GPU Performance: Vega at 15-Watts

We’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut with laptops lately. Intel has been offering solid CPU performance for the past several years, but their integrated graphics solution, while excellent for media playback and desktop usage, struggles under any sort of 3D load. Enter the Vega GPU in Ryzen.

Vega, if you follow GPUs, is the current generation GPU that AMD offers for the desktop, but they’ve also modularized it to be able to pack it into a 15-Watt SoC. The Ryzen 5 2500U and Ryzen 7 2700U are pretty similar on the CPU side, with only 200 MHz of frequency separating them, but on the GPU side, AMD offers 8 Radeon Vega CUs in the 2500U, and 10 Vega CUs in the 2700U. As well, the higher-level model offers a higher maximum boost frequency of 1300 MHz on the 2700U versus 1100 MHz on the 2500U.

This is full Vega as well. For a deep dive, check out the Vega launch article, but this U series SoC offers the same features as its bigger desktop cousins, such as Rapid Packed Math, the improved geometry engine, and of course, the media blocks, such as 10-bit HEVC hardware offload, and VP9 hardware as well.

The Acer Swift 3 was run through our standard laptop GPU suite, and unlike the Intel 15-Watt parts, we ran it through the full suite. We’re in the midst of introducing a 2018 laptop GPU suite, but like the CPU tests, it’s important to have more data even if the games are older.

Looking at our comparisons, we’ve got a wide range. The Surface Book 2 offers a very powerful NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU, in the same 15-inch size as the Acer Swift 3. The Surface Pro tablet is one of the few models we’ve seen with Intel’s Iris GPU, offering double the execution units over the normal HD620 or UHD620 found in the ASUS ZenBook 3.

3DMark

Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike

Futuremark 3DMark Sky Diver

Futuremark 3DMark Cloud Gate

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited - Graphics

Futuremark 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited - Physics

There’s a lot of interesting data to look at here. 3DMark offers several tests of increasing complexity, with the order of most demanding to least demanding being how they are presented above, with Fire Strike being the most demanding, and Ice Storm Unlimited the least.

Ryzen mops the floor with Intel’s GPU in any specification, including the Iris model. On Fire Strike, the CPU is the smaller factor, and the GPU runs away with it. As the tests get less demanding, they become more CPU bound though, and the less performant Zen cores bring down the overall results. That’s most obvious in the Ice Storm test, where we record the individual scores for GPU and CPU as well. The Physics result is a CPU bound test, and Intel’s ILP is clearly stronger.

GFXBench

GFXBench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen 1080p

GFXBench 3.0 T-Rex Offscreen 1080p

Although a benchmark geared towards smartphones and tablets, it’s always interesting to see how low-power laptops perform, even if the results are not 1:1 comparable. Here we seem to run into an issue with AMD’s OpenGL drivers, which are well behind in the Manhattan test compared to the Intel iGPU. Luckily for AMD, OpenGL isn’t a big focus right now, so despite the poor result, it’s not going to impact very many people.

Dota 2

Dota 2 Reborn - Value

Dota 2 Reborn - Mainstream

Dota 2 Reborn - Enthusiast

On most 15-Watt laptops, this is the only gaming benchmark we even test, because it’s one of the few that’s at least playable on low-end hardware. It’s actually CPU bound with even modest GPUs, but we can see the Ryzen 7 2700U easily surpasses the Core i7-8550U at all levels. The Surface Pro though with Intel Iris is able to stay ahead until the 1080p level thanks to the CPU performance and larger Iris GPU.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider - Value

Tomb Raider - Mainstream

Tomb Raider - Enthusiast

Although several years old now, the original Tomb Raider reboot is still a great looking game, and at maximum settings can be punishing to laptop GPUs. But it’s important to note that the Ryzen 7 is easily playable at low to medium settings.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Value

Newer, and even more demanding, Rise of the Tomb Raider is still a bit out of reach for even the Ryzen integrated GPU.

Civilization 6

Civilization VI Value

Once again, Civ VI is playable on low settings, especially since it’s not a twitchy game.

