By: Hassan Mujtaba
AMD has revealed some of the secrets of its Ryzen Z1 APUs that will power a range of handheld gaming devices.
9W Handheld Gaming Consoles Possible Thanks To AMD Ryzen Z1 APU Optimizations
Last month, AMD officially unveiled its Ryzen Z1 APUs which include a standard & extreme variant. Both APUs make use of the latest chip architectures including Zen 4 for CPU and RDNA 3 for GPU.
During its initial unveil, AMD highlighted that there will be some Z1-specific power management & optimizations compared to the Ryzen 7040U parts. Both chips are virtually identical except for changes to how they manage power, making Z1 APUs slightly better and scalable for handheld consoles.
Tomshardware was quick to ask AMD about these small changes and it looks like AMD responded back and revealed some additional details. It looks like AMD engineers went all the way and tested entirely new power ranges and tested various voltage curves specifically for the Ryzen Z1 APUs. The biggest change of all is that AMD dropped its XDNA “Ryzen AI” engine entirely disabled on Z1 APUs. This means that while the core block is there on the silicon, it cannot be used unless someone finds a way to make it work when the first handhelds hit the road.
“The Ryzen Z1 series are purpose-built with handheld gaming in mind,” Matthew Hurwitz, a client PR manager at AMD, wrote to Tom’s Hardware. “To accomplish this, AMD engineers had to validate entirely new power ranges and optimize the voltage curves specifically for this use case – this optimization and validation work should not be trivialized. So while the technology building blocks (like ‘Zen4’ and RDNA 3) are similar between the 7040 and Z1 series, the resulting models have very distinct characteristics customized for their use cases. In addition, the AMD Ryzen AI engine is not available on AMD Ryzen Z1 series processors.”
Now disabling the Ryzen AI engine might seem like an odd choice but there’s no evidence or game that can take advantage of it. It is possible that AMD’s FSR 3 can put the engine to use since RDNA 3 also has built-in AI accelerators but nothing is confirmed for sure. AMD has said that AI accelerators can be used for much more things besides just AI upscaling technologies like NVIDIA and Intel use.
In addition to that, AMD also confirmed that its Ryzen Z1 APUs will have a TDP range between 9W and 30W. The 30W peak limit has been known but the 9W minimum limit means that the devices can run far more efficiently and conserve more battery time than previously thought. For example, the AMD Ryzen 7040U series runs between 15-28W (cTDP up to 30W). That’s a 40% TDP reduction and can be set in games/applications that don’t require the extra 15-30W juice that the consoles have to offer.
With all that said, there’s still some time before we get to see the AMD Ryzen Z1 APUs in action. The first handheld console to feature this new chip will be the ROG Ally from ASUS which is expected in the coming week with prices starting at $699.99 US for the Z1 Extreme & $599 US for the standard Ryzen Z1 APU.