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Intel's eighth-gen Core processors with Radeon RX Vega M graphics revealed

The enemy of my enemy is my frenemy

Cheese and crackers. Coffee and cream. Intel and AMD wouldn't normally fit onto lists of two great tastes that taste great together, but the eighth-generation Intel G-series processors and their blend of blue-team CPU cores and red-team graphics might force a rethink as they launch this evening.

The way Intel sees it, the G-series CPU and GPU combo bridges an implementation divide that's long existed between its 15 W U-series CPUs for thin-and-light notebooks and its 45 W H-series CPUs for high-performance notebooks. The obvious benefit of U-series CPUs in 15 W TDPs is that buyers can get the highest possible Intel CPU performance in ultra-portable machines, while H-series CPUs in 35 W and 45 W thermal envelopes provide the necessary muscle to chew through demanding computing tasks and feed high-end discrete graphics processors. Notebook buyers who want a machine that can do it all have generally had to accept higher noise, lower battery life, thicker chassis, and lots of heat production thanks to the power demands of high-performance discrete components.

The complete eighth-gen Core G-series package. Source: Intel

Intel's vision for its G-series CPUs, then, is to give OEMs a way to build a thin-and-light notebook that's closer in performance to bulkier systems with discrete graphics cards that typify the homes of current H-series CPUs. To do that, Intel G-series CPU packages join a high-performance, eighth-generation H-series CPU die with a semi-custom AMD Radeon graphics processor built for Intel called Radeon RX Vega M. Vega M is remarkable not only because it's integrated on-package with an Intel CPU, but also because it's the first midrange graphics implementation of the Vega architecture that we've seen so far.

GTX 1060 3 GB 1506 1708 48 72 1152 192 192 GB/s 3 GB 185 W
GTX 1060 6GB 1506 1708 48 80 1280 192 192 GB/s 6 GB 120 W
RX Vega M GH 1063 1190 64 96 1536 1024 205 GB/s 4 GB --
GTX 1050 1354 1455 32 40 640 128 112 GB/s 2 GB 75 W
GTX 1050 Ti 1290 1392 32 48 768 128 112 GB/s 4 GB 75 W
RX Vega M GL 931 1011 32 80 1280 1024 179 GB/s 4 GB --
RX 560 (1024 SP) 1175 1275 16 64 1024 128 112 GB/s 2 GB/4 GB 80 W
RX 570 1168 1244 32 128 2048 256 224 GB/s 4 GB 150 W

Intel will ship Vega M graphics processors in two forms. The entry-level member of this family, Radeon Vega M GL, will accompany the trio of Core i5 G processors launching today. This chip features 20 Radeon Vega compute units, for a total of 1280 stream processors. Alongside that shader engine, the Vega M GL offers 80 texturing units and four geometry engines, and its ROPs can output 32 pixels per clock. The M GL will run at a base clock of 931 MHz and a boost clock of 1011 MHz.

The higher-performance Radeon Vega M GH will accompany the duo of Core i7 CPUs in the G series. This potent GPU offers 1536 stream processors across 24 Vega compute units, 96 texture units, four geometry engines, and it can output 64 ROP pixels per clock. Intel specifies this part for a base clock of 1063 MHz and a boost clock of 1190 MHz.

Both Radeon Vega M chips are joined with a single stack of HBM2 RAM with a 1024-bit-wide memory bus. Until recently, joining HBM2 with another chip has involved placing those components together on a silicon interposer—a design requirement that's more expensive, more complex, and more restrictive than joining components together on the same PCB.

The Intel G-series CPU package takes a different approach for joining HBM2 with the GPU. It's the first Intel consumer product to use the company's Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) technology, a data-only connection that allows two chips to be placed extremely close together on package with high signal integrity and high bandwidth.

An EMIB is, in short, a small piece of silicon that's embedded into the underlying package. This sliver of silicon has a number of routing layers inside that can be used to connect two discrete components over very short distances and with very high interconnect density. In this case, the HBM2 RAM uses a single EMIB to communicate with the Vega M GPU. On top of its less-complex implementation, using an EMIB reduces the overall height of the processor package—a critical point in the never-ending race toward thinner and lighter notebooks. Intel says building this same chip on an interposer would result in a significantly thicker package.

Intel clocks the 4 GB of HBM2 RAM paired with the Vega M GL chip at an effective 1.4 Gbps for peak aggregate bandwidth of 179 GB/s. The Vega M GH chip gets a higher-speed 4-GB slice of HBM2 running at 1.6 Gbps for aggregate bandwidth of 205 GB/s. Unlike the custom memory controller of AMD's Raven Ridge APUs, Vega M retains the Vega architecture's high-bandwidth cache controller for communication with the HBM2 stack.

The RX Vega M GPU, in turn, is connected to the CPU by eight PCIe 3.0 lanes from that chip. Platform engineers can then choose to allocate the remaining eight PCIe lanes from the CPU to platform devices like M.2 slots or Thunderbolt controllers.