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AMD is quietly arming an entire new wave of Steam Deck competitors

AMD is quietly arming an entire new wave of Steam Deck competitors


With Zen 4 and RDNA 3, can these handhelds keep up?

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An artistic representation of a computer chip on a board fringed with blue light to make it look fast.
AMD’s Ryzen 7000 series will apparently add some lower power chips for handhelds.
Image: AMD via Aokzoe

You’ve obviously heard of the Steam Deck, and perhaps Asus drew your attention to the upcoming ROG Ally with its not-an-April-Fools’-joke. But that’s apparently just the tip of the iceberg for AMD-powered Steam Deck rivals, which have at least four handhelds based on slivers of silicon the chipmaker has yet to reveal.

One of the reasons we got so excited about the Asus ROG Ally is that Asus hinted it might be the first handheld since Steam Deck to offer a custom part specifically tuned for portables — and a growing body of leaks suggests that collaboration with AMD is called the Ryzen Z1.

And today, Geekbench leaks (which should always be taken with a grain of salt) suggest Asus may actually be using two such chips: a six-core, 12-thread Ryzen Z1 with two RDNA 3 graphics compute units (CUs) and an eight-core, 16-thread Ryzen Z1 Extreme with six RNDA3 CUs, which could have higher performance and power consumption.

But get this. A shipping manifest spotted by VideoCardz also shows an ROG Ally with another unannounced name: the Ryzen 7 7840U, a 3.3GHz chip with Radeon 780M graphics that’s suspected to be all but identical to that Z1 Extreme.

And that Ryzen 7 7840U appears to be very much not exclusive to Asus — it has now been tipped for the Aokzoe A1 Pro, an unannounced Ayaneo 2S, and a GPD Win Mini clamshell, according to rumors and leaks.

This wouldn’t be the first time those boutique portable PC makers have attempted to challenge the Steam Deck. A year ago, I wrote how they were all gearing up with the off-the-shelf AMD 6800U laptop chip, which sadly didn’t turn out to be efficient enough for a competent portable. (Read my Ayaneo 2 review for details.)

But Aokzoe, at least, seems pretty confident that it can match the Steam Deck with a 7840U: it’s been posting video after video of its A1 Pro’s performance to YouTube, including one tiny clip where the A1 Pro is running the same game at the same processor wattage and with similar battery drain to the Steam Deck and still manages to run notably faster.

If that’s what a 7840U can do, I’m heartened. (It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise considering we’re looking at Zen 4 and RDNA 3 instead of the Zen 2 and RDNA 2 in the Steam Deck’s Aerith chip.)

But it’s just a tiny glimpse for now, and we don’t know whether any of these companies can hit the right price with these chips or get Microsoft’s help to turn Windows into something easy and comfortable to use on a gaming handheld. And AMD didn’t immediately respond to a request for this story.

Another thing that heartens me, though:

Last July, when I reached out to my AMD PR contacts about handheld gaming PCs, they told me they didn’t even have a contact who could handle such a request, adding:

We do not have any further details to share at this time regarding AMD chips in handheld gaming PCs. We’ll certainly be in touch with news and opportunities as it relates to AMD in the future but unfortunately at this time are not able to connect you directly.

This week, they introduced me to a specific person who can help me going forward.