Why it matters: The Smach Z was originally announced and crowdfunded back in 2016. Since then, it has underwent multiple hardware revisions, price changes, and missed at least one launch date. Now, with yet another new processor and price change, the Smach Z is expected to ship at the end of 2019, barring anymore delays.
Smach Z, the upcoming PC gaming handheld, is slated for another change in CPUs. Originally, the Smach Z was intended to ship with AMD Merlin Falcon RX-421BD chips, but a disruption in manufacturing plans set the launch window back.
In the interim, AMD released its Ryzen Embedded V1000-series of processors, and Smach opted to upgrade the machine to a Ryzen V1605B SoC that boasted four Zen cores and eight Vega compute units (CUs). Now, plans have changed again, as the Smach Z will now come with a Ryzen V1807B SoC instead.
The Ryzen V1807B is the flagship of the Ryzen Embedded V1000-series, and offers four Zen cores and 11 Vega CUs. The Zen cores clock in at 3.35 GHz base, with a 3.8 GHz boost -- a significant upgrade over the previous 2.0 GHz base and 3.6 GHz boost clocks of the Ryzen V1605B. However, the bigger upgrade lies in the graphics.
The V1807B runs 11 CUs with Radeon RX Vega 11 graphics, opposed to the 8 CUs based on Radeon Vega 8 offered with the V1605B. With the V1807B, the GPU operates at a frequency of 1.3 GHZ, a 200 MHz increase over the V1605B. The extra CUs and higher clock speeds should net a tangible improvement for graphics and frame rates on the Smach Z.
However, the upgrade isn't without caveats. With a more capable chip comes a higher TDP, meaning more heat waste to deal with. The V1807B comes with a configurable TDP between 35W to 54W. Even at 35W, the V1807B is nearly three times the 12W minimum for the V1605B, which offers a TDP between 12W and 24W. Presumably Smach will have to go back to the drawing board with its cooling design. It's also unknown how the Smach team will address battery life now that the console is using a more power hungry chip.
Cost is the next issue, as Tom's Hardware reports that the move from the V1605B to the V1807B will affect pricing. The extent of the price increase is unknown, but the current pricing for the Smach Z is already pretty steep, with the base unit going for $699. The Smach Z Pro and Smach Z Ultra are currently priced at $899 and $1099, respectively.