Before going to what is the central point of the news we must remember that Meteor Lake is the architecture of Intel fourteenth generation and will be released in 2023, right after Raptor Lake. It is Intel’s first desktop CPU built by tiles or chiplets, which will be interconnected with each other through an interposer making use of the Foveros vertical interconnection.
The processor will be built under the Intel 4 manufacturing process and it will be the first to be mass manufactured under this process. So far what Intel has shown us is a concept art with a Tile that would be the CPU itself, another that would be the I / O system to communicate with the peripherals and / or memory and to finish a last chip mounted on it. interposer that would be the GPU, well, it seems that there could be a fourth element in Meteor Lake and this would be a Neural Engine.
Neural Engine in Meteor Lake? The details
Actually, the piece is not called that, but it is a name taken from the world of smartphone SoCs where apart from CPU, GPU and all the xPUs of a time, NPUs have been added to this part where the N stands for Neural. Specifically, the Neural Engine in Meteor Lake will receive the name of Vision Processing Unit or VPU, so it would be directly related to computer vision, one of the most common applications of this type of hardware.
Keep in mind that we are talking about a processor that would specialize in accelerating deep learning in the same way that a GPU does with graphics independently of the CPU, which differentiates it from the AMX units and instructions that we are going to see in Sapphire Rapids and Alder Lake where they are execution units that are part of the central processor itself.
In terms of raw computing power, it does not seem to be the same that Intel will obtain with its ARC GPUs and its Tensor-type units and if we hold on to what Tom has said from the Moore’s Law is Dead channel, it would be rather the replacement for Intel GNA, since it would also find located inside the CPU Tile. Intel’s VPU on Meteor Lake would be a 16-core Neural Engine and it will be based more on a matrix or tensor type organization than SIMD as it happens with the current coprocessor for AI in Intel CPUs, which has been totally outdated.
Everything indicates that it could be an implementation of the Myriad X VPU created by Movidius, a company that was bought a few years ago by Intel, since the specifications of its VPU would match. The Movidius chip is part of the Intel Neural Compute Stick and is small enough to be integrated into a processor.
To finish, it seems that AMD will also include a unit of this type in its next generation SoCs under the code name Rembrandt and that we will see on sale in a few months. So when it comes to adding a Neural Engine to a PC CPU, Meteor Lake is not going to be the first. In any case, it would not be the first processor, since the Neural Engine has been integrated into Apple’s SoCs for years and is therefore an integral part of its M1.