XPG Demos “Nia” Handheld Gaming PC With Foveated Rendering, Swappable DRAM

With the rise of the handheld gaming PC market, we’ve seen PC vendors and their partners toy with a number of tricks and tweaks to improve improve framerates in games, with some of their latest efforts on display at this year’s Computex trade show. Perhaps the most interesting find thus far comes from ADATA sub-brand XPG, who is demoing their prototype “Nia” handheld PC, which uses eye tracking and dynamic foveated rendering to further improve their rendering performance.

For those unfamiliar, dynamic foveated rendering is a graphics technique that is sometimes used to boost performance in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications by taking advantage of how human vision works. Typically, humans can only perceive detailed imagery in the relatively small central area of our vision called the fovea, while our peripheral vision is much less detailed. Dynamic foveated rendering, in turn, exploits this by using real-time eye tracking to determine where the user is looking, and then rendering just that area in high/full resolution, while rendering the peripheral areas in lower resolution. The net result is that only a fraction of the screen is rendered at full detail, which cuts down on the total amount of rendering work required and boosting framerates on performance-limited devices.

As stated before, this technology is sometimes used in high-end AR/VR headsets, where high resolution displays are placed mere inches from one’s face. This ends up being an ideal use case for the technique, since at those distances, only a small fraction of the screen is within the fovea.

Using dynamic foveated rendering for a handheld, on the other hand, is a more novel application. All of the same visual principles apply, but the resolutions at play are lower, and the screen is farther from the users’ eyes. This makes a handheld device a less ideal use case, at least on paper, as a larger portion of the screen is going to be in the fovea, and thus will need to be rendered at full resolution. None the less, it will be interesting to see how XPG’s efforts pan out, and if dynamic foveated rendering is beneficial enough for handheld PCs. As we sometimes see with trade show demos, not everything makes it out of the prototype stage.

According to a press release put out by ADATA ahead of the trade show, the eye tracking technology is being provided by AMD collaborator Eyeware. Notably, their software-based approach runs on top of standard webcams, rather than requiring IR cameras. So the camera hardware itself should be pretty straight-forward.

Foveated rendering aside, XPG is making sure that the Nia won’t be a one-trick pony. The handheld’s other major claim to fame is its hardware swappability. The prototype handheld not only features a removable M.2-2230 SSD, but the company is also taking advantage of the recently-introduced LPCAMM2 memory module standard to introduce removable DRAM. Via a hatch in the back of the handheld, device owners would be able to swap out LPCAMM2 LPDDR5X modules for higher capacity versions. This would give the handheld an additional degree of future-proofness over current handhelds, which use non-replaceable soldered-down memory.

Rounding out the package, the current prototype is based on an AMD’s Zen 4 Phoenix APU, which is used across both of the company’s current mobile lines (Ryzen Mobile 7000/8000 and Ryzen Z1). Meanwhile, the unit’s display is adjustable, allowing it to be angled away from the body of the handheld.

Assuming all goes well with the prototype, XPG aims to release a finished product in 2025.

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