Bioshock

Bioshock Infinite - Value

Bioshock Infinite - Mainstream

Bioshock Infinite - Enthusiast

It’ll be sad to put this game to rest in our test suite since we have a tremendous amount of data for it, but it’s a good test for the kind of game you could expect to play well on a device with an integrated Vega GPU, and the Ryzen 7 performs quite well unless you max out the settings.

Shadow of Mordor

Shadow of Mordor - Value

While getting close to the limits of playable, you could get by on Shadow of Mordor on lighter settings.

Grid Autosport

GRID Autosport - Value

GRID Autosport - Mainstream

GRID Autosport - Enthusiast

This game was very playable on the integrated graphics, although at maximum settings it’s kind of on the edge.

GPU Conclusion

For the longest time, we’ve been wondering if Intel’s GPU limits are due to architecture or TDP, since they’ve not really improved much over the years. Even the Iris graphics struggle. AMD has proven that theory wrong. Despite sharing just 15-Watts between the CPU and GPU, Ryzen 7 delivers respectable performance from the GPU, allowing gaming on integrated graphics with quite a bit of success. No, it can’t compete with the GTX 1060 in the Surface Book 2, but it does outperform the GT 940MX in the original Surface Book. The GPU in the Ryzen 7 2700U is just impressive.

System Performance: Testing the AMD Ryzen 7 2700U Display Analysis
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  • Flunk - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    Or it hits a point where it can't fit the frame-buffer into the cache memory and has to draw it in main memory instead. I think that's pretty likely, there is only so much you can do with 128MB of memory, this is the same problem the Xbox One suffers from. Performance falls off a cliff once you overflow the eDRAM cache. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    Nope, which is why I talked about Notebookcheck's result. Reply
  • MamiyaOtaru - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    OK "IntelUser2000". It's great to have your objective input. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    Okay Mr. Objective. Reply
  • oynaz - Friday, May 4, 2018 - link

    The Internet. The place where usernames like "FartsOnChickens" are more trustworthy than ones like "IntelUser" Reply
  • Krysto - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    Throttling maybe? Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    those're certainly interesting configurations. The only way to get a 512GB SSD is AMD, the only way to get 16GB of ram is Intel. The latter's especially sad since the AMD configuration's more powerful GPU is capable of using more of the system memory for VRAM.

    I'll second the comment about the 3 column num-pad being an awful idea. If you're part of the majority of people who don't use one, it adds to the BOM and is guilty of putting the main keyboard and trackpad off center. If you do want a numpad, you probably touchtype it and the truncated layout means you're not able to on this one anyway.

    The 15.6" laptop numpad needs to be limited to models that are either thick enough to do ports under the keyboard or that have so few ports that they can put them all in the hinge area and still run the keys out to the edge of the chassis. Or using oldschool inch thick chunky bezels I guess; but if you're making the chassis that large you might as put a slim bezel 17.3" screen in instead.
    Reply
  • Targon - Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - link

    And due to the nature of these things, a bad keyboard is going to keep people from buying a given laptop. This is all about Acer, and really the few companies that are releasing Ryzen based laptops not really being focused on sales. What are the deal breakers when it comes to laptops? You have keyboard, you have screen, and you have battery life. If you don't provide good choices for these things, people will not buy the laptop, even if the CPU is amazing.

    Some of this may have to do with the NVIDIA GPP and companies really trying not to get cut off by NVIDIA, or there is another reason.
    Reply
  • LarryTempleton - Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - link

    What is it then? Sheer incompetence? Why can’t a laptop PC maker ever get all the parts right at the same time? Is there an in-built insecurity to actually challenging Apple with a truly thought through design?

    Even when Apple really drops the ball (as they have with their current MacBook Pro) PC laptop makers still can’t even figure out a functional keyboard option... It’s embarrassing.
    Reply
  • Jimster480 - Monday, May 28, 2018 - link

    its called being paid by intel to make sure a specific set of components never ends up in a laptop. As the DIY market has shown.... everyone is choosing Ryzen over inferior Intel chips riddled with bugs, exploits, slowdowns and other nonsense. And Intel giving everyone the finger in terms of fixing these bugs.. Reply

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