Intel + AMD = Mobile Gaming (and Other) Innovations

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  November 8, 2017

Mobile innovation impacts IT products of every sort. That’s certainly true for consumer endpoints, but it’s also the case for a widening range of business solutions and services. However, there are a few areas where inherent design issues inhibit device OEMs from developing compelling mobile solutions.

One area where this is particularly thorny is in gaming laptops where the necessary footprint for CPU and GPU components contributes to systems that average 26mm (over 1”) in height, or more than twice the 11mm to 16mm heights common in thin and light laptops. That substantial difference isn’t just an aesthetic issue—it also results in gaming systems being considerably heavier than most consumer and business laptops.

That’s a problem that Intel and AMD are working together to fix.

Best-of-two-worlds integration

How are the pair going about this? In short, Intel approached AMD about collaborating on a new platform for mobile gaming that would halve the area required for discrete CPU/GPU components on a motherboard. As a result, OEMs can develop thinner and lighter, yet still fully powerful laptops with enhanced thermal dissipation, or use the extra space to explore other options, including new features, board layouts and cooling technologies, or to extend battery life.

How do the companies aim to achieve this? By creating a new product that joins Intel’s high-performance Core H-series processor (already a favorite choice in mobile gaming systems), a second gen High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2) solution and a custom-designed, discrete graphics chip from AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group together in an integrated, single processor package.

This week, Intel and AMD announced the success of their collaboration and said systems based on the new chips will be available in the first quarter of 2018.

Two new Intel technologies

In addition, the chips will leverage two other recently announced Intel technologies. The first is EMIB (Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge) which supports high-speed communications between closely-proximate silicon. In turn, that enables the assembly of heterogeneous “chiplet” components into single packages, such as the new Intel/AMD solution.

The second is a new power-sharing framework that coordinates information between the CPU, GPU and memory, and also helps manage temperature, power delivery and performance state in real time. More importantly, Intel-developed software drivers and interfaces will enable OEM system designers to adjust the ratio of power-sharing between the CPU and GPU to enhance the performance of specific workloads and applications, including performance gaming.

Potential future opportunities

The impact of these technologies on the new 8th gen Core chips and family is clear, but it’s worth considering how they might impact other Intel efforts and solutions. For example, EMIB’s support of heterogeneous components could open the door to future Intel strategic partnerships and plans. The new power-sharing framework, on the other hand, should help Intel OEMs speed the development of new workload- and application-focused endpoint devices, and pursue new market opportunities.

It also seems entirely possible that the new Intel/AMD solutions could find their way into endpoints beyond gaming laptops. One potential area for exploration would be thinner, lighter mobile workstations for graphics and other professionals. Another would be to reduce the sizable bulk or significantly extend the battery life of ruggedized tablet and laptops.

In both cases, Intel and AMD’s innovations could lead to significantly enhancing end users’ experiences and reshaping substantial commercial markets.

Final analysis

Strategic partnerships come in all shapes and sizes, but the best of them tend to act like pebbles dropped into still water. It isn’t the size of their impact that makes a difference so much as it is how far their ripples of influence extend. Looking closely, that’s exactly the kind of impact one should expect from Intel and AMD’s collaboration.

The fact that the two companies, which are fiercely competitive in many areas, have found ways to work together is intriguing. Will the pair’s joint effort succeed? That’s impossible to say at this point. But that Intel and AMD brought together some of their best, respective technologies to create something entirely new makes their partnership worthy of attention and respect.

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