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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  • milkod2001 - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    It is a good value laptop for everyday use but who expects to play games on it should look into benchmarks carefully: Tomb Raider 1080p at 15.4 fps is just not cutting it. Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    It will at least finish the benchmarks, which is something. It won't be acceptable for someone looking at a "gaming" laptop, but if you want to be able to launch like Civ 6 or Motorsport Manager and get an acceptable experience, it'll do.

    The results in the web browser tests aren't good, though. Hopefully that can be improved in the future.
    Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    Sure, but having the option to play it upscaled from 720p and lower settings is better than not having that option.

    I'd like to see this laptop, but with a bigger battery and the APU configured to 25W or even 35W TDP.
    And USB-C charging, and a keyboard without number pad.
    Reply
  • erwos - Monday, May 7, 2018 - link

    The USB-C thing is a deal-breaker for me. A $950 laptop should at least have USB-C charging and alt-mode DP. Thunderbolt would also have been nice, but I can at least see why that didn't happen. Reply
  • Santoval - Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - link

    Acer appears to be still hanging on to the days of taking into account the money they can make by scamming customers for $50 to $80 chargers only they can sell. Their charging barrel cable is so thin and flimsy by design. Reply
  • eva02langley - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    At ultimate... Reply
  • mr_tawan - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    in Nvidia's title..... Reply
  • coolhardware - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    How would the Swift 3 w/Ryzen compare to the Swift 5 w/Intel?
    https://amzn.to/2KvPCMS ($997 = roughly comparable price)

    Personally I prefer the 14" form factor of the Swift 5, but I assume it lacks any gaming chops at all?

    Also, on the Swift 3 is there a way (BIOS/UEFI etc.) to force the keyboard backlight to stay on? I know the last Acer I tried you absolutely could not force the backlight to stay on and coming from Thinkpads that really sucks :-(

    Thanks in advance for advice!
    Reply
  • Jimster480 - Monday, May 28, 2018 - link

    The ryzen have more GPU power... and otherwise trade blows in everything else. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, May 3, 2018 - link

    So the Surface Pro with the Iris maintains ~50% performance advantage over the HD graphics in the 8550U, but the gains completely disappear at the enthusiast setting. It sounds like a configuration, or even a driver bug.

    Notebookcheck's review of the DOTA 2 Reborn shows different results.
    Reply

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