The cheapest AMD Ryzen 8040 series chip is the most exciting

OPINION: AMD has revealed its latest Ryzen 8040 series chips. Now, admittedly, chip launches come around fairly often and aren’t the most exciting to feast your eyes upon. But, while the top-end looks impressive, it’s the low-end chips you should be paying attention to.

Right now, every technology company under the sun is talking about artificial intelligence and those involved in the manufacturing of laptops and their components are no different. However, how many of you reading this have used AI in a way that felt truly beneficial, especially as part of your everyday device use? I’ll bet the answer is rather low.

And, it’s to be expected. We’ve seen ChatGPT hype ebb and flow, and you might have dabbled at creating a recipe from what’s left in your fridge. And, if you’ve accessed Microsoft’s Copilot, it can be a helpful assistant in a similar fashion. But, neither of these requires specific hardware, using the cloud to provide you with the answers you need.

Then, access to AI-boosted hardware remains less than accessible to say the least. Admittedly, the use remains limited but there’s a huge chance you won’t have had the opportunity to use it on your laptop anyway as only specific higher-end chips have donned AI engines. And, even with high-end chips, it’s no guarantee. You may have seen the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 had to be specially equipped with an NPU (neural engine) for AI to run alongside its Intel chip that didn’t feature the boost on its own.

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Where we have seen AI implemented in a more widespread manner is with the AMD Ryzen 7000 series. AMD’s previous laptop chip generation saw “AMD Ryzen AI” come to a range of its chips in what it called the “world’s first integrated AI engine in an x86 processor.” I’ve used one of these chips I’m using the Acer Swift Edge 16 that dons it to write this article right now, and I’ve also used the Surface Laptop Studio 2 and its AI features. The initial features may not be revolutionary but they are undoubtedly useful and effective.

AMD Ryzen 8040 seriesAMD Ryzen 8040 series
Image Credit (AMD)

The main showcase of the consumer-facing benefits of these AI chips is Windows Studio Effects. Across these laptops, webcam users see the biggest benefit. You can use AI for Auto-Framing, which is ideal for those who like to move around while presenting. Next, there’s Background Effects, such as blur. You’ll find this in apps like Zoom already but this applies it natively, meaning you can apply it and see it used across various apps – and it works a treat. Then, there’s Voice Focus, which ensures your voice is prioritised through the microphone for clear audio.

All these three effects work great and are ideal for workers who may not have a pristine working setup or just work in a busy environment. I’m less keen on the fourth, which is the Eye Contact feature, which makes it appear as if you are looking at the camera even when you are not, and it’s a tad creepy.

Does all this sound good? Well, when you look at chips sporting AI enhancements across the rest of the industry, it’s hard to find without spending £1000 and upwards. Such as with the Apple MacBook Air, and Intel isn’t set to get started until Meteor Lake in 2024, which is why the pricey Surface Laptop Studio 2 and its unique solution is the only way right now. 

But AMD is different. The company kicked off this AI accessibility drive with the Ryzen 7040 series, which saw features across its lower-end Ryzen 5 series up through its Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9 higher-end chips. The AMD Ryzen 5 7640U, its most accessible chip, can be found on devices like the Acer Swift Go 14 and Framework Laptop, sub-£1000/$1,000 offerings.

AMD Ryzen AIAMD Ryzen AI
Image Credit (AMD)

With the Ryzen 8040 series, AMD is touting huge boosts in AI performance, with benefits expected in the background of apps like Adobe Premiere Pro, Davinci Resolve and more. And, that’s alongside those neat Windows Studio Effects.

With Ryzen 8040, AMD is keeping these AI chips across the same wide selection of chips, meaning these features and benefits continue to become more mainstream, and pointing to a future where AI features will be available to all – not just the lucky few. Your move, Intel.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.

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