Intel won't be selling you a Kaby Lake chip with an AMD GPU in it this year

Intel licensing AMD GPU tech

The intermawebs have been abuzz over the last couple of days about dogs and cats living together and AMD and Intel working to produce a new processor combining the best of Intel’s CPU wizardry and AMD’s graphical mastery.

Read more: check out our guide to the best gaming headsets around today.

We covered the first time HardOCP editor-in-chief, Kyle Bennett, took to their forums to announce a deal for Intel to license AMD GPU technology back in December and now he’s back. He begins by trumping up his earlier comments, claiming that everything he previously mentioned was ‘definitively correct’, and goes even further saying that an Intel/AMD collaborative chip will hit the market this year.

“The first product AMD is working on for Intel is a Kaby Lake processor variant that will positioned in the entry-to-mid level performance segment,” Bennett says on the forum. “It is in fact an MCM (multi-chip-module), and will not be on-die with the KB CPU. It is scheduled to come to market before the end of the year. I would expect more collaboration between AMD and Intel in the future on the graphics side. And you can take all that to the bank.”

From which it sounds like we’ll be able to pick up a new Kaby Lake processor later this year which has an AMD GPU grafted onto it. It all seems to be in keeping with the new spirit of togetherness that’s seeing the tech industry linking arms at the moment - 97 technology companies banding together to legally oppose the US president’s latest immigration policy is another example . 

Intel Kaby Lake CPU wafer

The thing is, you’re not going to be able to buy this Kaby Lake/Radeon hybrid, at least not in a form which will allow you to just drop it into a 200-series motherboard and build a PC around it.

If that was what this licensing deal was proposing it would essentially mean AMD giving notice they were killing off their APU division. And with the Raven Ridge APUs set to tip up later this year, sporting both a Zen-based CPU element and a Vega-powered GPU, that’s simply not going to happen. Not when AMD genuinely have a chance to make a relevant APU almost for the first time.

So why would AMD and Intel be working together on a chip and what form is that going to take? AMD have spoken about licensing out from their broad stable of tech IPs before, but have always been very careful about making sure not to cannibalise any parts of their own business in doing so.

This proposed collaborative effort then is going to have to be for a market where AMD stands no chance of getting one of their own APUs on the ground.

Intel Project Alloy

The current thinking is that this would either form a custom chip for a future Apple product or would exist to give Intel’s Project Alloy VR toy some actual GPU cojones. Apple are already using discrete AMD GPUs in their top-end MacBook Pros and iMac’s so they may potentially want more performance from a lower-order on-chip GPU and not have to ensure compatibility across different graphics hardware.

And then there’s Project Alloy. At IDF last year Intel showed off their untethered VR prototype, but virtual reality thrives on powerful GPU hardware and the current reliance on Intel’s weak-heart iGPU technology could seriously hamper its prospective take up.

If Intel can manufacture a workable processor with both the CPU power of Intel and the Radeon GPU power they could provide a solid processor foundation for any manufacturers to build their Project Alloy headsets around. That would also then help squeeze Nvidia out of the market and provide a level development playing field.

 Essentially what I'm saying then is don't get too excited when you read about Intel and AMD cosying up, it's unlikely to impact the gaming PCs of our tomorrows. But it's still worth keeping an eye one whatever such a chip might end up powering.

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roverrambler avatarakamateau avatarDave James avatar
roverrambler Avatar
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2 Months ago

Great analysis, spot on! I'd put my money on the latter, Project Alloy.

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akamateau Avatar
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2 Months ago

@David James

"If that was what this licensing deal was proposing it would essentially mean AMD giving notice they were killing off their APU division."

If you believe that an add-on slab of Radeon silicon is going to come even CLOSE to a fully integrated Heterogeneous System Architecture AMD Ryzen APU then you do not know what you are writing about.

While an on-die gpu will certainly exhibit less latency than a discrete gpu, a similarly spec'd APU will perform circles around it. In fact ONLY AMD supports Asynchronous Compute. What that means is an APU with the same compute units will crush the on-die version handily. That does not mean that Intel may be using a larger gpu. In fact AMD has announced a very thin gpu silicon for interposer and slim notebooks and tablet use.

