Alongside their big desktop update for later in the year, AMD is also using this year’s Computex to announce an update to the low-end segment of their mobile lineup. In the fourth quarter of this year the company will be rolling out a new chip codenamed “Mendocino”, which is aimed at mainstream, high-volume Windows and ChromeOS notebooks. With 4 Zen 2 cores and RDNA 2 graphics, the relatively petite chip is intended to go into notebooks in the $399 to $699 range.

Based on its intended market segment, AMD Mendocino (no relation to Intel’s) is positioned to end up as the successor to a mix of lower-end AMD SoC products, including the bottom of the Ryzen mobile stack (e.g. Ryzen 5300U) as well as AMD’s Ryzen C-class chips. Mainstream laptops are a huge part of the market in volume, and for both good reasons and bad, it’s always been an area where AMD has done well for itself. And while the current chip shortage hasn’t been fully resolved, AMD is finally in a position to update the lower-end of its APU lineup with some newer hardware built on a more recent manufacturing process, replacing their current hodgepodge of mostly Picasso (4C 12nm Zen+) based SKUs.

AMD Mainstream Mobile Architectures
AnandTech Mendocino Picasso
(Ryzen 3000C)
(Ryzen 3000C)
CPU Architecture Zen 2 Zen+ Zen (1)
CPU Cores 4C / 8T 4C / 8T 2C / 4T
GPU Architecture RDNA2 Vega Vega
GPU Cores N/A 10 3
Litho TSMC N6 GloFo 12nm GloFo 14nm

As revealed by AMD this evening, Mendocino is a small, efficient SoC designed for what the company deems mainstream notebooks. The basic specifications are an interesting mix of hardware – on the CPU side it’s 4 Zen 2 CPU cores (and not Zen 3), and on the GPU side the chip will come with an integrated RDNA2 architecture GPU..

Seeing AMD planning to mint a new Zen 2-based APU in late 2022 is at first blush an unusual announcement, especially since the company is already two generations into mobile Zen 3. But for the low-end market it makes a fair bit of sense. Architecturally, Zen 3’s CPU complexes (CCXes) are optimized for 8C designs; when AMD needs fewer cores than that (e.g. Ryzen 3 5400U), they’ve been using salvaged 8C dies. For Zen 2, on the other hand, the native CCX size is 4, which allows AMD to quickly (and cheaply) design an SoC based on existing IP blocks, as opposed to engineering a proper 4C Zen 3 CCX.

Meanwhile, the RDNA2 GPU is still the cutting edge for AMD. Unlike the CPU core count, AMD is not disclosing the expected number of GPU cores/CUs here, but given the target market, it won’t be a very high number – so we don’t expect Mendocino’s implementation to be particularly speedy. Still, it offers AMD’s designers the company’s latest and most efficient graphics IP, and it also gives them an opportunity to bake in support for the latest video codecs. Something that’s more important than it may first appear, as AMD needs to ensure the new APU is capable of fully accelerating video encode and decode for video conferencing software. Ryzen 6000 Mobile supports everything up to AV1 decoding, so it’s a reasonable bet that Mendocino will be the same.

Feeding Mendocino will be LPDDR5 memory. At this point AMD isn’t stating whether it will be a dual channel (64-bit) or quad channel (128-bit) memory bus, and while the latter is much more likely, given the target market segment, it shouldn’t be taken as a given.

On the whole, the new chip looks a lot like AMD’s Aerith APU (codename: Van Gogh), a semi-custom chip that’s being used in Valve’s Steam Deck handheld console. But while Aerith was made on TSMC’s 7nm process, Mendocino is being built on TSMC 6nm, the same process as the Ryzen Mobile 6000 family. So despite the high-level architectural similarities, Mendocino is at a minimum a die shrink/port of Aerith.

