In the midst of two GPU juggernauts hyping up their new releases, an unknown in the field is attempting to enter the scenario. Although Intel’s graphics card track record is almost non-existent, their brand is huge in the general technology field. Now, they are planning to get competitive in the GPU market with their Intel Xe.
For the longest time, Intel has been a force to be reckoned with in the CPU market, but AMD has objectively caught up and given them some stiff competition. Who knows if Intel decided to try and do the same thing to AMD in the GPU market? Either way, now is the perfect time for a third option to enter the fray.
The rivalry between AMD and Nvidia is re-igniting after years of Nvidia domination and things look to be on much equal footing with the releases of their next-gen graphics cards. This makes up for a perfect storm for Intel to enter the market.
As mentioned earlier, Intel didn’t exactly perform well the last time they tried to launch a graphics card. But that was a long time ago; 20 years ago, to be exact. Things have more than dramatically changed since then.
That’s not to say that Intel has no clue how to develop a graphics card. They know what they’re doing – their integrated Intel HD Graphics have been a staple of a vast majority of modern laptops. Because these integrated chips aren’t meant for gaming, Intel has decided to make their own dedicated graphics card.
Seeing how Intel’s Xe has just been announced, we’ll try to dive deeper into the information we already have. We will only discuss mobile GPUs – Xe-LP and desktop GPUs – Xe-HPG.
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Maybe this is the reason why Intel has decided not to release Xe before then. It could also be for a variety of other reasons, including a move from their speculated 7nm node, which they are now calling 10nm SuperFin node.
It’s worth pointing out that the latest information from inside the company suggests that Intel’s 7nm node might not be seen until 2022 or even 2023, which is very different from the initial report of Intel’s chips being built on it this year. However, it’s been announced that they will use a third-party foundry for their GPUs.
“The company’s 7nm-based CPU product timing is shifting approximately six months relative to prior expectations. The primary driver is the yield of Intel’s 7nm process, which based on recent data, is now trending approximately twelve months behind the company’s internal target.”Intel’s official press release
Intel Xe was reported to have begun testing in late 2019 with its intended release scheduled for mid-2020. When the long-awaited moment arrived, all we got was an announcement and a delay instead.
On September 2, 2020, we saw Tiger Lake laptops with Intel’s 11th gen CPUs get released, but also with the much anticipated Intel Iris Xe.
A big caveat is that these are mobile graphics cards, far away from what Nvidia and AMD can offer in that market. Another reason why it might’ve flown under the radar is that Nvidia had a big announcement on September 1, regarding their flagship next-gen GPU, which was released within weeks.
This could also be a tactic to be the first to enter the market as both Nvidia and AMD tend to release their GPU’s mobile version sometime after the release of their flagship cards.
From this perspective, it appears that desktop GPUs in the enthusiast/mid-range are being prepared for 2021. At this point, the most heavily rumored timeframe is Q1 2021, but with several delays and slowdowns happening already, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves just yet.
One thing that is almost certain is that Intel will have to price their GPUs lower than both AMD and Nvidia. Despite having a good standing name in the technology world, it’s still somewhat of an unknown in the graphics card market. Sure, its HD Graphics series are solid integrated GPUs, but aside from that, there’s just nothing else.
Although when Intel Xe was first announced many expected it to offer budget cards, with mid-range being the highest they could aim for, apparently they intend to aim a bit higher.
Reactors online are guessing that Xe will be somewhere in the range of Nvidia’s 1600 series, but some also believe that they could be on par with an RTX 2070. One of the main reasons for this is that Intel has confirmed that their GPUs will be featuring hardware-accelerated ray-tracing.
This is exactly the reason behind the big dilemma of price speculation. We do still anticipate Intel coming out strong with good budget/low-end options, but the announcement of ray-tracing in their cards puts a serious dent into being able to give any sort of precise price prediction.
