Steam Deck APU Shown Off in Great Detail, Will Have FSR on ‘OS Level’

As expected, Valve’s Steam Deck developer conference has given us a ton of insight into the custom APU that’ll... | 17. November 2021

As expected, Valve’s Steam Deck developer conference has given us a ton of insight into the custom APU that’ll power this oh-so-peculiar portable gaming PC and, needless to say, we’re intrigued beyond measure!

This APU will still adhere to the same limitations as the ones that are currently available on the market, but Valve and AMD have really accomplished wonders by tweaking it in numerous unexpected ways — it’s a bespoke solution and, as such, will deliver incredible performance within its power envelope.

There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty!

steam deck apu

Steam Deck APU | Details Galore!

The SoC itself (codenamed Aerith) is comprised of a Zen 2-based CPU and an RDNA 2 GPU. That’s a very strange combination as Zen 2 has been around for quite a while; RDNA 2, on the other hand, still hasn’t shown up in the mobility segment of the market, so Aerith is basically a compound of relatively old and bleeding new.

Its CPU clock speed will vary from 2.4Ghz to 3.5Ghz — Valve’s ultimate goal is stability, and to attain it, a lower peak frequency has been selected so as to ensure consistent performance over prolonged periods of time. GPU-wise, it’ll pack 8 compute units running at 1.0Ghz-1.6Ghz. This should translate to about 1.6 TFlops which, in all fairness, is pretty darn impressive.

Better yet, it’ll come with 16GB of unified LPDDR5 RAM running in quad-channel which should result in unprecedented iGPU performance. This type of memory is also mighty efficient so it won’t draw much power in “low power scenarios like 2D games, idle, and sleep.” And, well, with a whopping 16GB the Steam Deck is pretty much as future-proof as possible.

With a TDP of 4W—15W, it’s not going to perform any miracles, but that should still be more than enough for 800p gaming at Medium(ish) settings, depending on the title.

steam deck apu storage speed

Storage Speed — Better Than Expected

Interestingly enough, the cheapest 64GB eMMC model isn’t going to be all that much slower than its NVMe-based brethren. It’ll take 12.5% more time to load your games, with the system itself requiring around 25% more time to boot up. Still, while that number might seem daunting out of context, it is basically a difference of perhaps two or three seconds in real time; fairly negligible, all things considered.

The built-in SD card reader will, of course, offer the slowest load times, but even that option isn’t as egregious as initial reports made it out to be.

All in all, we’re extremely happy with these results, especially given just how affordable the Steam Deck currently is relative to its expected performance.

‘OS Level’ Support for AMD’s FSR

In the Q&A section of the event, Sebastian Nussbaum, AMD’s Corporate VP of Product and Technologies, confirmed that FSR will implemented across the entire system (i.e. at an OS level) at a later date through a software update. This, in short, is phenomenal news — doubly so seeing how it came out of nowhere!

Better yet, FSR will be available even if the game you’re playing doesn’t natively support it. Whether it’ll net you any kind of appreciable difference still remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a nice thing to have!

The first batch of Steam Decks will reach buyers in February 2022, so if you were amongst the first to get your pre-order in, you definitely have a date to look forward to!