Intel Core processors with Radeon RX Vega M graphics: how long is playing?

As early as November last year, Intel announced the mobile processors of the 8th generation, equipped with powerful integrated graphics Radeon RX Vega M. At the last CES 2018 the manufacturer revealed a lot of details about the new chips, introducing a starter line of unusual processors and announcing the first devices in which it would be possible to see strange CPUs.

Rumors about Intel and AMD working together on Core processors with Radeon graphics appeared in the middle of last year . Several years ago, it was almost impossible to imagine such an interaction, therefore the diversions were often perceived as jokes or attempted rallies. However, as the official announcement approached, ephemeral chips grew in new details, so it became obvious that the impossible is possible and soon we will see the results of the joint work of AMD and Intel specialists.

At CES, Intel introduced the new mobile chips of the Core 8th generation G-series, equipped with graphics Radeon RX Vega M. On one textolite substrate there are three crystals – a 4-core Intel Core processor, a graphics processor Radeon RX Vega M and multi-layer memory chip HBM2.

In this case, it's not about integrated graphics, but about combining the processor with a full-featured discrete GPU equipped with local memory. For GPU-HBM2 communication, Intel's special high-speed EMIB (Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge) connection is used, which allows high data rates between heterogeneous elements placed on the same substrate.

Components do not require an additional layer of Silicon Interposer, used, for example, for desktop chips Vega, which increases the complexity and cost of connecting the GPU with HBM. According to the developers, EMIB in such cases has the advantage.

8 lines of PCI Express 3.0 are used to connect the processing cores to the GPU. The total bandwidth of this channel is about 7.8 GB / s, which is quite enough to synchronize the operation of key blocks.

One of the advantages of processors with such an arrangement is the possibility to significantly reduce the area on the PCB needed to accommodate basic elements of the system. Saving up to 1900 mm² on the PCB looks quite optimistic, but it's obvious that the new chips will reduce the size of the systems while maintaining functionality and performance.

The new processors use a 4-core CPU unit with Kaby architecture Lake and Hyper-Threading support, which allows processing up to 8 data streams simultaneously. Despite the additional Radeon RX Vega M chip, integrated graphics resources of the Intel HD 630 can also be used. And this, at least support Intel QuickSync with hardware transcoding H264, VP9 and HEVC, plus additional channels for multi-display configurations. The manufacturer in the presentation points out the possibility of saving energy, and therefore it is worth counting on the mechanism of dynamic switching of active GPUs.

The largest crystal on the substrate is the Radeon RX Vega M. graphics processor. The complete GPU contains 24 Compute Units, then there are 1536 computational units, and also offers the entire set of accompanying AMD graphics technologies.

GPU is manufactured by TSMC company according to the standards of 14-nanometer process technology. Already ready crystals are supplied by Intel for packaging on a single substrate with CPU and HBM2 memory. Software support for the graphics part remains for AMD. That is, the drivers and related software will be offered by the developer.

The HBM2 multi-layer memory chip located next to the GPU chip has a capacity of 4 GB. With a GPU, the chip is connected by a 1024 bit bus. The wide backbone provides high throughput even in spite of the relatively low operating frequency of HBM2.

An additional advantage of such integration is the ability to fine tune the system's power consumption. The system of stabilization and power management in this case is common. For new chips, Intel implemented the Intel Dynamic Tuning mechanism, which allows to dynamically reallocate the CPU + GPU assembly resources depending on the nature of the load. The ability to control the parameters of both key nodes allows you to get maximum efficiency while staying within the allocated heat package.

Systems with hybrid processors will be equipped with new stickers that display the Intel Core 8 logo and Radeon RX graphics Vega M. The name AMD does not figure.

Model series and performance

The new line of processors with graphics Radeon RX Vega M includes five models – four Core i7 and one Core i5. For the simple identification of chips in the title, the index "G" is used.

It is interesting that the junior 4-core chip also supports Hyper-Threading technology, and from older differ only by the lower operating frequency and cache memory capacity of L3 – 6 MB, instead of 8 MB from Core i7. The base frequency of all Core i7 is set at 3.1 GHz with the acceleration to 4.1 / 4.2 GHz, while the Core i5-8305G has the formula 2.8 / 3.8 GHz. All processors support DDR4-2400 memory in dual-channel mode.

