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Samsung and Intel's partnership reveals why it's so hard for AMD to break through

Intel Evo Logo 3
Intel Evo Logo 3 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Earlier this week, Samsung announced some stunning new Windows laptops. The company has made some excellent PCs in the past, but with its first-ever Galaxy Unpacked event dedicated to Windows, it is evident the South Korean company is raising the stakes this time.

But it was on stage, and behind the scenes, that is the real story. Many AMD fans often wonder why PC makers ignore the Intel competitor for new laptops, as for some, AMD is the preferred choice.

The reason is, as always, about money. But it is also about Intel (and Microsoft) working more closely with laptop makers so consumers get better devices. And it's working.

Intel co-engineers (and gives support)

Intel Samsung

Source: Samsung (Image credit: Source: Samsung)

Intel is not a dumb company, even if its processor strategy has slid in the past few years. It using leverage to gain preference with PC makers is not unfair. It is good business.

But Intel doesn't just lean on capital. A few years ago, it began its "Project Athena" program as a multi-year journey to push the laptop segment forward. That later evolved into a more formalized (and marketable) Intel Evo certification. For a company to earn the Evo sticker, a laptop needs to meet specific criteria, including:

  • Consistent responsiveness on battery.
  • Wake from sleep in less than 1 second.
  • 9 or more hours of real-world battery life on laptops with a Full HD display.
  • 4 or more hours of battery life in a 30-minute charge on laptops with Full HD display.
  • Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6.
  • Touchscreen.

It's a tremendous joint program between OEMs and Intel as it ensures a certain level of performance and features when people buy a laptop. It is also a response to Apple's tight marriage of hardware and software, which a company like HP or Dell would struggle with since they only build the laptop, they do not design the OS or the chipsets.

Intel Vs Amd 1

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft is in on the action too. I remember hearing some OEMs laughing about Microsoft's Intel' Skylake' debacle from 2015. Finally, they noted, Microsoft knows what it is like to make a Windows laptop. Microsoft learned from that mistake and now works closely with Intel and OEMs to optimize laptop design and software. While things aren't perfect, they are much better, and we haven't had a repeat of 'Skylake.'

All of this is evident this week with Samsung. Intel was literally a part of the show with "co-engineered" emblazoned next to the Intel Evo logo. They're not kidding, either. The new Galaxy Book Pro and Book Pro x360 have unique features like tuned Bluetooth to work better with Galaxy accessories and phones. And, for the first time, the Core i7-1165G7 in these Samsung laptops have an optional fanless mode. Indeed, performance will be limited when that feature is enabled, but it is a fascinating advancement for those who do not like whirring fans while doing lighter work.

Intel's engineering goes even further. They work with Sensel, who is now making haptic trackpads. And the whole dual-screen PC initiative, which Microsoft endorses, is driven by Intel who created reference devices for OEMs to emulate. Remember 'Tiger Rapids'?

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

And that ground-breaking Lenovo Yoga Book C930? It is also an Intel reference device that Lenovo brought to market with its own twist (this also explains why it doesn't run an ARM processor, by the way).

Intel is also behind Thunderbolt (in collaboration with Apple) and is the largest producer of Wi-Fi 6 mobile cards displacing Marvel (thankfully). The company is also leading the charge on the fascinating new security tech of human presence detection in laptops.

Say what you want about Intel, but the company is behind many of the recent innovations in PCs.

Intel: It's about marketing, too

Intel does not, however, only make processors nor co-engineer laptops. It also helps market them. Those little stickers that everyone hates on Windows PCs? OEMs get a discount by having it on the computer, which then makes pricing lower for consumers.

There are also TV and print ads. Every night I see an Intel Evo ad on primetime TV. It boasts Intel's new features, but it also features new laptops from OEM partners. Often, it's the Dell XPS 13, one of the most popular Windows laptops around. (The ad is often a variation on the video above).

If you are Dell, you just received some sweet marketing that did not come out of your budget. You will also never put an AMD chip into that laptop as Intel helped you make it. The XPS 13 was one of the first Intel Evo laptops, after all.

AMD doesn't do much of this (yet)

Amd Logo Laptop 1

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

AMD's business is proliferating, but it is still less than half the market cap of Intel. It wisely sinks all its resources into chip development instead of pricey ads or marketing schtick.

