Intel Iris Xe Max GPU arrives in 11th-gen mobile chips to boost gaming, creation

Intel's first discrete graphics processing unit in quite a while comes out this week.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
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Lori Grunin
2 min read

The Acer Swift 3x will be one of the first laptops to use Intel's Iris Xe Max GPU. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

Intel's latest flavor of its upgraded graphics architecture, Iris Xe Max, rolls out this week in three debut systems: the Acer Swift 3x, Asus VivoBook Flip TP470 and Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 . Though Iris Xe, the integrated version baked into Intel's 11th-gen mobile processors, has already arrived in the Asus ZenBook 13 and others, Iris Xe Max is Intel's first discrete graphics processing unit (GPU) in quite a while. It's intended to obviate the need for partners to turn to Nvidia's GeForce MX line of graphics for laptops capable of casual 1,080-pixel  gaming and entry-level creation. Intel offers a little something extra as incentive: Deep Link, which allows a system to combine the integrated and discrete Xe GPU's processing power for creative tasks like AI inferencing and rendering (Additive AI) and video encoding (Hyper Encode).

Intel also revealed that it hopes to bring Iris Xe Max graphics to basic sub-$1,000 PCs by the end of June 2021.

Deep Link is part of Intel's latest generation of its Adaptix performance tuning suite for partners, and includes Dynamic Power Share, which automatically allocates power and cooling to the computer processing unit when the GPU is idle, for better sustained processing performance. That's similar to AMD's SmartShift, though SmartShift juggles CPU and GPU resources in both directions. So, at the very least you'll see markedly better benchmark and battery numbers in the Xe Max laptops over models with Nvidia MX chips.

Watch this: Acer's Swift 3x is ready for your next creative project with Intel's help

Iris Xe Max also adds two driver-controlled features for gaming: Game Sharpening and Instant Game Tuning. Like AMD's and Nvidia's Image Sharpening, Game Sharpening allows you to use slightly lower-quality textures that are automatically processed to deliver better-looking results at higher frame rates than they'd normally have.

The Iris Xe and Iris Xe Max GPUs are based on Intel's Xe-LP architecture, the first of its long-awaited voyage into the significant revamp of its graphics technologies. Also on deck are rollouts for gaming-centric GPUs based on Xe-HP and high-performance computing (aka data center) Xe-HPC architectures.