The top model Core i7-8809G unlocks CPU, GPU and HBM2 overclocking options.

As we have already mentioned, all processors are equipped with integrated Intel HD 630 graphics, but as for the additional discrete, there are two modifications. The Radeon RX Vega M GH variant, used for the two older Core i7 models, involves a chip with a Vega M architecture, equipped with 24 computational units with 1536 stream processors running at a frequency of 1063/1190 MHz. 4 GB of HBM2 memory runs at 800 MHz, and a 1024-bit bus allows for a bandwidth of 204.8 GB / s. These are very convincing figures. For comparison, for example, a discrete GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card using GDDR5 and a 192-bit bus has a 192 GB / s channel.

The Radeon RX Vega M GH contains 96 texture modules and 64 ROPs, while the peak processing power is stated for level 3,7 TFLOPS.

The overall thermal package (TDP) of the Core i7 processors with the Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics is 100 watts. Yes, the miracle did not happen, for high performance, components of adequate power are needed. Another question is that now there is an opportunity to redistribute the energy spent between the CPU and GPU units, gaining maximum energy efficiency in each individual case.

The TDP of 100 watts says that you should not expect mobile gaming systems in ultrabook format. Yes, the new chips make it possible to make such systems thinner and lighter, but in any case, to dissipate such amounts of heat within the framework of compact platforms, the developers of cooling systems will have to work hard.

During the announcement, Intel not only introduced dry specifications, but also oriented on the performance of new chips. When comparing the capabilities of the chip with the Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics and the three-year-old system based on the Core i7-4720HQ and GeForce GTX 960M, the new platform has a multiple advantage and about 60 frames / s with Full HD in a number of topical games.

In this case, even when compared with the platform on the Core i7-7700HQ and GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q, the new processor with Radeon RX Vega graphics looks good, having a 7-13% advantage. Of course, it's impossible to navigate only according to the developers' data, but the level of performance is clear for the new chips, but overall the performance level is clear.

Three younger models of the new processor line are equipped with Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics. In this case, 20 computational clusters with a total of 1280 stream processors are activated in the GPU. The graphics chip contains 80 texture modules and 32 rasterizers. The GPU has a frequency formula of 931/1011 MHz, and the claimed computing performance is 2.6 TFLOPS. This is noticeably lower than that of the older model (-42%), but the thermal package of processors with Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics fits within 65 W, not 100 W, as in the case of Radeon RX Vega M GH.

Processors with a less fast graphics are also equipped with 4 GB of HBM2 memory with a 1024 bit bus. The chip runs at 700 MHz, so the total throughput, although lower than the top version, is also very decent – 179.2 GB / s. Here it is worth recalling that the typical integrated graphics in AMD's APU or Intel processors are satisfied with the system memory bandwidth, which is about 30-40 GB / s when using DDR4 in dual-channel mode. Here, the difference in memory bandwidth is very significant, and the system memory will only be used if there are not enough local 4 GB HBM2.

Estimating the performance of chips with Radeon RX Vega M GL, the manufacturer compares their capabilities with those for the platform based on the Core i7-4720HQ and GeForce GTX 950M. Judging by the presented graphs, the performance of new chips is 10-40% higher than that of a laptop with a GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card. However, the system with discrete graphics for some reason, it was equipped with a Core i7-8550U with a TDP of 15 watts. The new 4-core processor is undeniably good in its class, but still I'd like to see a comparable H-series chip in comparison. Well, we take note of the available data, but all the points above the "i" will be placed after practical tests.

Price and the first devices

Intel has not yet announced the cost of new chips with Radeon RX Vega M. In retail, of course there will not be, therefore for users it is more likely to satisfy idle curiosity, and at the same time to estimate what the price of final products based on Core G-series processors will be. Obviously, it's about models of at least the middle class.

It seems that the first devices based on the Core 8th generation with Radeon RX Vega M will be a mini PC from the manufacturer itself – Intel NUC 8 Enthusiast. A new line of compact systems has already been announced at CES 2018, but the timing of the start of sales is vague – the spring of 2018. Nevertheless, the cost of barebone kits was indicated. In top-end configuration, a 1.2-liter unit with an Intel Core i7-8809G processor will cost $ 999, and a version with a Core i7-8705G chip will be offered for $ 799. Separately, you will need to buy memory, drive and operating system.

