AMD has added firmware support for its codenamed Van Gogh accelerated processing unit (APU) to linux-firmware.git, an important Linux repository. The addition of firmware support is one of the final steps of hardware enablement in Linux. In many cases it points to an imminent release of a product.
AMD (and other hardware vendors) ship new firmware versions for their parts in new Linux drivers, something that AMD did earlier this week with the release of the Radeon Software for Linux 21.30 package. To enable built-in compatibility with new hardware and drivers, developers of Linux distributions have to get firmware separately from linux-firmware.git, a universal repository of firmware files for various hardware. With the new driver package release and firmware upload, AMD has ensured essential support of its latest Van Gogh APU in various Linux builds, reports Phoronix.
But while the launch of AMD’s Van Gogh may be getting closer, we still know nothing certain about this processor.
The APU is expected to feature Zen 2 cores, an RDNA 2-based GPU, and a memory controller that supports DDR5 and/or LPDDR5 memory. Architecturally, Van Gogh resembles custom SoCs found in Microsoft’s Xbox Series X/S and Sony’s PlayStation 5 consoles. Furthermore, system information of Valve’s Steam Deck portable console reports that the unit features an “AMD VanGogh video card,” as seen in a video from Tested.com.
Officially, the console has a semi-custom SoC featuring four Zen 2 cores running at 2.40 GHz – 3.50 GHz as well as a Radeon GPU based on the RDNA 2 architecture featuring 512 stream processors operating at 1.0 GHz – 3.50 GHz. Yet, this does not mean that the Van Gogh we are talking about is the same Van Gogh that powers Valves’s portable gaming device.
AMD has a curious way of describing its semi-custom chips. Essentially, a semi-custom SoC is a solution based on AMD’s IP blocks, ALUs, FPUs, memory controllers, interrupt handlers, system management controllers, and hardware-accelerated video encode/decode blocks. These parts are used inside the company’s own products, but may be tailored further to meet unique requirements of AMD’s customers. Since semi-custom chips are an amalgamation of various IP blocks, they can blur the line between established architecture code names.
To that end, the SoC that powers Valve’s Steam Deck may indeed be a version of AMD’s Van Gogh, or may consist of the same components as AMD’s Van Gogh and even seem like this APU to the driver.
It should be noted that AMD’s semi-official codenames for its semi-custom SoCs do not follow AMD’s own nomenclature. For example, AMD’s APUs are called after famous painters, but the semi-custom SoC for Sony’s PlayStation 5 was codenamed Flute.
That said, either AMD has developed an entry-level APU codenamed Van Gogh with four Zen 2 cores coupled with a rather high-performance built-on RDNA 2-powered GPU and then Valve picked it up for the portable console. Or, the APU inside Valve’s SteamDeck is a different piece of silicon than AMD’s Van Gogh, yet featuring the same components.