Editor’s take: The new Radeon RX 6800M GPU in Asus’s Strix G15 seems to suffer serious performance deficits with its stock RAM, as well as when outputting to its internal display. Both of these can be fixed relatively easily, but it’s not a good start for the hardware-focused AMD Advantage initiative.
When is a GPU not that same GPU? When it’s in a laptop!
Gaming laptop buyers are long-used to buying weaker versions of the graphics cards sold under the same name in the desktop space, with lower TDPs and fewer cores (even when not intended!)—but as well as those two factors, AMD’s RX 6800M seems to be being tripped up by the rest of the laptop it comes in.
With the Asus ROG Strix G15 in review, YouTuber JarrodsTech found that the laptop had serious performance losses when using stock RAM and the laptop’s own internal display in use. The ROG G15, like many other gaming laptops, incorporates hybrid graphics switching between the discrete GPU and the CPU’s integrated graphics; this improves battery life but constrains bandwidth and eats into the CPU’s power budget.
Nvidia’s Advanced Optimus can force a discrete-graphics-only mode, but the G15 has no such option, meaning that it only reaches maximum performance when outputting to an external display. Furthermore, the loose timings of the manufacturer-provided memory also hurt performance further—previously also seen in the Ryzen-powered Lenovo Legion 5 Pro—and the effect of these two factors is rather shocking when put together.
Check out what the RX 6800M could have offered in the Strix G15 Advantage Edition if ASUS could get better RAM + allowed us to disable the iGPU 😱 pic.twitter.com/Lgb8LuNLyb
— Jarrod’sTech (@JarrodsTech) June 4, 2021
Replacing the RAM and outputting to an internal display saw the G15 jump from an 102 to 135 FPS average in Shadow of the Tomb Raider; in relative terms, the 6800M was being held back to barely RTX 3060-beating performance when it could be trading blows with a high-powered RTX 3080.
This presents a serious issue for would-be buyers. Our review of the Radeon 6800M here at TechSpot used the same Asus laptop and we took note of the issue of memory timings — we actually replaced it in order to benchmark the GPU apples-to-apples as we usually do — and ran tests with both internal and external display output, but many others won’t have, leading to consumers simply seeing an AMD-only unit underperforming compared to its Intel and Nvidia rivals when in reality it’s being constrained by poor decisions on the manufacturer’s part.
Seeing the G15 with these issues is a particularly bad look for the red team, as it’s supposed to be the debut of the AMD Advantage initiative, a set of targets set by AMD for laptops when working with manufacturers akin to those of Nvidia Max-Q or Intel Evo.
Asus’s recent close partnership with AMD—bringing Ryzen CPUs to the ROG Zephyrus G14 and Flow X13 ultraportables and even going to the engineering effort of using liquid metal thermal paste on them—makes these design gaffes even more baffling.
And while none of the Advantage requirements explicitly cover RAM, graphics switching or even performance as a whole, the initiative is supposed to be AMD working with their partners to get the best out of the systems their chips go into—and having poor implementation choking those chips two tiers down the product stack is hardly putting their best foot forward.