New Intel Processor Uses AMD Graphics to Target NVIDIA

In an industry that focuses on competitiveness rather than cooperation, chip companies Intel and AMD have partnered to launch a new processor during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Targeting notebook and small PCs, this new processor offers a unique and previously unavailable combination of features and performance, and systems based on it will be available starting this spring.

Verbosely called the 8th Generation Core Processor with Radeon Vega M Graphics, the new G-series of parts targets a middle ground of the notebook space that wants graphics performance for gaming but without the bulk and size usually associated with traditional gaming systems.

The technology of the chip is based around an Intel CPU and an AMD GPU, combined and packaged on a single silicon wafer called a substrate. This allows the two different chips to communicate efficiently yet still maintain a small physical size that will allow system builders like Dell and HP to create thinner and lighter designs than were previously possible for this class of PC.

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Both AMD and Intel were clear during the announcement that this is a purchase arrangement and not a license of AMD’s intellectual property. AMD has customized the graphics chip to Intel’s requirements, based on the company’s existing Vega architecture, and then produces it at the same facilities it always has. The GPU is then sold directly to Intel where it handles the production and integration of a final product. For financial purposes, this design win falls under the semi-custom segment of AMD’s portfolio, similar to its relationships with Sony and Microsoft on the console products.

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 with one of the fastest mobile graphics cores is incredibly intriguing for all kinds of reasons. Even the currently shipping AMD APUs and those in the public roadmaps don’t offer a combined performance solution as impressive as this.

From a business standpoint, this new processor from Intel is 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 graphics solutions that are paired with Intel processors in modern notebooks. In turn, NVIDIA eats much of the margin and profitability that these mainstream gaming and content creation machines generate. Intel sees this as an intrusion on its market – it wants to remain the sole supplier of technology to this growing segment.

But it can’t do that with its own graphics designs – it has tried for too long. Intel integrated graphics continues to fall behind both NVIDIA and AMD in this space. Though it does just fine for media and general-purpose compute scenarios, for gaming and content creation, it needed help.

This new Intel processor will make for interesting discussions as we head through 2018 and the roadmap for AMD mobile processors becomes clearer. If and when AMD decides it also wants to make similar part for mobile and small PC configurations, the agreement with Intel will be viewed by investors in a different light. Why would AMD enable its primary competitor with its biggest IP advantage, even if it means short term gains with a new semi-custom design win?

PCs based on the new Intel 8th Gen Core Processor with Radeon Vega M Graphics will begin shipping in the spring with models being demonstrated this week at CES from both Dell and HP.