The end of the world as we know it?
A surprise to most in the industry that such a thing would really occur, AMD and Intel announced in November a partnership that would bring Radeon graphics to Intel processors in 2018. The details were minimal at the time, and only told us specifics of the business relationship: this was a product purchase and not a license, no IP was changing hands, this was considered a semi-custom design for the AMD group, Intel was handling all the integration and packaging. Though we knew that the product would use HBM2 memory, the same utilized on the RX Vega products released last year, it was possible that the “custom” part was a Polaris architecture that had been retrofitted. Also, details of the processor side of this technology was left a mystery.
Today we have our answers and our first hands-on with systems utilizing what was previously known as Kaby Lake-G and what is now officially titled the “8th Generation Intel Core Processors with Radeon RX Vega M Graphics.” I’m serious.
For what I still call Kaby Lake-G, as it easier to type and understand, it introduces a new product line that we have not seen addressed in a very long time – high performance processors with high performance integrated graphics. Even though the combined part is not a single piece of silicon but instead a multi-chip package, it serves the same purpose in the eyes of the consumer and the OEM. The marriage of Intel’s highest performance mobile processor cores, the 8th Generation H-series, and one of, if not THE fastest mobile graphics core in a reasonable thermal envelope, the Vega M, is incredibly intriguing for all kinds of reasons. Even the currently announced AMD APUs and those in the public roadmaps don’t offer a combined performance package as impressive as this. Ryzen Mobile is interesting in its own right, but Kaby Lake-G is on a different level.
From a business standpoint, KBL-G is a design meant to attack NVIDIA. The green giant has become one of the most important computing companies on the planet in the last couple of years, leaning into its graphics processor dominance and turning it into cash and mindshare in the world of machine learning and AI. More than any other company, Intel is worried about the growth and capability of NVIDIA. Though not as sexy as “machine learning”, NVIDIA has dominated the mobile graphics markets as well, offering discrete GPU solutions to pair with Intel processor notebooks. In turn, NVIDIA eats up much of the margin and profitability that these mainstream gaming and content creation machines can generate. Productization of things like Max-Q give the market reason to believe that NVIDIA is the true innovator in the space, regardless of the legitimate answer to that question. Intel see that as no bueno – it wants to remain the leader in the market completely.