AMD Ryzen 7 8840U Battles Steam Deck's Van Gogh Chip In 10W Gaming Showdown

hero steam deck aerith front

Despite considerable architectural advancements between the Steam Deck's "Van Gogh" APU and AMD's more modern mobile processors, the Steam Deck typically matches or beats the performance of other handhelds when running at very low power limits. These low power limits are critical for handhelds, as they allow longer battery life.

The problem has been chalked up to several potential sources: superior power-saving optimizations in Linux, the excellent power efficiency of the slimmer Zen 2 architecture (vs. the faster Zen 4), and a focus on battery life in the design of the Steam Deck from top to bottom. Meanwhile, most of the PC gaming handhelds from other companies have essentially been tiny Windows PCs with screens and game controls attached. Frankly, the fact that they work at all is astonishing.

cary golomb tweet steam deck vs 8840U

Well, according to Cary Golomb, a tech reviewer with a tight focus on handhelds and mini-PCs, the Steam Deck's low-TDP performance has finally been consistently beaten by the new Hawk Point Ryzen 7 8840U. This is a little curious, because Hawk Point is fundamentally the same chip as "Phoenix". We're well familiar with Phoenix by this point, as it stars (under the "Ryzen Z1 Extreme" moniker) in the ASUS ROG Ally, as well as many other handhelds by Ayaneo, GPD, OneXPlayer, and others.

batman arkham benchmark cary golomb
The benchmark graph from Golomb's tweet.

Golomb compares an unnamed new system with a Ryzen 7 8840U and 32GB of memory against an original Steam Deck as well as three other devices sporting previous-generation Ryzen 7 7840U chips. In all specifications except for the integrated AMD XDNA NPU, that last-gen chip is identical to its newer counterpart. Despite that, Golomb reports that the Hawk Point 8840U is in fact "consistently better across every TDP."

If we were to speculate why that could be, we might point to refinements in the manufacturing process or perhaps firmware or CPU microcode improvements. It's also possible that the power delivery design of whatever device Golomb is testing is affecting the results. Whatever the case, it seems like the Ryzen 7 8840U is able to keep the framerate in Batman Arkham Knight above the critical 30 FPS low water mark where the Steam Deck struggles to do so.

steam deck aerith backside
The backside of a sheet of Steam Deck "Aerith" APUs. Image: HotHardware!

We do have to note that the machine tested appears to be an original recipe Steam Deck and not the Steam Deck OLED. We're not sure how much difference it would make, but the "Sephiroth" APU inside the Steam Deck OLED does benefit from a small die shrink and faster 6400 MT/s memory. Given that, the real uplift from moving to Zen 4 CPUs and RDNA 3 graphics appears to be quite small indeed. In any case, gains are gains, but we're really curious to see what AMD will pull off with its next-generation Strix Point and especially Strix Halo APUs.