It is working, too. AMD has made substantial gains in servers, desktops, and, yes, increasingly laptops.

But, many consumers do not care about that stuff. They see a laptop and wonder why Razer does not throw in an AMD chip – after all, it has more cores, so obviously better (spoiler: it's not obviously better).

While you may care about core counts, the companies making these laptops look for an advantage in design, marketing, support, and performance. Intel gives them that edge. So, do not be shocked when your favorite co-designed Intel laptop doesn't support AMD Ryzen chip. It is just business. And frankly, Windows laptops are now better for it.

If you want more insight about these topics, make sure to tune into our weekly podcast, where we discuss such issues in much more depth along with answering your questions.

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

23 Comments
  • Well written Dan.
    Actually, I'd say it's only quite recently that 'benchmarking' became the norm and measure of ultimate performance in mass consumer hardware. Remember in the late 2000's and early 2010's (and in the 'smoked by windows phone' days), it was the TOTAL experience that mattered. Apple has shown this over and over with the iPhone. Hardly anyone knew how much ram was in the iPhone or what the processor clockspeed was (I still don't know today). And Apple hardly emphasized that (until recently with the M1), but the overall performance and experience was for a very long time superior to Android. Of course, the secret was that the iPhone was extremely vertically integrated, allowing very tight optimization and efficiency rather than the one-size fits all style of every other manufacturer. What Intel and the evo program is trying to do is to approach the Apple model a bit more, where the chip makers, OS developers and motherboard/laptop makers work much more collaboratively, as if it's all a single company.
    AMD will have to do this as well for their processors to really shine in laptops/portables where optimization is much more critical. Hopefully, it moves the entire computing platform forward.
  • Well written, good read.
  • Great article. It expands upon what you've been commenting about how Intel is more deeply "intertwined" with laptop manufacturers to make devices better via Evo certification, Thunderbolt, etc. There is certainly a difference when the parts of a device are designed with the whole in mind as opposed to simply picking out and matching random OEM components and making a laptop out of it. However, this new innovative streak from Intel only came about once they saw the threat of Qualcomm's Snapdragon for Windows processors, because back in the "old days" when AMD was a joke, they were pretty complacent. I mean, they do deserve credit, but it's only because of competitive forces keeping them honest. I'd like to see AMD also tinker with their own ARM processor designs for laptops, since that is where computing is inevitably headed, and it will probably make Intel pull several proverbial rabbits out of their hat to catch up.
  • Hmm, and Intel never played dirty with AMD in the past? What about when AMD was trouncing Intel with the AMD X64 processors and Intel was actively blocking AMD from manufacturers with deals and incentives? Got them a pretty big fine but it was pocket change to them and hurt AMD massively.
  • And? This article was not a multi-decade recap of the riff between Intel and AMD. It was a small recap, at best, of the last 3 years of processors in laptops. Let's stay focused.
  • "Intel is not a dumb company, even if its processor strategy has slid in the past few years. It using leverage to gain preference with PC makers is not unfair. It is good business." Using their leverage before was what got them that huge fine. I get it, you get your Intel fluff piece. Intel gets their way again and you can look forward to years of milking incremental updates because they have no competition, either because there is no competition, or they're leveraging their way to no competition....
  • You haven't refuted any points in the article yet. Whether you like Intel or think its practices are immoral is not my concern nor my interest.
  • And this is why I miss [H]ardOCP. They didn't post PR stories, making excuses for scummy tactics and just saying, hey, it's business.... There is more to the story than what you are alluding too. If you want to hide your head in the sand, by all means go ahead....
  • Daniel, Broken is just hazing you. Why? Because Broken is that kind of person.
  • Broken is just... broken 🤣
  • Lol. Not trying to be a jerk. It was a good article. Just trying to say there is more to the feel good story. Intel makes good stuff, just hate when companies do dirty tactics to hurt competition. Don’t get me started on a Nvidia lol