Likely what AMD might be building for Intel is a similar GPU they intend for use with Ryzen: an Interposer mounted GPU with additional V-ram. AMD has patents regarding this particular architecture and it something NVidia can not build as they do NOT have this patent. In fact NVidia is not able to build an interposer with memory controller on die, they must use a controller at the bottom of each HBM stack. Again read GH Loh's patents.

Just in case you disagree then I would suggest that you do a google search for the patents for Gabriel H Loh. He is an AMD fellow and is co-owner along with AMD of many stacked and HBM memory architecture patents including the use of programmable cache, interposer memory controllers and interposers with discrete gpu's.

Then run over to Wcctech for this piece: it is 2 years old.

"AMD Reveals the Monsterous ‘Exascale Heterogeneous Processor’ (EHP) with 32 x86 Zen Cores and Greenland HBM2 Graphics on a 2.5D Interposer....

The APU, dubbed an “Exascale Heterogeneous Processor” or EHP for short is the mother of all APUs with 32 Zen Cores, an absolutely huge Greenland graphics die and upto 32 GB of HBM2 memory – all on a 2.5D interposer."

I can see AMD building silicon for an Intel CPU and why not? They are still selling silicon. And likely the GPU will not be Greenland!!

An on-die GPU will certainly better Intels laughably poor iGP but it can not do better than Heterogeneous System Architecture. unless of course the GPU is a discrete GPU running 2000-4000 shader cores.

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Dave James Avatar
265
2 Months ago

I'm not disputing a closed, on-die solution, closely integrating the GPU and CPU silicon in a way that they can be accessed interchangeably by the system would be faster than simply tacking a graphics chip onto an existing package, but I can't see AMD willing to let that happen in a space they already operate in.

Given Intel's historic dominance of the CPU space that would result in unnecessary competition for their Raven Ridge chips, competition they would've then helped foster.

My contention is that this is not going to result in a hybrid Core/Radeon chip that people will be able to pick off the shelf and build systems around themselves. It's a chip that's more likely to occupy a segment of the tech market where the RTG won't be in competition with AMD in a wider context - hence dropping it into a closed system like a Mac or a sealed HMD.

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akamateau Avatar
4
2 Months ago

David;

I never once said in my post that "people will be able to pick off the shelf and build systems around themselves. " You made that up all by yourself. Don't put words in my text.

You missed my point completely. AMD is likely intending to sell Intel dGPU silicon that Intel can place on an Interposer along with an Intel server CPU.

This would not impact AMD APU sales as it is not the same thing. AMD is doing the very same thing with it's exascale Tarnhelm and Naples for the Chinese server market.

However it also does not mean that a dGPU would not be placed on an Interposer with HBM and a CPU for workstation uses.

AMD has remade itself into a graphics company that happens to sell x86 CPUs and APU's rather than a CPU company that happens to sell GPU's.

This is a huge difference. AMD is not going to turn it's back on dGPU sales to Intel as Intel has 95% of the server market. The best AMD can hope for server penetration is maybe 5% growth. However it makes a hell of a lot more sense to sell dGPU for servers to Intel as now AMD not only has penetration into a new market but that is a hell of an endorsement for the Radeon Tech.

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Dave James Avatar
265
2 Months ago

Fair enough, from what Bennett was saying in the thread it didn't seem like he was expecting it to be something for the server space.

Still, if it is going to be as you say it's still not going to be a Kaby Lake processor you'll be able to buy and drop into your gaming rig. Which is the thrust of the story - this AMD/Intel collaboration isn't going to be a chip for the general PC upgrade market.

If it were that would be creating competition for themselves which they've said they won't do when licensing out IP.

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Dave James Avatar
265
2 Months ago

I wasn't accuse you of saying anything, sorry if you read it that way. I was purely explaining what the point of the story was you were commenting on.

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