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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  • neblogai - Friday, May 4, 2018 - link

    It is not reasonable to wish an integrated GPU with ~30Gbps memory bandwidth to demolish discrete GPUs that by themselves have higher TDP than this APU, and also double or triple the memory bandwidth. Showing the same result as 940MX is a wonderful result- as AMD solution does the same with no need for extra dGPU and memory chips on the motherboard, and cooling for them. And if more GPU power is needed- then discrete GPU should be used for AMD's laptop as well- games will run great with it's fast quadcore CPU. Reply
  • niva - Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - link

    It's very reasonable to expect an APU system to deliver better battery life, especially in idle power scenarios, than one running a core i7 with a discrete GPU. Either something is wrong with this system, they forgot to change some setting in the BIOS, or this is a complete failure on the part. The idea that this is a gaming laptop is just stupid. It's an ultra book, with better graphics capabilities than an integrated Intel chipset, but still an ultra book. I'm not even talking about performance here, I'm strictly talking battery life.

    Also, the idea of just adding a discrete GPU to an ultra book... never mind.
    Reply
  • neblogai - Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - link

    Discrete GPU is switched off in non-gaming, so it is basically AMD APU vs Intel APU working. It is true that Intel's chips are more efficient- after all- for many generations Intel were milking desktop with quadcores, while investing into being better at low TDP power efficiency. That is at the time when AMD was balancing on the limit of bankruptcy, and staying in survival mode till Zen arrived. So- AMD sure has a lot to improve with their design, and OEMs- with laptop designs/optimisations when using AMD APUs.
    As for using discrete GPU in a Ultrabook- just have a look at a ASUS Zephyrus GM501 which is 2cm thin and has a GTX1070 and other no-compromise parts. And there are at least 3 lower tier chips from nVidia alone that sip less power, making gaming on an Ultrabook possible.
    Reply
  • samal90 - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    That GPU power though. I can't wait to see what next year's APUs will be like with the 7nm Navi. Intel might as well just drop the R&D for integrated graphics and license from AMD like they did with the Vega. Reply
  • keg504 - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    What is CABC? Reply
  • Brett Howse - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    Content Adaptive Backlight Control. It can change the brightness depending on what's on the screen as a way to cut power draw, but it can be kind of annoying especially when it can't be disabled. Reply
  • keg504 - Friday, May 4, 2018 - link

    Oh, thanks.
    Is this a recent feature OEMs have started implementing? This is the first time I'm seeing it in a review
    Reply
  • iwod - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    I think there is something wrong with Ryzen JS vm benchmarks. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    That's what we thought. But everything repeatedly checks out and we can find no systematic flaws. It looks like it just takes the 2700U a bit too long to respond to short, bursty workloads. Reply
  • iwod - Friday, May 4, 2018 - link

    Interesting. Would there be a small pieces on this topic specifically?

    Or in other words, Intel is very aggressive with their Turbo?

    Also wondering if the Adrenaline drivers made any difference.
    Reply

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