When Intel and AMD announced they’d be cooperating on a new CPU with an Intel processor paired with an AMD GPU, it was easy to see who the loser was going to be. Nvidia has a dominant overall position in the GPU market, including the types of all-in-one and small form factor systems that might opt for one of Intel’s new CPUs with Radeon RX Vega graphics rather than an Intel CPU with Nvidia GPU. Now, there’s hints that Nvidia is planning to respond with a new GPU iteration of its own: The GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q.
That’s the word from Overclock3D, based on the latest Nvidia driver update, which lists both a 1050 Ti as being supported. It’s not hard to see why Nvidia might want to roll a new flavor of GPU. Intel’s marketing for its new GPUs made the point that its lower-end SKUs could absolutely wallop the GTX 1050:
Now, these games are absolutely Intel-chosen and should be taken with a grain of salt, but the claimed set of improvements over the GTX 1050 isn’t small. That’s significant, because while every game is different, it’s unusual to see a GPU win three titles by 30-40 percent and then be 30-40 percent slower in a wider set of benchmarks. Benchmark settings and choices matter, sometimes a lot, but they don’t usually bake in that much swing.
Against the GTX 1060 Max-Q the gap is far narrower, implying that the gap between the two solutions could be the result of benchmark cherry-picking between Intel and Nvidia. Still, the 1050 results are pretty ugly.
A Response to Intel or AMD?
Intel and its Radeon RX Vega integrated GPUs are a logical target for Nvidia’s rumored 1050 Ti Max-Q, but there’s a few things about this match-up that don’t necessarily make sense. For one thing, all of the Intel CPUs announced with Radeon graphics are 65W to 100W chips. At first glance, this makes no sense for a laptop match-up. Remember, however, that most gaming laptops up to and including desktop replacement-class laptops, only give the TDP of their CPUs and don’t mention GPU TDP at all. A 65W Intel CPU is a lot for a gaming laptop if you don’t factor the GPU’s power consumption into the equation. Once you do, 65W isn’t nearly so much. It’s entirely possible we’ll see 65W laptops facing off against Nvidia GPUs with a 1050 Ti Max-Q in them.
The 100W question is trickier to call. TDP on the GTX 1060 Notebook is supposedly ~75W (not counting the CPU). This suggests that Intel’s Core i7-8809G may well match up against GTX 1060-equipped hardware in power consumption.
The other possibility is that Nvidia is releasing a new, power-optimized variant of the 1050 Ti so it can fend off any Radeon Vega Mobile products AMD might launch. While it was overshadowed by CES, Meltdown, and Spectre, AMD did announce a new Vega Mobile family last week, without any SKU details. We don’t know yet what those cores will look like, but Nvidia may be moving preemptively to lock down SKUs before AMD has its own solutions ready to ship.
Either way, these Intel CPUs have the potential to be game-changers. There’s always been a question as to whether lower-end gamers — by which I mean gamers who sit between the entry-level players who are satisfied with integrated graphics and people who will drop $200+ on dGPUs — could be satisfied with a high-end integrated solution. Intel CPUs + Radeon GPUs are going to test that question more fully than we’ve seen it tested before. And should the answer prove “yes,” Nvidia will have good reason to be concerned.