Intel Iris Xe Max, discrete GPU for slim Tiger Lake laptops announced

Intel 11th Gen Core ‘Tiger Lake’ CPUs will be the first to incorporate the company’s new Xe integrated graphics architecture. Just as laptops based on these CPUs are going up for sale in many parts of the world, the company has announced that some of them will also ship with its first discrete GPU, the Intel Iris Xe Max. In a surprise announcement, Intel also revealed details on how laptops can use built-in and discrete Xe GPUs together to boost graphics performance and speed up certain types of compute-intensive or AI-based tasks.

The Intel Iris Xe Max name first came to light when Intel included the product badge in a presentation to revise its branding in September. More recently, it has been featured in listings by laptop manufacturers, including a recently announced launch of Acer laptops.

The Intel Iris Xe Max GPU is based on the same Xe-LP GPU as the integrated GPUs in 11th generation Core Tiger Lake processors. It is aimed at thin and light laptops and can be used in conjunction with an integrated GPU. This is made possible by a software framework that Intel calls this deep link. The main applications that can be accelerated by “stacking” the functions of both GPUs are AI inference and video coding.

Deep Link is also able to dynamically manage the performance and thermal headroom between the GPU and CPU, allegedly improving CPU performance by 20 percent when the GPU is idle. This is similar to AMD’s SmartShift performance optimization feature.

Intel claims to have AI-based content creation up to 7 times faster on the 11th Gen Core i7-1165G7 CPU plus Iris Xe Max GPU compared to a laptop with 10th Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU and Nvidia GeForce MX350 GPU. According to Intel, the media encoding achieved 1.78 times better results than with a Core i9-10980HK and GeForce RTX 2080 Super (MaxQ).

The Iris Xe Max GPU has up to 96 execution units, which corresponds to the integrated top-end implementation, but has a higher maximum clock rate of 1.65 GHz. It uses Intel’s 10nm SuperFin transistor technology. It can use the PCIe 4.0 speed to connect to the CPU and has 4 GB LPDDR4X memory with a bandwidth of 68 GBit / s. Up to four displays can be executed simultaneously via HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4 or internal eDP. Variable rate shading and adaptive synchronization are supported.

In terms of gaming performance, the Iris Xe Max is positioned against Nvidia’s discrete entry-level GeForce MX350 GPU, so you can expect to play relatively modern games at 1080p at medium to low settings with frame rates above 30 fps.

Acer, Asus and Dell have simultaneously introduced the first laptops with Iris Xe Max GPUs. The Acer Swift 3X, Asus VivoBook TP470 and Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 will go on sale in parts of the world in November.

Intel long ago promised to bring a discrete GPU to market in 2020 to revamp its integrated and discrete graphics capabilities. The company hired Raja Koduri, AMD’s Radeon graphics director, and several other key executives. At this year’s CES, the discrete GPU test vehicle DG1 was presented and distributed among the developers. Intel is also committed to launching a high-end gaming GPU for desktop PCs that supports hardware ray tracing and is manufactured in a third-party foundry at its recent Architecture Day event. Integrated Xe GPUs are also coming to the desktop, starting with the 11th generation Rocket Lake CPUs next year.

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