they weren't prepared for yesterday's announcements. Thanks!
  • Businesses can get a Intel CPU based 15 inch surface Laptop. I do not know whether it's more
    expensive to purchase than an AMD model
  • It's slightly more expensive for the Windows 10 Pro license (which I'll have to buy anyway on the consumer model). Also, the Microsoft Complete Warranty plan seems much more expensive. Both 32GB models are out of stock last I checked.
  • Is there a possibility that the reason there is no thunderbolt in the surface laptop 3 because of the AMD processors? Would it have required additional hardware to support thunderbolt? It probably would have been strange for them to have thunderbolt on the 13.5 intel laptops and not on the 15 inch amds; but kind of sucks they might have crippled the intel laptops to have parity.
  • Surface Connect existing is likely the reason for no Thunderbolt rather than anything to do with using AMD.
  • Agreed. Thunderbolt 3 is entirely possible on AMD platforms, though uncommon. There's a couple of AMD desktop motherboards with TB3 built-in.
  • I thought tb3 was exclusive to intel because of licensing?
  • As did many, seems it can't be the case though. ASRock launched an X570 motherboard recently with Thunderbolt 3. I think as long as the standard is implemented correctly it can be used by both.
  • This is nice but I think the 7nm amd chip will be a larger improvement.
  • Absolutely. But why wait until that's ready, get the partnership rolling. Competition never harms the market.