In the midst of two GPU juggernauts hyping up their next releases, an unknown in the field is fixing to get their feet into the water. Although their graphics card tracks record is almost non-existent (it would be better if it were fully non-existent), Intel are giants themselves in the technology field in general and 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. Did Intel decide to try and do the same thing to AMD in the GPU market? Who knows, but 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 come the releases of their next-gen graphics cards. This makes up for a perfect storm for Intel and their foray into the market.
As mentioned earlier, Intel didn’t exactly perform well the last time they tried launching a graphics card. But, that was long time ago. 20 years ago to be exact. And things have more than dramatically changed in that time.
That’s not to say that Intel has no clue how to develop a graphics card, they in fact 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 take a deeper look into the information we already have. And for posterity, we’ll only discuss mobile GPUs – Xe-LP and desktop GPUs – Xe-HPG.
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Maybe for this particular reason, 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 to what 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 way off from the initial report of Intel’s chips being built on it this year. They have however admitted 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 the intended release coming in mid-2020, but when that time arrived, all we got was an announcement and a delay.
However, we do have a confirmation that Tiger Lake laptops will be releasing on September 2, 2020, and it very possible that we are also going to get Intel Xe-LP GPUs with them.
A big caveat is that these will be mobile graphics cards and are likely going to be far away from Nvidia and AMD can offer in that market. Another reason why it may fly under the radar is that Nvidia has a big announcement scheduled for September 1, likely their flagship next-gen GPU, and will likely release it within weeks.
This could also be a tactic to be first to 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, but with some delays already having happened, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves and expect the much-wanted third player to enter the GPU game at an exact date.
One thing that is almost hundred percent sure 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, at this point, they are pretty much an unproven entity in the graphics card market.
Although when first announced, many expected Intel Xe to offer budget cards with mid-range being the highest that they could aim, it appears that they intend to aim a bit higher.
Reactors online are guessing that Xe will be somewhere in the range of current-gen 1600 series, but some also believe that they could be on par with an RTX 2070, and one the main reasons for that is that Intel has confirmed that their GPUs will be featuring hardware-accelerated ray-tracing.
This exact reason is behind a big dilemma when it comes price speculation. We do still anticipate Intel coming out strong with good budget/low-end options, but the revelation of ray-tracing in their cards puts a serious dent into being able to give any sort of precise price predictions.
At the moment, it doesn’t appear that Intel has enough 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.
One thing that a large corporation like Intel has to have is that ruthless competitive spirit and it’s fair to expect that whatever product they release, in whatever range, it will be slightly cheaper than whatever AMD or Nvidia will offer in the same area.
Seeing how AMD is lagging behind Nvidia for years now and 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, a pretty standard capitalist 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 will be able to pull off.
Disclaimer: Xe-LP is a portable GPU and as such can’t bring a 4K 60 FPS performance like a high-end desktop graphics card so keep that in mind before getting underwhelmed.
The reports suggest that Xe-LP will be twice as good as its predecessor Iris Plus, itself already a pretty good competition to AMD’s Vega 10. Of course, with the expected generational optimization and a new architecture, a performance boost is expected, but we’ll have to wait until release to see exactly how much better Xe-LP really is.
Intel’s Ryan Shrout posted the following tweet which shows Tiger Lake prototype running a resource-heavy Battlefield V.
Despite this being a relatively short clip, it is very impressive that the game is running at full HD 1080p at a decent 30 FPS. Although it would be foolish to say that this signals the end of gaming laptops, it’s still reasonable to say that laptop gaming is getting more and more accessible.
Before getting too deep into the hype, let’s slow our roll a bit and report that there have been people who have tested this GPU on Warframe and at 1080p on medium settings have experienced sub-30 FPS numbers. The reason why Battlefield V runs more smoothly is likely because it’s much better optimized, but that still doesn’t justify such a performance drop for other games. Especially if Intel wants to offer a gaming laptop and compete.
The main reason why we will excitedly expect Xe-HPG is the supposed hardware-accelerated ray-tracing capability. More than a few times, we’ve been thrilled with what real-time ray-tracing can look like and it will be interesting to see how Intel pulls it off. We are also excited to see ray-tracing at a more affordable price point.
The exact specifications aren’t known or not even close to being fully known, but that comes with the territory of a piece of technology still being ways off from the actual release. The little pieces here and there, certainly sound exciting so let’s go through them.
As mentioned earlier, Intel will be releasing a graphics card for different market sections and while that is certainly commendable, we’ll only discuss mobile and desktop versions.
Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough information about the desktop variant bar the fact that it will employ GDDR6 memory type and while that is a good sign, it might show 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 whose naming guess you believe) with GDDR6X, a brand new memory type.
We do know a little bit more about the mobile version which is scheduled for release in September 2020. Besides the expected GDDR6 memory, it will feature 96 execution units which is a good number to compete with both AMD’s and Nvidia’s mobile solutions.
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 ways away and based on shakiness Intel experienced lately, one has to wonder how soon and how good can they deliver.
Still, there is room for optimism. Intel is a company with a long history in the tech field and even if they have 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 soon, but something is brewing and as gamers and tech enthusiasts, we can’t wait.