The big push for Mendocino on AMD’s side, besides refreshing the lower-end of their lineup, is on improving the battery life of lower-end laptops. AMD is projecting that Mendocino laptops will be able to hit 10+ hours of battery lifetimes in “mixed usage” scenarios, which would be a notable improvement over some of the lower-end laptops on the market today. Especially compared to the Picasso-based SKUs this chip would be replacing, Mendocino gets the benefit of vastly newer power management technologies that AMD first developed for the Ryzen 6000 Mobile family. The jump to TSMC 6nm should help as well, though by how much ultimately depends on where AMD opts to clock the CPU and GPU cores.

Wrapping things up, according to AMD Mendocino will be launching in Q4 of this year. If it lands early enough in the quarter, AMD and its partners should be able to get Mendocino-based laptops on the market just in time for the holiday shopping period. Lenovo is already slated to use the chip in an upcoming Ideapad 1 laptop, and undoubtedly the rest of AMD’s usual partners will have their own laptops lined up as well.

Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Dolda2000 - Tuesday, May 24, 2022 - link

    Yeah, I almost suspsected that might be the case, but perhaps with the 6000U's focus on battery life, perhaps there will be some preparation in the ecosystem for lower-power screens, with a bit of luck.
  • Unashamed_unoriginal_username_x86 - Monday, May 23, 2022 - link

    and while smaller caches are a burden on the high end, an 8MB (potentially 4MB if like x300U) should mean lower power outside of full load, though power gating is a factor I wish I knew more about
  • Kangal - Monday, May 23, 2022 - link

    I hope it's not. Any and every Van-Gough chipset they have should go to Valve, we need as many Steam Decks out there. The affordable laptop segment will be fine without it.

    Would be brilliant if Big AAA-Studios start to see the VSD as a legitimate console, and port their next-gen games (eg GTA 6) over to it. It would do wonders for competition sake, from the business side (Valve), the hardware side (APU), and the software side (Linux).
  • Tom_Yum - Monday, May 23, 2022 - link

    It is conceivable that the Steam Deck may get silently updated to use Mendocino which may allow slightly better power efficiency and battery life. Consoles often receive multiple die shrinks over their lives to reduce cost, and while ol' Morse Law doesn't scale for cost like it used to, if AMD intends to sell Mendocino at scale in low cost notebooks, then it may be easier for them logistically to support Valve to move the Steam Deck design across to Mendocino. It would help reduce the number of designs they need to manage with TSMC at the very least.
  • nandnandnand - Monday, May 23, 2022 - link

    Steam Deck was always going to face supply issues compared to the big consoles, expectations should be kept low. What we are seeing is not native Linux gaming for the most part but a lot of refinement of WINE/Proton and companies making some effort to make sure games work with that. If there's a market for it and it's easy, why not?
  • Matthias B V - Monday, May 23, 2022 - link

    I would expect so too - easy path by just using a N6 Van Gogh would fit AMD philosophy and the target market.

    Curious to see if successor is using Zen4D cores as they are designed to be small and low power consumption. Wonder if it'd stays at 4cores or gets 8 small Zen4D ones then.
  • nandnandnand - Monday, May 23, 2022 - link

    8x Zen 4C seems like the perfect way to go for a Steam Deck 2, but even another quad-core might be perfectly acceptable for gaming, as long as single-threaded performance keeps going up. At some point (for example, Zen 5/6), quad-cores will just match the 8-core Zen 2 in the consoles, which will be the lowest common denominator for gaming late into the 2020s.
  • lmcd - Tuesday, May 24, 2022 - link

    8x Zen 4c would probably be a bad fit if you think about it because the biggest thing being hit with the smaller core designs is cache, which is a bad thing for gaming.

    Ironically the best low-area option for gaming would probably be something Bulldozer-ish, since most FP calculations in games happen on the GPU.
  • nandnandnand - Monday, May 23, 2022 - link

    The article did note it, but there's no confirmation of all of the details like CU count. Makes sense for it to be a nearly exact shrink of Van Gogh though.
  • SarahKerrigan - Monday, May 23, 2022 - link

    So does this fill the slot in the roadmap formerly occupied by Dragon Crest?

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now