Steam Deck AMD APU Performance For Non-Gaming CPU Workloads
Since the release at the end of February of Valve's Steam Deck there has been numerous Phoronix readers wondering about the CPU performance of the Steam Deck's AMD APU in non-gaming workloads and just how viable the Steam Deck could be for a converged device for desktop uses. Here is some commentary on that front and benchmark results.
As a refresher, the Steam Deck's custom AMD APU has four Zen 2 cores that have a 2.4GHz base frequency with 3.5GHz boost frequency. Paired with the APU's RDNA2 graphics and LPDDR5 memory, it's good for portable gaming at 1280 x 800 but for a desktop/laptop use-case it isn't anything special... With today's many laptop models sporting Zen 3 processors and commonly having six or more CPU cores, the Zen 2 4c/8t design of the Steam Deck is decent for gaming but as a converged device for general purpose computing can be somewhat limited depending upon your expectations. In any event for the price point starting at $399 USD it's still very much an incredible Linux-powered gaming device.
The Steam Deck's custom APU is reported as the "AMD Custom APU 0405". Besides my many benchmarks of the AMD Custom APU 0405 with the Steam Deck using the Phoronix Test Suite and OpenBenchmarking.org along with other early adopters, there has been PTS/OB benchmarks of it going back to last year of it when sorting through the public benchmark results. The development board around it seems to have been codenamed the AMD Chachani or as some other general purpose AMD VanGogh APU reference board.
In any event for those wanting to see a general overview of the AMD Custom APU 0405 can see this OpenBenchmarking.org page. There is the /proc/cpuinfo and lscpu output too for those interested in all of those details from this Steam Deck APU. From there is also a percentile-based look at how the performance of the 0405 is in various CPU-based, non-gaming workloads... Aside from good Hugin panoramic photo software performance out of Arch Linux, not much special out of the APU's four Zen 2 cores itself.
Via this page you can see a composite list of all the AMD Custom APU 0405 CPU benchmark results for workloads where there is enough aggregate data collected from the benchmark runs by myself and the community. You can generate your own comparison from there such as seeing how the APU delivers roughly similar performance to an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U or Core i7 1165G7. From that area of OpenBenchmarking.org you can dig into a lot more dynamic comparisons against other community aggregate data.
Its performance is good enough for gaming, browsers, and other lightly threaded software but nothing remarkable about just the CPU performance itself -- but that's to be expected considering its primary purpose is as a handheld gaming console. It certainly though is a fun device for those wanting to tinker with a portable Linux handheld. As mentioned in my Steam Deck review, Ubuntu 22.04 LTS daily and other modern Linux distributions can boot on it including the working WiFi, touchscreen, and other basic functionality but not all of the controls are mapped and not really an optimized experience at this point. Running other Linux distributions besides SteamOS 3.0 on the Steam Deck should improve over the months ahead as the x86 platform driver for it gets mainlined and other improvements and optimizations. So if you do want to run your own Linux distribution on the Steam Deck, it's certainly advisable to be using the latest Linux kernel as well as the newest Mesa for the best RADV/RadeonSI RDNA2 experience.
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