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Intel’s new chip could seriously threaten AMD and the Steam Deck

Intel Lunar Lake gives you a Battlemage GPU, eight CPU cores, and 32GB of RAM in a single package, but will it have the driver support?

Intel has just announced a new chip that has the potential to completely transform the PC gaming handheld market. It’s called Intel Lunar Lake, and it not only gives you eight CPU cores, but also a gaming GPU with ray tracing, an AI processor, and 32GB of DDR5 RAM, all in one package.

There haven’t been many handheld gaming PC devices based on Intel hardware yet, with the MSI Claw being a notable exception. All the current handheld front runners, including the Steam Deck and Asus ROG Ally X, use AMD hardware at the moment. However, Intel Lunar Lake, which we just saw the company announce at Computex, has the potential to change this situation.

A key factor here is having so much hardware in a single package, including the RAM, reducing latency between components and limiting power draw too. Not only that, but this is the first product we’ve seen to use Intel’s new Battlemage Xe2 GPU architecture, which Intel says will “improve gaming and graphics performance by 1.5x,” compared with the Xe-LPG GPU found in the company’s Meteor Lake processors.

The new GPU effectively gives you the equivalent of 1,024 stream processors, which are divided into eight Xe2 cores. Unlike the previous Alchemist GPU found in current Meteor Lake chips, though, the new GPU also contains Intel’s XMX matrix cores for AI processing (and this is separate from the NPU), meaning the GPU has direct access to AI cores for processing Intel’s XeSS resolution upscaling technology in hardware. That could make all the difference when it comes to handheld gaming, and there are eight Battlemage ray tracing cores in the GPU as well.

Pat Gelsinger unveils Intel Lunar Lake at Computex 2024

Meanwhile, the CPU itself features four new P-Cores based on Intel’s Lion Cove core, which is also expected to be used in the company’s Arrow Lake desktop CPUs later in the year. These are then backed up by four power-efficient E-Cores based on Intel’s new Skymont core. This adds up to a total of eight cores, although four of them are much more powerful than the other four.

The really big deal here, though, is power draw, and Lunar Lake sees Intel taking serious aim at Arm in a bid to claim some of the low-power handheld and laptop space. In fact, Intel claims that the new CPU cores “deliver amazing performance at up to 40% lower system-on-chip power compared to the previous generation.”

In theory, it all adds up to a chip that could seriously threaten AMD in the handheld space, with solid performance and low power draw. The main problem for Intel here will be its GPU driver support, which we found to be spotty in our Intel Arc A770 review, and it’s also taken several driver revisions to get the MSI Claw performing well since its release.

Intel has barely mentioned the potential for Lunar Lake in handheld devices so far, with the bigger focus being on thin and light laptops with AI capabilities. However, it’s already been announced that the MSI Claw 2 will use a Lunar Lake chip, and this new handheld could potentially take on its AMD-based rivals if its performance is reliable out of the box.

It looks as though Intel has the ideas and the silicon needed to make a big bang on the handheld gaming PC market – it just needs to make some serious investment in drivers and game support. In the meantime, if you’re looking to buy a new handheld, check out our Steam Deck OLED review, as this is our current favorite device for gaming on the go.