  • If they do they'll eventually pay... I mean of AMD feels like there is something wrong they can fiel for it.. it is also part of business to call out bad practice, if you don't you are partly responsible of your own demise... not saying Intel is right but taking actions even legal ones is part of the process that leads to success.... it's not by letting things slide or being too focused on yourself... bit I don't think Intel is engaged as much in those shady practice than last time if any... why take the risk when the legal way is working rather well especially with AMD struggling with production output to fulfill demands.... the risk and return seems not worth it to me this time around...
  • When you have the market cap and funds of Intel, fines are a slap on the wrist. A company need revenue sources, remove those scourges and it doesn’t matter how better your product is, if you can’t sell your product you can’t continue. Last time Intel blocked AMD from vendors it hurt AMD really bad. They didn’t have income for R&D and other necessities which snowballed into years of being behind and trying to catch up.
  • intel has played a big role in many innovations for mobile computers, but its business model is detrimental to competitors and monopoly undermines innovation as it was happening before AMD managed to break this cycle on desktops
  • There is quite a lot of competition these days (Apple, AMD, Qualcomm, Intel, even Huawei and Samsung and soon NVIDIA) and it comes down to one thing: having a good product. Take, for instance, Ryzen 3000 Mobile. It wasn't very good. It was merely OK. The 4000 and 5000 series have stepped it up though. Qualcomm and AMD each have interesting alternatives to Intel allowing them to find a niche. If they want to overtake Intel, however, they're both going to have to try harder and do more too. We'll only see the field tighten in the coming years, which is a good thing.
  • Daniel, you once said the Surface Pro X was your favorite device. The processor is a Qualcomm chip--a RISC chip. Why don't people remember the forty-plus years of chip and computer design? I have been buying computers since the mid-'80s. The first computer I used was an IBM PC, with two 5 1/2-inch floppy drives. Does anyone remember a single DOS command? We are well past the 85% solution in laptop design. Each design iteration provides a small incremental advancement in performance. I use a Surface. Mostly I use the Go-a poor performer. But its size is the most important consideration, which is an example of customer preference. Most people don't need the power provided by most computers they can buy today. But most want the things that qualify for the EVO standard.
  • The fact that AMD could 'break' the cycle simply proves one thing: you need a good product. Every other thing comes after that. AMD has achieved that with the desktop Ryzen. They need to do whatever they did in the mobile space as well.
  • For me I will always think back to the years where AMD had bad drivers, and lousy support. Anyone asks me I say go Intel, at least I know the support will always be there. Intel just works, AMD fanboys be damned.
  • Intel is not immune from crappy drivers however unlike AMD they have a lot more capital to sink in resources into optimisation. There in is the rub, it's the finishing touches that make a decent or good hardware flourish and those finishing touches happen during optimisation. It's no good to have the top of the line hardware if the software can't utlise it's full potential. Hopefully, as AMD becomes more profitable they will be able to sink in more resources into further optimisations in the mobile space. Never the less the 4000 and 500 APUs in laptops are just what was needed to give Intel a stern kick to their backside. This well written article highlights one unspoken key point - Competition is good for consumers and the environment. With longer charge to charge times it ultimately reduces electricity used to charge the device over it's lifecycle. Which in turn overall reduces the strain on the electrical distribution network and there is another advantage there too - that enables more stored power from renewables during peak times. The are two crucial caveat that needs to be mentioned and that's reparability as well the materials used to create laptops. I reckon many plastics can be recycled into plastics for a laptop chasis especially for for low end laptops. In terms of repairability, the push to thin and light is marred by the over reliance on glue and none standard tools. Let's face it no repair shop is going to have any sort industrial equipment to put together a (most broken if not all) digitizer and screen housings on touchscreen laptops from compatible parts from other laptops (let alone pull apart the digitizer from a dead display). Everything is an ecosystem as everything is interconnected in one shape or form.
  • Hmm charging faster doesn't consume less electricity though... it just pumps it up faster....
  • Old habits die hard. AMD PCs run perfectly in the modern era grandad. Advising people to use a slower and hotter CPU is more a reflection of your outmoded knowledge than it is reality.
  • Great article Dan. Fair play to Intel for there play in the mobile space in recent years.
  • Very insightful article Daniel, the optimization part is something that is easy to overlook I think (I need to think of the Surface Laptop 4 with its competitive performance and battery life, even though it uses a slightly older cpu).