At the moment, it doesn’t appear that Intel will be able to fully challenge the top-of-the-line Nvidia or AMD graphics cards, but if ray tracing is executed properly, we might see a good mid-range challenger.
Something essential for a large corporation like Intel is that ruthless competitive spirit. It’s fair to expect that whatever product they release, in whatever range, will be slightly cheaper than whatever AMD or Nvidia have to offer in the same area.
Seeing how AMD has been lagging behind Nvidia for years now, and considering that it doesn’t appear that it will mount a proper challenge this generation either, it feels like Intel will first and foremost look to undercut their old nemesis’ prices, which is quite a common trick.
Although this section is still very hard to predict for Intel Xe-HPG, we do have a pretty good idea of what Xe-LP, now named Iris Xe, was able to pull off.
Disclaimer: Iris Xe is a portable GPU. As such, it can’t deliver a 4K 60 FPS performance like a high-end desktop graphics card, so just keep that in mind before getting underwhelmed.
Intel’s Ryan Shrout posted the following tweet, which shows the Tiger Lake prototype running a resource-heavy Battlefield V.
Despite this being a relatively short clip, it’s quite impressive that the game is running at full HD 1080p at a decent 30 FPS. Although it would be foolish to assume that this signals the end of gaming laptops, it’s still reasonable to say that laptop gaming is getting more and more accessible.
Now that Iris Xe saw the light of day, we can report that that Battlefield V footage was legit and that the laptop is more than capable of giving you a good approach to gaming. Most notably, it was able to achieve 60+FPS on GTA V and perform at competitive standards for eSports games like DotA 2, Rocket League and CS:GO.
The main reason why gamers should be excited about Xe-HPG is the supposed hardware-accelerated ray-tracing capability. In the past, we’ve been thrilled with what real-time ray-tracing can look like, so it will be interesting to see how Intel pulls it off. We’re also excited to see how ray-tracing performs at a more affordable price point.
With the release of Iris Xe, we only got a glimpse of what Intel Xe is all about, but at least we have a good starting point. There are some rumors and speculations regarding the discrete GPUs from Intel and we’ll cover that too.
As mentioned earlier, Intel will be releasing a graphics card for different market sections and despite that being certainly commendable, we’ll only discuss mobile and desktop versions.
Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough information about the desktop variant except for the fact that it will employ a GDDR6 memory type. While that is a good sign, it might be possible that Intel will be lagging from the start from the current market leader Nvidia, who plan to launch their flagship RTX 3080 Ti (or RTX 3090, depending on what naming guess you believe) with GDDR6X, a brand new memory type.
It’s worth noting that this disadvantage relates only to the top cards on the market as RTX 3070 also has GDDR6 as well as AMD’s RDNA 2 cards. Aside from that, Intel can boast about their 96 execution units, which is a good number to compete with both AMD and Nvidia’s mobile solutions.
Another sign that Intel is heading in the right direction is the core clock of 400Mhz with a boost clock of 1350Mhz. Intel’s last-generation Iris Plus was slightly behind AMD’s Vega 11 but Iris Xe competes more than competently. Still, the mobile integrated GPU market is ever-evolving, so that too can change quickly.
Latest news indicate that Intel’s high-performing graphics card will have 512 EUs (execution units) which will rival AMD’s latest RX 6000 outing. This isn’t the only place where Intel will look to challenge AMD and Nvidia as the rumored numbers for the raw shader power look like they could position Intel’s best card shoulder to shoulder with other GPU giants.
Why We Should Be Cautiously Optimistic About Intel Xe
This should probably go without saying, but we need to do so, at least for posterity’s sake.
Mainstream Xe is still some time away and, based on the shakiness Intel has experienced lately, we wonder how soon and how good their promises can be.
Still, there is room for optimism. Intel is a company with a long history in technology and even if they’re off to a rocky start, they certainly have the resources and the know-how to compete in this field. We might not be getting a full-on three-way war between Intel, AMD and Nvidia, but something is brewing and as gamers and tech enthusiasts, we can’t wait.