The Ryzen Z1 series has expanded beyond handheld gaming systems, with the company Edge gearing up to launch a Mini-PC featuring the AMD Z1 chip. ETA Prime provides the initial review of this system.
Practically speaking, there is no distinct physical disparity between AMD Ryzen 7040U and the Ryzen Z1 Series. Both incorporate AMD’s “Phoenix” silicon, featuring Zen4 and RDNA3 architectures. However, the Z1 series introduces alterations to the TDP settings, specifically in the voltage/frequency curve, enabling lower power consumption. This adjustment benefits handheld systems focused on power efficiency, contributing to extended battery life.
AMD introduced two Z1 chips: the Z1 Extreme and Z1. Notably, the former is a 6-core model with restricted GPU performance. It’s currently featured in the ASUS ROG Ally console, priced approximately $100 less than the Extreme version. Reviewers generally agree that the Extreme version outshines the cut-down variant, suggesting it makes little sense to opt for the latter. Nevertheless, if the Z1 chip becomes available at a reduced price, it might find a significant role in a different market.
The system examined by ETA Prime is a prototype, not a final release unit, and lacks certain features like an RGB cover. What stands out is that ETA’s review is the first one to showcase the MiniPC form factor combined with this custom APU. It’s plausible that more systems of this kind are in development.
Just a reminder, the Ryzen Z1 comprises 2 Zen4 cores and 4 Zen4c. It employs AMD’s heterogeneous architecture in a monolithic design, distinct from Intel’s big/small hybrid core approach. While both Zen4 and Zen4c share the same instruction set, the Zen4c cores are tailored for power efficiency and possess a smaller cache. In a gaming system, these distinctions are likely to be challenging to discern.
Yet, the significant drawback compared to the Z1 Extreme lies in the restricted GPU performance. Rather than featuring 12 Compute Units, this APU only incorporates four. Consequently, its capability is limited to handling basic and older titles, with modern ones constrained to lower resolutions and settings. The visible disparity in speed compared to the Z1 Extreme is evident in the aforementioned comparison. Specifically, the Radeon 780M in the Z1 Extreme can achieve 8000 graphics points in FS and approximately 2750 points in TS.
The APU is set to a default 54W TDP configuration, but there’s currently no software-enabled means to utilize this power. During CPU stress tests, the system is capped at 35W, dropping below 30W when both the CPU and GPUs are under simultaneous testing. In gaming scenarios, the package power may peak at 44W. There’s a possibility that the TDP limit could be eliminated and adjusted through BIOS settings in the future. If this feature is implemented, it could become a significant advantage for this form factor.
The Mini-PC adaptation of the Ryzen Z1 series presents both advantages and drawbacks. Users enjoy greater flexibility in selecting power profiles and face fewer thermal limitations than battery-powered systems. However, these MiniPCs incorporate SO-DIMM slots for memory, implying the use of slower memory (compared to LPDDR5), impacting gaming performance. Yet, this also allows gamers to swap out memory based on their requirements. Notably, this specific system was only capable of running at 5600 MT/s.
The company has notified the reviewer about an ongoing development of the Z1 Extreme version. The release timing and pricing details are still pending. The company plans to launch the Mini-PC through a crowdfunding platform.