Hot Chips 2023: AMD’s Phoenix SoC

Phoenix is the latest addition to AMD’s long line of APUs (chips with integrated graphics). Ever since Picasso launched with Zen cores and Vega graphics, AMD’s APUs saw massive improvements from generation to generations. That’s largely because AMD started from so far behind. But Zen 2 and Zen 3 APUs were already very solid products, so Phoenix’s improvements make it a very dangerous competitor.

AMD has put a lot of focus into reducing power consumption across every area of the chip. Zen 4 cores do an excellent job on the CPU side, while RDNA 3 provides strong graphics performance. Hardware offload helps power efficiency on specialized AI and audio processing workloads. To support all this, Infinity Fabric gets lower power states and very flexible clock behavior. Phoenix ends up being able to perform well across a wide range of form factors and power targets.

These are the kinds of chips powering the current slew of mobile gaming devices like the Steam Deck and its various competitors. It’s great to see this market segment take off, mostly thanks to AMD and Valve, but I’m going to hold off just one or two generations more before jumping in. If AMD’s pace of improvement continues, these handheld devices are going to become even thinner and lighter.

That being said, I’d still love to review a Steam Deck for OSNews, specifically because of its Linux base. Maybe I’ll run into an acceptable deal at some point soon.