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14th-gen Intel chips could support ray tracing and truly take it to the masses

A stylized Intel Core processor in a futuristic motherboard

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel Meteor Lake processors, the next-next-generation CPU from Intel due out in 2023, are anticipated to feature ray tracing support on a tiled-GPU architecture, marking a significant step of progress for the technology.

Ray tracing is really a rendering process that lights up a rendered scene by mimicking just how we actually see light. This sounds almost silly (don’t we see all light?), but making an artificial scene look natural requires calculating the intricate physics involved with how light behaves, which is really a genuinely intimidating task from the computational perspective.

Since it stands, ray tracing technology happens to be only viable in gaming PCs with the best graphics cards or the best gaming laptops with discrete GPUs, rendering it a revolutionary technology that remains locked away in more “elite” applications on high-end hardware.

Intel’s bringing the technology to its “integrated” Intel Xe graphics platform is really a major advance in the technology which could make it a lot more accessible, however. We put integrated in quotes here since as Wccftech (opens in new tab) highlights it isn’t quite a similar thing as current-gen integrated graphics; that it is a tiled architecture that’s similar to a system-on-a-chip than traditional integration right into a single CPU die.

What counts though is that is the sort of chip which will be entering standard laptops like ultrabooks as well as the best Chromebooks that feature beefier specs just like the one inside our HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook review.

Intel has already been working on its graphics upscaling tech to pair using its somewhat-beleagured Intel Arc desktop graphics cards, and that tech could easily make its way into Intel’s 14th-gen processors. If that’s the case, it might make a number of the best cheap laptops very capable 1080p gaming machines.

Could Intel Meteor Lake bring next-gen graphics to everyday users?

Ray Tracing in Shadowlands

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

While we haven’t even gotten our practical Intel Raptor Lake chips yet those are anticipated to launch the moment October of the year the initial Intel Meteor Lake chips could land the moment late 2023. If that’s so, you will be playing something similar to Cyberpunk 2077 with modest settings and some ray tracing on a base-spec Dell XPS 13 at a playable frame rate.

This is not to say a single processor will turn even the best Ultrabooks into true gaming laptops. But with the advances in GPU technology that is included with something similar to ray tracing, it has ancillary benefits for efficiency and with proper settings tweaks (and upscaling technology) you will not be limited to playing light-duty or casual games like Civilization VI on a simple laptop.

For desktops, this is less of an advance, since most desktops have a free of charge PCIe slot to slap in another of the best cheap graphics cards around with the capacity of ray tracing, and these will run circles round the integrated graphics of even the best processors in Intel’s 14th-gen lineup.

Which means this is mostly a concern for laptops, that is the fastest growing segment of the computer market undoubtedly. Traditional laptops have tended to be fairly light on gaming performance since this dramatically improves energy efficiency (i.e., battery life) and keeps costs down.

By integrating a ray-tracing GPU in to the standard processor package for these laptops, we will see a lot more powerful performance across a complete selection of graphics-intensive applications from video streaming to gaming at a more affordable price.

We’ve gotten a taste of the sort of performance already, in fact it is truly impressive

An Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED on a laptop stand

(Image credit: Future)

We already saw something similar inside our Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED review, that is among the first laptops to feature an AMD processor with integrated RDNA 2 graphics.

As the gaming performance wasn’t mind-blowing in absolue terms, the truth that you can even run Port Royal on an Ultrabook is really a major advance. Unfortunately, locating the ZenBook S 13 OLED is really a frustrating challenge, a thing that wouldn’t function as case with a laptop running Intel Meteor Lake.

Although it will be time yet before we see these laptops, it’s good to learn they are coming, also it can offer consumers a lot more performance without needing to make total sacrifices for affordability like they now have to do. This may only be best for everyday consumers, whether you’re a significant gamer or not.

John Loeffler

John (He/Him) may be the US Computing Editor at TechRadar and he could be also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently surviving in Brooklyn, NY.

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John focuses on every area of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, in addition to general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You could find him online on Twitter at @thisdotjohn

Currently playing: THE FINAL Stand: Aftermath, Cartel Tycoon

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