Though we have quite a few options for processors in Chromebooks these days, the market is largely dominated by Intel. Sure, there are AMD, MediaTek and Snapdragon processors out there for purchase, but between the large and small-core offerings by Intel over the years, Chromebooks and Intel silicon have become somewhat synonymous.
There’s room for other players, however, and we shouldn’t think for a second that AMD, Qualcomm and MediaTek aren’t very interested in a bigger piece of the ChromeOS pie. While each of these chip makers have watched a handful of Chromebooks released with their silicon inside, by far the most prolific of the bunch is MediaTek. On the back of the very-successful Lenovo Chromebook Duet, MediaTek has more presence in the ChromeOS market than most, but continuing development makes it look like AMD isn’t even close to done expanding their market share.
A rocky road for AMD so far
AMD showed up pretty late to the Chromebook game, and their start wasn’t great. Included in a few low-end devices, AMD hit the scene with the A4 and A6 processors that didn’t get anyone very excited. They were slow and didn’t really come with any big upsides versus the small-core Intel silicon already available and in multiple Chromebooks at the time.
The next move came via the Ryzen 3000 chips, bringing decent performance gains and inclusion in better Chromebooks. Those chips had an Achilles heel, however, and really tanked performance when off the charger. It was a bummer and something we didn’t feel comfortable recommending to our audience due to the wild shift in performance you got when moving on and off the charger.
This year, we’ve seen a few Ryzen 5000-powered Chromebooks announced, but we’ve yet to have any real time spent with any of them so far. From what we can tell, Ryzen 5000 Chromebooks get us far closer to current-gen Intel Chromebook speeds, but not quite all the way there. The upside to that? Current 12th-gen Intel processors aren’t really necessary for general work and standard Chromebook tasks. Pick up a 10th-gen Intel-powered Chromebook and you’ll quickly see that it is robust enough to get you through nearly anything you throw at it.
The Ryzen 6000
Even though we’ve only seen a couple announcements for Chromebooks with the Ryzen 5000 series APUs, it looks like work is already underway to get Ryzen 6000 APUs into upcoming Chromebooks. This comes as AMD has just recently announced the follow up to those chips in the latest Ryzen 7000 series. We’re still a ways out from seeing any Windows devices with this latest processor inside, so we likely won’t see any mention of ChromeOS running on a Ryzen 7000 chip for quite some time.
For now, we’re looking at new Chromebooks in the works with the current generation Ryzen 6000 APU (code name Yellow Carp), and that could mean another big jump in performance for AMD-powered Chromebooks. While not mind-blowing, the move to a 6nm process for these APUs from the Ryzen 5000’s 7nm process should aid in both performance an in battery life.
The two devices we’re currently tracking are ‘Skyrim’ and ‘Morthal’ and I have to confess, the earliest commits around ‘Skyrim’ had me thinking it was related to the recently discovered Alder Lake-N Chromebooks we’re now beginning to track with regularity. You can see in the initial commit below and see why I would think that:
‘Nissa’ is the main development board that all new Alder Lake-N Chromebooks will be built off of. This is one of the earliest mentions of ‘Skyrim’ and they are beginning the initial overlay with a ‘Nissa’ overlay. While I’m still not sure what was going on in those initial phases, it has become quite clear that ‘Skyrim’ is based on AMD silicon and, more specifically, is tied to Yellow Carp as referenced above.
This slip had me believe that the first board to emerge from ‘Skyrim’ – ‘Morthal’ – was also another Alder Lake-N Chromebook. After digging a bit and finding this reference to Yellow Carp, we now know that these devices are in fact AMD Ryzen 6000-powered Chromebooks on the way with more likely to follow.
The timeline for these devices is still very much up in the air, but the move to the Ryzen 6000 chips from the Ryzen 5000 should be far less of a jump than we had in the move from the A4/A6 to Ryzen 3000, so we could see some of these Chromebooks emerge before the year is out. My money would be on a Q1 2023 release, however, so don’t get too attached to the idea of better AMD Chromebooks if you are in the market for a new device by the holidays.
With faster CPU and GPU speeds, however, the AMD Ryzen 6000 could make for a very compelling mid-range Chromebook chip. We’re still a bit out from the launch of Steam games for Chromebooks, but if the new AMD Ryzen 6000 gets looped into the approved chip sets for this effort, I could see quite a few users choosing AMD Chromebooks over Intel-based models if the selection is good and the price is right. We have a bit of time before that comes to fruition, and we’ll be keeping an eye on ‘Skyrim’ as we wait for the first of what could be many new AMD Chromebooks with the Ryzen 6000 inside.