Intel Meteor Lake processors, Intel’s next next-generation CPU due in 2023, are expected to feature ray tracing support on a side-by-side GPU architecture, marking a major step forward for the technology.
Ray tracing is a rendering process that illuminates a rendered scene by mimicking the way we actually see light. This sounds almost silly (don’t we see all the light?), but making an artificial scene look natural requires calculating the intricate physics involved in how light behaves, and that’s a genuinely daunting task from a computational point of view.
Ray tracing technology is currently only viable on gaming PCs with the best graphics cards or the best gaming laptops with discrete GPUs, making it a revolutionary technology that remains locked into more “elite” applications on high-end hardware.
Intel bringing the technology to its “integrated” Intel Xe graphics platform is a major advancement in technology that could make it much more affordable, however. We put integrated in quotes here since – as Wccftech (opens in new tab) points – not quite the same thing as current-gen integrated graphics; in fact, it’s a tiled architecture that looks more like a system on a chip than traditional integration into a single CPU array.
What matters, though, is that this is the kind of chip that will go into standard laptops like ultrabooks or even the best Chromebooks that feature beefier specs, like the one in our review of the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook.
Intel is already working on its own graphics upscaling technology to pair with its Intel Arc desktop graphics cards, and that technology could easily make its way into Intel’s 14th generation processors. If so, it could make some of the best cheap laptops very capable 1080p gaming machines.
Could Intel Meteor Lake bring next-gen graphics to everyday users?
While we haven’t gotten our hands on the Intel Raptor Lake chips yet – they’re expected to launch in October of this year – the first Intel Meteor Lake chips could arrive by the end of 2023. If that’s the case, you might be playing something like Cyberpunk 2077 with modest settings and any ray tracing on a base spec Dell XPS 13 at a reproducible frame rate.
That’s not to say that a single processor will turn even the best Ultrabooks into true gaming laptops. But with advances in GPU technology that come with something like ray tracing, it will have ancillary benefits to overall performance and – with proper settings tweaks (and upscaling technology) – you won’t be restricted to playing light or casual games like Civilization. I saw it on a basic laptop.
As for desktops, this will be a minor step forward, as most desktops have a free PCIe slot to put one of the best cheap graphics cards capable of ray tracing, and they will circle around the integrated graphics of even the best processors in the lineup. 14th Gen Intel.
So this is primarily an issue for laptops, which is by far the fastest growing segment of the computer market. Traditional laptops tend to be quite light on gaming performance as this dramatically improves energy efficiency (i.e. battery life) and keeps costs down.
By integrating a ray tracing GPU into the standard processor package for these laptops, we will see much more powerful performance across a whole range of graphics-intensive applications, from streaming video to gaming at a much more affordable price.
We’ve had a taste of this type of performance, and it’s really impressive.
We’ve already seen something similar in our review of the Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED, which is one of the first laptops to feature an AMD processor with integrated RDNA 2 graphics.
While the game’s performance wasn’t amazing in absolute terms, the fact that you can run Port Royal on an Ultrabook is a huge step forward. Unfortunately, finding the ZenBook S 13 OLED is a frustrating challenge, something that wouldn’t be the case for a laptop running Intel Meteor Lake.
While it’s still some time before we see these laptops, it’s good to know that they’re coming and can offer consumers a lot more performance without having to make all-out sacrifices for affordability like they have to do these days. This can only be good for ordinary consumers, whether you’re a serious gamer or not.