AMD’s Vega architecture finally goes mobile, but that has nothing to do with the RX Vega Mobile chips that AMD teased back in January. No, the recently announced Predator Helios 500 from Acer is seemingly sporting an uncut desktop AMD RX Vega 56 GPU within its fairly sizeable laptop chassis.
Acer has adopted a desktop GPU and spliced it into a chassis with capable-enough cooling and power delivery to keep their Vega graphics silicon running at reasonable clockspeeds under load. This RX Vega 56 GPU won’t be entirely unleashed due to the limitations from power and thermals, so is likely to feature reduced clockspeeds compared to the reference desktop RX Vega 56 graphics card.
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Despite the obvious TDP and power restrictions usually associated with squeezing a full-sized desktop GPU into a small mobile package, previous implementations have been pretty successful going down this route. Even without Nvidia’s Max-Q space-saving tech, gaming laptops have been getting pretty thin and lightweight.
When it comes to AMD GPUs, however, the options have been slightly more limited. The Asus ROG Strix GL702ZC also stuffed an RX 580 within a 17.3 inch chassis, and the polaris RX 580 didn’t perform half bad, either. Clockspeeds were knocked back to similar levels as the RX 480 to deal with the limited form factor, but even so, performance was comparable to Nvidia’s GTX 1060 – almost always topping 60fps in the latest titles on Ultra 1080p settings.
The Vega architecture has proven itself quite scalable at different TDPs so far, with applications within desktop Raven Ridge APUs, ultra-low power Ryzen Mobile chips, and the very capable Intel Kaby Lake G hybrid chips. With that in mind, Acer’s laptop application may not be as power-hungry, or starved for fresh air, as you may first think from the 210W TDP AMD RX Vega 56 chip. But, the resulting performance, thermals, and noise will largely all depend on the implementation by Acer, and in this case, how the Acer Helios 500’s five heat pipes and dual fans hold up.
Compared with GDDR5/X memory configurations, the HBM2 on-package solution used with AMD’s Vega architecture is actually rather space-saving, leaving mostly only power delivery components on a surrounding PCB. Theoretically, it could be very useful in mobile applications, but AMD’s discrete Vega Mobile products for the ultrathin market haven’t made it to market yet.
Aside from AMD graphics silicon, Acer is also opting for further AMD componentry in certain models, including a FreeSync capable panel 144Hz IPS Full-HD panel and a similarly desktop-based Ryzen 7 2700 CPU. If that’s not your style, you can always instead opt for the Nvidia GTX 1070, Intel i9 8950HK, and G-Sync certified Full-HD panel – which may result in a slight price bump over the Freesync model. There’s also various other combinations, which will likely to vary in availability by region.
Intel’s top-end mobile CPU, the i9 8950HK, can potentially reach upwards of 5GHz, but that may be a little too toasty for comfort under gaming loads with a powerful desktop GPU in tandem.
It’s good to see OEMs start to adopt the Vega architecture within their prebuilds and laptops, as the graphics architecture has been slightly stunted in growth since release. But this announcement does beg the question, when will AMD take the lid off Vega Mobile and unleash some truly laptop-by-design GPUs – that aren’t welded to CPU silicon – onto the market?