On Friday, we told you how AMD is quietly arming a whole new wave of Steam Deck competitors. But the company’s now saying the quiet part out loud: today, it’s officially announcing the AMD Ryzen Z1 and Ryzen Z1 Extreme, a pair of 4nm processors specifically aimed at handheld gaming PCs.
The Ryzen Z1 Extreme pairs eight of AMD’s Zen 4 CPU cores and 16 threads with 12 of its RDNA 3 graphics cores as well as 24MB of cache — and promises up to a whopping 8.6 teraflops of raw graphic performance, far closer to the 10.28 teraflops of a Sony PS5 than the 1.6 teraflops you get with a Steam Deck.
Meanwhile, the vanilla Ryzen Z1 has six CPU cores and 12 threads, four GPU cores, and 22MB of cache — that’s still enough for a theoretical 55 percent increase in raw graphical potential over Valve’s custom Zen 2 plus RDNA 2 “Aerith” chip.
What does that mean for games? With a Z1 Extreme, if you’re playing at 720p with low settings like you might comfortably do on a seven-inch handheld, AMD claims you can cross the 60fps line for games as demanding as Red Dead Redemption 2 and more than double that for Forza Horizon 4 — all upscaled to 1080p with AMD’s Radeon Super Resolution.
With a Z1, you lose the edge in some of the most demanding games, but the numbers aren’t bad! “I think what’s going on here: it’s not the CUs that are the limiting factor, it’s the LPDDR5,” says AMD senior technical marketing manager Don Woligroski. “The fast memory is, a lot of these cases, what these games are really hungry for.”
These benchmarks aren’t from some sprawling bench-mounted test bed, by the way: they’re running on an “advanced engineering sample” of the Asus ROG Ally handheld gaming PC, says Woligroski, who ran these tests himself. The Ally will be sold in both Z1 and Z1 Extreme configurations, Asus spokesperson Ester Suh confirms to The Verge.
But before you go talking about the ROG Ally as a “Steam Deck killer,” consider the TDP — Woligroski says all these benchmarks were run in the Ally’s “Turbo Mode,” which lets the processor draw up to 30 watts, depending on the game. The Steam Deck’s processor runs at just half that and can typically make it to the two-hour mark in all but the most demanding games with its 40 watt-hour battery.
If the ROG Ally has a much bigger battery or runs competently at the same 15 watts, it might not matter. (AMD also says the Z1 and Z1 Extreme support its Radeon Chill, which can automatically save power based on the frame rate targets of your choice, and the Ally has its own frame limiter, too.) Just keep this in mind as you interpret these performance charts.
AMD says the Z1 and Z1 Extreme are temporarily exclusive to Asus but that we may see other partners in the future with these or future Z chips — the Z handheld gaming PC branding is here to stay. Currently, it’s a partnership between AMD’s gaming group (which handles Radeon GPUs) and client (which handles Ryzen processors).
As for the Ryzen 7840U, a chip that appears to be a dead ringer for the Z1 Extreme and may appear in any number of rival boutique handheld gaming PCs in place of the Z1, Woligroski can’t say. “We haven’t officially announced any 7000U series parts yet.” He wants you to know that the Z1 isn’t simply a matter of rebranding future laptop parts, though, adding that it uses customized power and voltage curves, among other differences. I’ve asked for a larger list of changes.
In a press release, AMD writes that Asus will announce ROG Ally pricing and “more information” about availability on May 11th.
Update, April 26th: Asus confirms the ROG Ally will be sold in both Z1 and Z1 Extreme configurations.