Intel Kaby Lake G Core i7-8705G Review: Why Nvidia should be scared

Kaby Lake G’s marriage of Intel CPU and AMD GPU is an unusual partnership in the spirit of peanut butter and chocolate, R2-D2 and C-3PO in Star Wars, and yes, even Tom Hanks and the dog in Turner and Hooch. People love the unexpected.

Built out of an Intel 8th-generation quad-core CPU and an AMD custom Radeon RX Vega M graphics chips, Kaby Lake G shook the PC industry when Intel announced the chip at CES. After putting Kaby Lake G through the wringer via HP’s Spectre x360 15, it’s now clear to us that this new CPU/GPU combination may very well represent the future of the PC and deserves the fear it’s generating among competitors.

What is Kaby Lake G?

When Kaby Lake G was first announced, many assumed Intel had contracted with AMD to replace its own graphics cores on the CPU die. In fact, the module houses an Intel CPU with Intel integrated graphics along with an AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics chip and memory. 

intel new 8th gen processor package size compare Intel

On the right is a CPU, GPU and HBM2 graphics memory package in Kaby Lake G. On the left is a traditional CPU, GPU and GDDR5 graphics assembly.

Rather than connect the chips using traditional methods, Kaby Lake G does it all with Intel’s Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB). Intel says its EMIB costs far less than competing techniques for connecting multiple dies and is far easier to implement as well.

On Kaby Lake G, a conventional x8 PCIe 3.0 connection joins the CPU to the GPU.  Intel uses its EMIB to connect the custom Radeon graphics core with 4GB of HBM2 memory.

kaby lake g package Intel

Inte’s new EMIB is used only to connect the the HBM2 memory with the custom Radeon graphics.

The resulting module is a whole lot smaller and thinner than a traditional setup. Kaby Lake G also offers more fine-grain power control of the components. With a traditional separate CPU and GPU, one part doesn’t know what the other is doing. It’s really up to the laptop maker to manage it all. 

kaby lake g power sharingIntel

Like Darth and Luke working together to bring order to the galaxy, Kaby Lake G allows for far control 

With Kaby Lake G, the power and thermal needs of the CPU, GPU, and the RAM for the GPU are all managed as one. If the module’s under a heavy graphics load, the CPU can back off. If the CPU is under a heavy load, the GPU can back off. That initially led many to assume that Kaby Lake G was paired with a lower power 15-watt “U” series chip. Kaby Lake G is instead based on an “H” part, which is rated at 45 watts and can run at 56 watts until it heats up.

Is it Polaris or Vega? It probably doesn’t matter

We reported earlier this year that although Intel branded Kaby Lake G with AMD’s newest and best graphics “Vega” brand, it appears to be based on AMD’s older stock of Polaris graphics cores used in the RX 580 series. Intel just spiced up Polaris with Vega elements, including high-bandwidth cache and HBM2 memory. Intel officials declined to comment.

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