AMD’s taking it one step at a time with its new Vega M Intel chips

By Katharine Byrne on January 31, 2018

When Intel and AMD said they were teaming up for a new kind of 8th Gen Core processor with onboard AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics, many assumed (myself included) that this would be the start of a new, if slightly weird and wonderful relationship between the once bitter rivals.

However, it would appear that the future of Intel’s AMD Vega CPUs will rest very much on the success of its initial launch this spring, according to AMD CEO Lisa Su, suggesting the partnership may be a one-time-only deal if it doesn’t take off.

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The Core i7 Vega M chips were first unveiled at CES earlier this month when Intel announced they were going to launch two brand-new ultra compact barebones NUC PCs this spring. But in an interview with Anandtech, Su said: “We haven’t announced anything beyond the first product, so I would say let us get through the first product and we will see where it goes from there.”

To recap, there are currently just two Intel Vega M chips on the cards – one for each announced NUC, as it turns out. The first and more powerful of the two is the quad-core 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8809G, which comes with AMD’s Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics, and the second is the quad-core 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G, which comes with AMD’s Vega M GL graphics.

According to Intel, the i7-8809G will be capable of running Hitman at an average of 62fps at 1920×1080 on High graphics settings, while the i7-8705G will be able to produce an average of 46fps under the same conditions. Impressive stuff for an onboard graphics chip. What’s more, they both use Intel’s new ‘Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge’ (EMIB) design, which is both more power efficient and takes up significantly less room on a motherboard than having lots of separate components, making them ideal candidates for ultra slim, portable devices.

Of course, these chips would be doomed to almost certain failure if both companies were solely relying on NUC sales to secure their future, which is why you’ll also be seeing them crop up in the new Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 hybrid laptop and the new HP Spectre x360 15, both of which launch in March. This will be the true test of the chips’ viability, and for what it’s worth, I really hope they succeed, as the thought of being able to say goodbye to hulking great gaming laptops is something I can very much get behind.

Device sales may not be the only thing throwing a potential spanner in the works, however, as Su also mentioned “there’s a real tightness in memory supply around the world” at the moment – and that includes supplies of the HBM2 memory they’re using in the Intel Vega M chips. If there’s not enough stuff to actually finish making them, then even all the sales in the world may not be enough to see it through another generation cycle. Only time will tell, of course, but for now, let’s keep our respective fingers crossed it all works out.

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