AMD Releases Ryzen Z1 Series: Zen 4 & RDNA 3 Come To Handheld Game Consolesby Zhiye Liu on April 26, 2023 8:00 AM EST
AMD has announced the Ryzen Z1 series of high-performance processors for handheld PC gaming consoles. The latest Ryzen Z1 chips wield Zen 4 cores and RDNA 3 graphics, a familiar combination that AMD uses for its current mobile Ryzen 7040HS series (Phoenix) processors. And while the chipmaker hasn't officially announced any lower power Phoenix chips yet (e.g. Ryzen 7040U series), given the similarities in the feature set of the Ryzen Z1 family and the Phoenix silicon, the Ryzen Z1 series appears to be a custom-tailored Phoenix SKU that prioritizes energy efficiency for handheld gaming devices. The lead customer for the Ryzen Z1 will be Asus, who will be using it in their upcoming ROG Alloy.
The Ryzen Z1 series is being introduced with two SKUs. The top-tier Ryzen Z1 Extreme has eight Zen 4 CPU cores – the maximum found on Phoenix – while the vanilla Ryzen Z1 cuts that down to six CPU cores. Meanwhile, on the graphics side of matters, the Ryzen Z1 Extreme flaunts 12 RDNA 3 architecture compute units, again aligning with the max number found on Phoenix silicon. Its vanilla Z1 counterpart, on the other hand, will ship with just 4 CUs enabled, one-third as many as on the flagship part.
Both chips benefit from a 16 MB L3 cache, while the Ryzen Z1 Extreme has 2 MB more L2 cache due to its additional CPU cores. In any event, the Ryzen 1 and Ryzen Z1 Extreme possess strong computing performance thanks to the high CPU core count and the usage of AMD's latest Zen 4 cores. A hexa-core processor should suffice for handheld gaming, and either Ryzen Z1 processor will certainly outperform AMD's older custom quad-core Zen 2 SoC (Aerith) that powers Valve's Steam Deck.
|AMD Ryzen Z1 Specifications|
|Ryzen Z1 Extreme||8/16||?||?||8 MB||16 MB||12 RDNA 3 CUs||15 - 30 W|
|Ryzen Z1||6/12||?||?||6 MB||16 MB||4 RDNA 3 CUs||15 - 30 W|
Hardware unit counts aside, AMD isn't revealing the clock speeds for the two 4nm processors. Curiously, an embargoed report published by The Verge has quoted "up to" 8.6 TFLOPS and 2.6 TFLOPS graphics performance, respectively, based on AMD's engineering projections. But these figures have been removed from the deck AMD has since been sending around to the rest of the press. If these figures do turn out to be reasonably close to what the final shipping silicon can hit, then that would mean we'd be looking at peak GPU clock speeds of around 2.8 GHz and 2.6 GHz, respectively, which is just a bit lower than what the Ryzen 7040HS chips run at.
The Ryzen Z1 series chips will support a maximum TDP of 30 Watts, which happens to be the same top power target as AMD's mobile Ryzen U-series chips. Meanwhile, although this wasn't in AMD's press deck or press release, AMD's Ryzen Z1 product page lists a minimum TDP of 15 Watts. Though it's worth noting that, unlike TDP maximums, TDP minimums are not a hard floor or ceiling for mobile processors. Chips can be configured to run even less when it's called for, depending on what the customer desires.
Just to offer a comparison here, Aerith's TDP is between 4 Watts and 15 Watts, meaning the Z1 series certainly offers a good deal larger power range for customers to play with. At its top TDP, such a configuration would quickly blow through the battery in any handheld device, but for docked devices, it's very feasible. As for handheld mode, it's far more likely that we'll see Z1 chips clocked relatively low to conserve precious power.
Being that this is an AMD product designed for PC-like devices, it has access to all AMD graphics technologies, including Radeon Chill, which helps improve battery life by adjusting frame rates based on the movements in the game. This also means that FSR will be on the table on a game-by-game basis, and RSR as a less optimal universal solution.
AMD provided some benchmarks for the Ryzen Z1 series utilizing the Asus ROG Ally. As usual, throw a pinch of salt over vendor-provided benchmarks. The device used here also had 16 GB of LPDDR5 memory and a Micron 500 MB SSD. It's important to highlight that AMD put the Asus ROG Alloy in turbo mode for its benchmarks, which means that the Ryzen Z1 series processors were operating at power levels of up to 30 Watts.
AMD's results show the Ryzen Z1 Extreme delivers average frame rates above 60 FPS in most titles. However, the chipmaker tested with the lowest settings at a mix of 1080p and 720p upscaled with RSR to hit those figures. The Ryzen Z1's performance wasn't bad, but the two chips' delta was perceptible. The difference spans between 6% and 73%. Zen 4-based processors took a significant performance hit at native 1080p resolution on the lowest settings. As expected, the Ryzen Z1 struggled in multiple titles and didn't hit the 60 FPS mark.
Asus has first dibs on the Ryzen Z1 series; however, more competitors powered by the 4nm Ryzen Z1 chips should arrive down the road. Asus' ROG Ally will be the first handheld gaming console to feature AMD's Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor, with the company set to share more information on the handheld (including pricing) on May 11.