Van Gogh’s Hidden Treasures: More Than Meets the Eye in Steam Deck’s APU

Over two years have passed since the launch of the Steam Deck, a handheld console powered by a custom AMD Van Gogh APU. This particular APU, seldom seen in other devices, is primarily recognized for its utilization of TSMC’s 7nm process, encompassing four Zen 2 architecture CPU cores and a GPU with 8 RDNA 2 architecture CU units.

Recently, High Yield and Fritzchens Fritz released infrared photographs of this processor and conducted a comprehensive analysis, revealing the layout of Van Gogh and its components. Interestingly, they uncovered some elements that appear to be superfluous to the Steam Deck’s functionality.

The Van Gogh processor measures 162mm² in size, with the LPDDR5 memory controller occupying 9% of the chip area. The 8 RDNA 2 CU units account for 12%, and the GPU core comprises 11%. It’s noteworthy that the CU units constitute only about half of the entire GPU, with the remaining space occupied by other functional components, roughly equal in size to the 8 CU units.

The CPU and GPU, combined with the memory controller, essentially occupy half of Van Gogh’s space. The I/O components for PCIe, USB, and display functionalities are located along the right edge of the processor. However, a substantial portion of the processor’s area remains ambiguous in terms of its purpose.

High Yield suggests that 13% of the Van Gogh processor’s space is dedicated to a specialized component, likely serving as the Computer Vision Processing Engine (CVPE) for the Magic Leap 2 AR headset. This product utilizes the AMD Mero APU, which, like Van Gogh, features four Zen 2 cores and 8 RDNA 2 CU units, indicating a strong likelihood that they share the same chip. More importantly, the Steam Deck’s OLED upgrade to a 6nm APU, despite TSMC’s 6nm process offering a transistor density 18% higher than its 7nm counterpart, resulted in a 20% reduction in chip size. This suggests that certain parts were removed in the new APU.