Specifications of enthusiastic NUC look interesting. The system can be upgraded to 32 GB of DDR4-2400 memory and use two M.2 format drives (SATA or PCI-E). On the front and back panels there is a whole placer of USB 3.0 / 3.1 ports, two network outlets and a set of video outputs. Mini-PCs also support the Thunderbolt 3 high-speed interface.

In the first quarter of 2018, new products should also be introduced on new Intel chips with Radeon RX Vega M graphics.

Dell already announced 15.6-inch transformers Dell XPS 15 2-in-1, which will be equipped with processors Core i7-8705G or Core i5-8505G. IPS-screen with a resolution of 3200 × 1800 or Full HD, 8/16 GB DDR4-2400, 128-1024 GB SSD PCI-E, the battery capacity is 75 Wh. The thickness of the case varies between 9-16 mm with a total weight of the laptop of 1.9 kg. The expected price of the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 in the starting configuration is $ 1300.

The processors with Vega M graphics will also fit into the new 15.6-inch transformers HP Specter 15 X360 (2018). Funny, this model can use either a bundle of Core i7-8550U with a GeForce MX150 graphics card, or a Core i7-8705G processor with Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics. In addition, the HP Specter 15 X360 will be equipped with up to 16 GB of DDR4-2400 and a high-speed M.2 PCI-E drive. The thickness of the case is 19 mm, weight – 2.14 kg. Notebooks will be equipped with a battery at 84 Wh, and the cost of the basic configuration starts at $ 1370. That is, the option is not budgetary at all. Well, no one promised.

In general, for ourselves, we note that the versions of the new processors with a TDP of 65 W can be used in fairly compact mobile systems with a body thickness of only 16-19 mm. 100-watt versions of chips with Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics are more likely to be in demand for more compact solutions, mini-PCs and monoblocks.

Intel + AMD =?

The appearance of Intel Core processors with Radeon RX Vega M graphics is an unusual example the cooperation of two seemingly irreconcilable opponents. What are the benefits of both companies from such cooperation? Intel in this way extends the range of processors, offering a complete solution with powerful mobile graphics, allowing to create on the basis of new CPU-efficient compact platforms right up to the mobile gaming systems of the middle class. This can be a functional mini-PC, and monoblocks, and relatively thin gaming laptops. The G-series chips are also a good opportunity to run EMIB technology on mass products. Partly the appearance of such chips can be considered a response to the initiative of NVIDIA Max-Q. For the creation of thin gaming laptops, the availability of discrete NVIDIA graphics with reduced power consumption is now completely unnecessary.

It would be naive to believe that with the advent of processors with a GPU from AMD, Intel will refuse to further develop its own graphics. The research will continue with even greater efforts, and the recent appearance of Raji Koduri in the team is a further confirmation of this. Another thing is that this is not a matter of the near future, and to not miss the moment and the growing interest in compact production systems, cooperation with AMD is entirely acceptable.

What does AMD get from this deal? To a greater extent, for Sunnyvale, this is a good image move and an additional opportunity to "light up" the mobile graphics of Radeon RX Vega M. It is obvious that AMD's position in the segment of mobile video cards still leaves much to be desired. Developers spent a lot of time preparing new solutions and if the situational partner helps to keep it out of the market, but at least create a great information opportunity around a really interesting product, then AMD will reap its fruits. It is unlikely that the company expects to earn money on the delivery of graphics chips for Intel, but an additional source of revenue will not be superfluous. The prepared Radeon RX Vega M solutions are exclusive for Intel, but AMD also announced its discrete mobile chips with Vega architecture and HBM2 multilayer memory, which will be available to all notebook manufacturers and other form factor systems.

Will Intel and AMD and whether their joint products will be in demand will become clear in the near future. The chips themselves are interesting, and additional initiatives in the segment of "thin, light, gaming" will benefit. The upcoming announcement of GeForce GTX 1050 Max-Q and GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q is the first sign that the announcement of new Intel / AMD chips did not go unnoticed. Well, we are waiting for interesting devices and the consequences of competition.

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