In a surprising twist, Intel's future 14th Generation Meteor Lake CPU architecture will reportedly split video playback and encode functionality from the integrated graphics into a new area known as an SMU or Standalone Media Unit on the CPU, as reported by Phoronix. It is a significant change by Intel, which will allow media functionality to be used at all times, even if the integrated graphics chip is disabled.
In a real-world scenario, once Meteor Lake launches, users building gaming PCs or content creation machines on the future platform will have access to all of Intel's high-quality video decoding engines and Intel QuickSync technology, even if integrated GPU is disabled in favor of a discrete graphics card, which frees up memory resources and power resources -- moving them towards the CPU entirely. The situation gets even better if older discrete GPUs are installed that lack modern hardware acceleration codecs, such as AV1 or H265 encoding.
Another perk of this transition is related to Intel's F-series processors, which lack integrated graphics altogether. As a result, F-series Meteor Lake processors should theoretically gain access to all of Intel's media features - including QuickSync, even with the iGP disabled at a silicon level. In addition, Intel server CPUs and potential HEDT chips could also benefit from this change since Intel disables the integrated graphics chip from these CPU lineups altogether.
Phoronix saw this change based on new Linux enablement work for Meteor Lake, which includes patch notes detailing the SMU changes. These changes include further architectural modifications to the graphics unit and transitioning to Intel's Arc Alchemist GPU architecture. As a result, we should expect more advanced features such as AV1 encoding to make their way to consumer-based Meteor Lake chips.
Unfortunately, we won't see these new changes for a while since Meteor Lake is still at least a year or two away from release, with Intel busy preparing its upcoming 13th Gen Raptor Lake lineup. But, thanks to early Linux development work on Meteor Lake, we see exciting hardware changes on future CPU architectures before launch.
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Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.