Back in 2011, chip giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) released a family of processors known by the code name "Sandy Bridge." In marketing speak, these were the company's second-generation Core processors.
A key feature of these processors was that they had graphics processing units, or GPUs, embedded alongside the main CPU cores. Those embedded GPUs weren't particularly powerful. In fact, if you were a gamer, you were still going to want to buy a much more powerful standalone GPU. But they were good enough for non-gaming uses.
That integration benefited both Intel and its system integrator customers. Intel benefited because it could charge more for chips with graphics built-in since the GPU was a value-added component. Its customers benefited because they no longer needed to purchase low-end standalone graphics cards for a large portion of the systems they sold. Even with the slight increase in processor price from Intel, the system makers were able to cut their own costs. Since then, Intel's notebook processors and its mainstream desktop processors have been designed with integrated graphics processors inside.
So it might seem a little strange that, according to a leaked slide, Intel is apparently planning to introduce variants of its 9th Gen and even 8th Gen Core mainstream desktop processors with so-called "GT0" graphics -- or, in other words, with the integrated graphics processor disabled.
Here's a potential explanation for why the company might want to offer such parts.
A de facto price cut for gaming PCs
Although I imagine the vast majority of desktop PCs sold can get by just fine with the integrated graphics that Intel builds into its processors, those graphics are largely inadequate for modern games. That's why gaming-oriented desktop PCs tend to ship with higher-performance discrete GPUs. (As an aside, Intel has said it intends to launch its first discrete GPUs in 2020.)
The reality is that Intel's best gaming processors are also parts that have integrated GPUs, since Intel uses the same basic chip designs to service a wide range of segments. One way to view the inclusion of those integrated GPUs is that Intel is giving it to customers for "free." Another way to view it is that Intel is making customers pay for a piece of technology they'll never use.
The leaked slide indicates that Intel is building the following desktop processors without the graphics enabled: i9-9900KF, i7-9700KF, i5-9600KF, i3-9350KF, i5-9400F, and i3-8100F. The parts with the "K" in their model numbers are unlocked, which means users can push the chips to speeds higher than what Intel rates them at. Those parts are targeted at gamers and PC enthusiasts, who would probably be using standalone GPUs anyway.
There's also the Core i5-9400F and the Core i3-8100F. While these aren't "unlocked" chips, the Core i5-8400, the predecessor to the upcoming Core i5-9400, is a chip that hardware-review site AnandTech recommends to customers looking to build $700 and $1,000 gaming-oriented desktop PCs powered by Intel chips. AnandTech labels the Core i3-8100 as the "best overall choice" for an Intel-based gaming PC.
So it's not surprising that in light of how effective those chips are for the gaming market, Intel would build variants of those SKUs, or their successors, without the integrated graphics enabled for that market.
Probably not that much cheaper
I don't think these graphics-less chips will be dramatically cheaper than their siblings with graphics enabled. To put into perspective how much Intel seems to value the integrated graphics processors in its chips, let's look at Intel's Xeon-E line of entry-level workstation/server parts that already come in flavors with and without the integrated graphics enabled.
According to Intel's ARK processor database, the Xeon E-2124 -- a part with four cores, four threads, a base frequency of 3.3GHz, and a maximum turbo frequency of 4.3GHz -- carries a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $193. The Xeon E-2124G, which not only has the integrated graphics processor named but also runs at slightly higher frequencies, with a 3.4GHz base and 4.5GHz maximum turbo, carries an MSRP of $213.
That means Intel values the integrated graphics processor in the Xeon E-2124G at less than $20, since, presumably, part of the price difference between the two chips is due to the modestly faster CPU in the pricier model.
However, savings on the order of $20 per chip could be a big deal for system vendors, as their margins tend to be razor thin. That money could allow them to cut prices, potentially stimulating demand, or allow them to boost the specifications elsewhere in the systems that they're trying to sell while still keeping costs for their system bill of materials in check. Or the system vendors could just pocket the savings.
The thing to keep in mind, though, is that if these chips really are coming to market, I imagine it's due to demand from Intel's customers.