While Intel didn’t launch any hardware at CES this week, the company did show off its upcoming Tiger Lake CPUs and the DG1 discrete GPU in a brief gaming demo. What Intel didn’t show, however, was an independent graphics board. It turns out that the company does have GPUs ready to ship out for early software validation. Units are already shipping to ISVs.
The GPU above is the Intel DG1 “Software Development Vehicle.” According to Intel, Tiger Lake with Xe graphics will offer up to 2x additional GPU performance and double-digit CPU performance gains (so, 10 percent or more). The DG1 solution pictured above is based on the same dGPU that Intel demoed during the show. We don’t have any performance data on this part yet — Intel showed the GPU running Warfare but didn’t reveal any specs or settings for the game.
There’s no sign of a PCIe connector on this card, implying that the power draw is 75W or less. That would make sense for a chip that appears to be debuting as a mobile part. Intel may be planning to sell DG1 as an EMIB-attached solution alongside a Tiger Lake CPU, or it could be prepping a discrete mobile card for ISVs to include. Either way, Xe is going to ship in three specific families:
Xe LP is ultra-mobile PCs, entry-level graphics, and midrange graphics, with TDP’s expected to be in the 5W-20W range and the ability to scale up to 50W. Xe HP would cover the 75W – 250W segments, delivering (in theory) gaming performance that could compete with cards from Nvidia and AMD. Above 250W would be the Xe HPC, intended for HPC/exascale systems, deep learning and training, and cloud graphics.
It’s entirely possible that Intel would choose to commercialize its Xe HPC silicon for gaming as well, if the demand was there and if the characteristics of the GPU lent themselves to this kind of endeavor. Nvidia and AMD have both designed high-end GPUs for the workstation and server markets before bringing them over to the consumer space. The DG1 is expected to have 96 EUs and 768 shader units in total (8 threads per EU), but there are rumors of higher-specced DG2 cards, with 128, 256, and 512 EUs. That last, if true, would put Intel’s largest GPUs on approximate core parity with what AMD and Nvidia ship at the high end of the market — but we can’t really compare GPUs based on core count, because the amount of work done per core can vary significantly between different architectures.
One thing to keep in mind is that DG1 performance may improve over the GPU’s first few years of life. While Xe is based on previous GPU architectures, not all developers make games that target Intel IGPs in the first place. There’ll likely be a learning curve for both Intel and its software partners to negotiate.
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