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Intel Xe GPU: New graphics architecture could debut this August

Intel has big plans to muscle its way into the graphics market, with the upcoming Intel Xe GPU architecture mooted as a potential challenger to Nvidia and AMD. 

Intel Xe will feature a scalabe design, which apparently means it will be able to work across various devices, from laptops and desktop graphics cards to supercomputers.

The first form Intel Xe could soon be on its way, as Tom Hardware and Twitter user @momomo spotted the Ponte Vecchio Xe GPU has been listed by the Eurasian Economic Commission.

Gamers shouldn’t get excited just yet though, as Ponte Vecchio is intended for a supercomputer rather than for purhcase at a consumer level. Fortnuately, we’re likely to see Intel Xe baked into Intel’s Tiger Lake laptop provessors soon, as Intel CEO Bob Swan said, “In the middle of the this year, we’ll debut our next-generation mobile processor, Tiger Lake”.

By integrating the graphics arhitecture into the mobile CPU, laptops will be capable of running games without need of a graphics card. Such technology already exists with the likes of Ice Lake, but Tiger Lake is expected to signifacntly more powerful.

Read below for all the rumours we’ve seen regarding Intel’s Xe graphics.

Related: Best Graphics Cards 2020

Intel is yet to announce a definitive release date for the Xe-based GPUs. The first consumer iteration of Intel Xe is unlikely to be a dedicated graphics card though, with it becoming increasingly more likely we’ll first see it take the form of integrated graphics in Intel’s upcoming Tiger Lake mobile processors.

Tiger Lake is primed to be the successor to Ice Lake, allowing laptops to feature increased graphics performance without the need for a dedicated GPU and a cumbersome design. Tiger Lake chips are expected to start rolling out with various laptops in the coming months.

Related: Intel Tiger Lake

Intel’s Xe GPU price is entirely up in the air, especially considering the lineup will likely extend beyond just the recently revealed DG1 dedicated graphics card.

Reports suggest Intel’s Xe GPU will scale from integrated graphics in a laptop up to graphics cards explicitly built for supercomputers. In terms of the consider desktop graphics cards, it’s impossible to predict what price point Intel will aim for, but expect the cost to be competitive with AMD and Nvidia. 

Related: Nvidia Ampere

Intel Tiger Lake

Intel’s next-generation laptop processors could potentially feature Intel Xe graphics

We don’t yet know specific specs for Intel’s upcoming Xe GPUs. We do at least know that the lineup is divided into three separate microarchitectures – Xe-LP, Xe-HP and Xe-HPC.

The recently announced Intel DG1 card will feature the Xe-LP architecture. Xe-LP is the entry-level “Integrated” series which will be focused on 5W to 20W power consumption, while Xe-HP is expected to be the mid-ranger to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Nvidia and AMD. Lastly, there’s the Xe-HPC microarchitecture that’ll be non-consumer and aimed at server work. 

A leak from Digital Trends suggests one of the Intel Xe graphics cards will feature thermal design power of 500 watts, which is higher than any other graphics card currently available. This will almost definitely be referring to a graphics card intended for data servers or workstations rather than consumer gaming desktops.

The leak also suggests Intel’s Xe GPUs will use ‘tile’ modules, differing to how AMD and Nvidia design their own graphics cards. This would allow the Xe GPU architecture to be scalable to function for various markets and performance requirements.

Digital Trends also suggests Intel Xe will use high bandwidth memory (HBM) instead of GDDR6 and will offer PCI-e 4 compatibility.

Related: Ray tracing explained

With so little information on the new 7nm range, it’s hard to declare what to expect from performance.

A new Geekbench 5 benchmark result, speculated to be generated by Intel’s DG1-SDV, showed a very underwhelming performance. The Geekbench OpenCL score of 12,427 is even lower than what Nvidia’s three-year old GeForce GTX 880M graphics card is capable, which is far off the pace of the current generation of discrete GPUs, even in the Full HD bracket.

But due to the supposed scalability of Intel Xe GPU, performance will range greatly from powering laptops to supercomputers. Intel Xe may well show more potential in other formats, particularly as integrated graphics in the upcoming Tiger Lake laptop processors.

A report from TechPowerUp suggests Tiger Lake will match AMD’s Vega-based graphics found in the Ryzen 4000 mobile processors.

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