I really hate having to write things like this, but here we go. A few weeks back, we reported some serious problems in AMD Ryzen Chromebook performance when devices left the charger. On battery alone, our in-house testing shows about a 40% reduction in performance based on multiple benchmarks and is corroborated 100% in basic, everyday use cases. There’s no way anyone can deny that a Chromebook with a Ryzen 5 inside feels 10th-gen-Intel fast when plugged into the wall only to feel like a decidedly low-end machine the minute that tether is cut. We hoped it was a bug that could get fixed soon and promised to update when we learned more. Well, we’ve learned more, and the news isn’t good.
The issue is the processor on a fundamental level
Unfortunately, the issue with AMD Ryzen chips is the fact that they exhibit this behavior regardless of the device or operating system. In fact, Intel put together a very, very detailed slide deck that shows how much AMD is dropping performance on the Ryzen 4000 series chips when off of a charger. Intel’s beef comes down to the fact that reviews are being done with AMD-powered laptops on battery, making them look comparable to Intel-based units. While Intel’s 11th-gen chips barely change performance when off the charger, AMD’s chips greatly debilitate performance in order to save battery. It’s apples and oranges, here.
Sadly, the metrics of this test line up almost exactly with our own testing, and it seems quite clear that this is a low-level issue that AMD has in place on purpose. There are reports of bad performance on the Ryzen 3500 series (that’s what we currentlly have in Chromebooks) when on battery, and these newer complaints are coming from the newer Ryzen 4000 series on the market right now. While everyone can understand a bit of performance restraint to save battery, these types of decreases are just plain bad.
In the end, it makes it very, very difficult to recommend any Chromebook with the AMD Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 3 inside at this point. Sure, the performance is solid while plugged in, but these are mobile computing devices we’re talking about. You shouldn’t have to worry if your $500 Chromebook is going to keep up when you need to get a few hours of work done away from a charging block. We’ve never had this as an issue in the Chrome OS ecosystem before, and there’s no reason to start seeing it now.
If anything, I sincerely hope Google can find a way to give users a bit of performance control in the future. I could see a scenario where, as the user, I get to choose how my Chromebook performs when on battery power. If I know I won’t be away from a charger all day and don’t want to see performance drops, I could choose to keep 100% performance whether plugged in or not. Windows does this, MacOS does this, and there’s no reason Chromebooks shouldn’t have this, too. At this point, I’m not sure if this is even possible with the current crop of AMD Chromebooks, but I’m hopeful it may be in the future. For now, if performance matters to you, I’d stay a bit wary of buying a Chromebook with an AMD chip inside until this is officially addressed in some way.