Intel’s 11th Gen Core ‘Tiger Lake’ CPUs are the first to feature the company’s latest integrated Xe graphics architecture. Just as laptops designed around these CPUs are on sale in several parts of the world, the company has announced that some will even ship with the first discrete GPU, the Intel Iris Xe Max. In a surprising announcement, Intel also unveiled specifics of how integrated and isolated Xe GPUs can be used together by laptops to improve graphics efficiency and speed up some forms of compute-intensive or AI-based activities.
When Intel used the model badge to demonstrate its corporate branding redesign in September, Intel Iris Xe Max first leaked. It has appeared in notebook manufacturers’ listings, including a new launch statement for Acer laptops.
The Intel Iris Xe Max GPU for 11th Gen Core Tiger Lake processors is based on the same Xe-LP GPU as the integrated GPUs. It is aimed at thin-and-light laptops and can operate in combination with a built-in GPU. This is allowed by a software system called Deep Connection by Intel. AI inferencing and video decoding are key applications that can be accelerated by ‘stacking’ GPUs’ capabilities.
Deep Link can also control power and thermal headroom between the GPU and Processor dynamically, resulting in a reported 20% increase in CPU efficiency while the GPU is idle. This feature is similar to the SmartShift power optimization function of AMD.
Compared to a laptop with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 Processor and Nvidia GeForce MX350 GPU, Intel estimates up to 7 times faster AI-based content creation than the 11th Gen Core i7-1165G7 CPU plus Iris Xe Max GPU. As for media encoding, Intel says 1.78X better results have been achieved than with a Core i9-10980HK and GeForce RTX 2080 Super (MaxQ).
There are up to 96 execution units on the Iris Xe Max GPU, the same as the integrated top-end implementation but with a higher overall clock speed of 1.65GHz. It leverages the 10 nm SuperFin transistor technology from Intel. It will link to the CPU using the PCIe 4.0 speed and has 4 GB of LPDDR4X memory with 68 GBps bandwidth. It can run up to four displays over HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4, or internal eDP simultaneously. Shading of the variable rate and adaptive sync is provided.
The Iris Xe Max took place against Nvidia’s GeForce MX350 entry-level discrete GPU in terms of gaming performance, so you can expect to play comparatively modern games 1080p with frame rates above 30fps at medium to low settings.
Acer, Asus, and Dell jointly released the first laptops featuring Iris Xe Max GPUs. In November, the Acer Swift 3X, Asus VivoBook TP470, and Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 are selling in parts of the country.
As part of a sweeping initiative to upgrade its integrated and standalone graphics capabilities, Intel had long ago agreed to introduce a discrete GPU in 2020; AMD’s Radeon graphics manager, Raja Koduri, and several other key executives were recruited. The DG1 discrete GPU test vehicle was showed off at CES this year and distributed among developers.
Intel is also committed to releasing a high-end gaming GPU for desktop PCs at its recent Architecture Day case, which will support hardware ray tracing and be manufactured at a third-party foundry. Starting with 11th Gen’ Rocket Lake’ CPUs next year, embedded Xe GPUs are again coming to the desktop.