A new driver for the graphics portion of Intel’s “Kaby Lake G” modules with Radeon graphics baked into the chip is now available. Listed as version 18.6.1, this is the latest graphics driver release since Intel originally revealed its new modules in November 2017. Unfortunately, Intel’s notes don’t list any specific changes since that time, but the new driver reveals a significant change in how Intel will release updates in the future.
The big deal with these modules is the marriage between Intel and AMD. This all-in-one module contains Intel’s seventh-generation processor cores and integrated graphics in one chip, AMD’s Radeon RX Vega M discrete graphics cores in another chip, and HBM2 memory dedicated to graphics. All three are connected by a super-fast “freeway” within a single module.
The big fear when Intel officially introduced these modules was that the company would drag its feet regarding updates to the graphics driver. The modules didn’t become readily available in devices until January during CES 2018, thus Intel hasn’t distributed a new driver in six months — eight months if you count the date of the original driver.
That said, the driver released in November 2017 was version 23.20.792.2048 presumably based on AMD’s own Radeon Software Crimson ReLive 17.11.2. The new driver ditches Intel’s previous numbering scheme and gravitates to AMD’s system so you know where Intel’s graphics drivers are in relation to AMD’s own driver releases outside the module family. This new version is based on AMD’s Radeon Software Adrenaline suite, version 18.6.1.
Despite Intel not providing detailed release notes, these mega all-in-one chips officially move from Crimson to Adrenaline, which is a significant change regarding performance and new features. AMD typically introduces a new suite each year and spends the next 12 months improving that suite with fixes, enhancements, and injecting support for new games.
What we still don’t know is whether Intel will synchronize its graphics driver updates with AMD’s current driver distribution schedule. The latest version is 18.6.1, but will Intel issue a new update when AMD refreshes its drivers for desktop and mobile? If the release schedule thus far is any indication, that is a possible no. Still, the modules are fairly new and both Intel and AMD may still be working on driver synchronization.
Intel currently provides five “Kaby Lake G” modules ranging from the Core i5-8305G to the Core i7-8809G. For instance, the Core i7-8706G chip consists of four processor cores based on Intel’s seventh-generation design, integrated Intel HD Graphics 630, and 1,280 Radeon RX Vega M GL discrete graphics cores (20 compute units) backed by dedicated HBM2 memory. The Radeon RX Vega M GL is supposedly on par with Nvidia’s GTX 1050.
The marriage between Intel and AMD is definitely strange. Given that Intel grabbed AMD’s Radeon head Raja Koduri to produce discrete graphics in 2020, we can’t help but wonder what is to become of these modules by then.