Intel Xe Discrete Gaming GPU: Everything You Need to Know

With Xe, Intel has numerous integrated and discrete graphics options, but these were not developed specifically for PC games. Intel will shortly launch its first discrete gaming GPU, code-named Xe-HPG. With a new DG2 graphics architecture, Intel’s graphics cards could finally appeal to enthusiastic gamers.

While details about the card are still scarce, Intel’s gaming-centric GPU represents another premium option in the graphics card market that, if successful, could help address some of the bottlenecks we saw in 2021.

Here’s everything we know about Intel’s graphics journey to PC gamers.

Prices and availability

During its October 2020 call for a win, Intel gave some pointers about its graphics efforts. At this point, the Xe maker announced that it has started shipping its DG1 silicon and started work on its DG2 GPU, which will power the high-performance gaming graphics card.

“Our first discrete GPU DG1 is shipping now and will later be available in systems for multiple OEMs [the fourth quarter]. We also turned on our next generation GPU for customer DG2, ”said former Intel CEO Bob Swan while speaking with investors and analysts according to a protocol provided by Seeking Alpha. “Based on our Xe high-performance gaming architecture, this product will bring our discrete graphics capabilities to the enthusiast segment.”

At the time of the call, the DG2 architecture should still be in alpha form. Intel is expected to ship its DG2 and with it its Xe-HPG graphics card sometime this year, although an exact date has not been given. Given that the GPU industry is currently plagued by bottlenecks and lengthy shipping delays, it could also start in spring 2022, according to Reuters.

We expect Intel to rate its gaming GPU in the $ 300-600 range to make it competitive against offerings from AMD and Nvidia. With the performance details of Intel’s Xe HPG card not yet known, it is difficult to predict how Intel will rate the GPU. For reference, Nvidia’s RTX 3000 series is just $ 329 for the entry-level GeForce RTX 3060, while the flagship GeForce RTX 3080 has a cheaper price of $ 699. On the ultra-premium end of the spectrum, the GeForce RTX 3090, which replaces last year’s Titan RTX, costs $ 1,499.

Architecture and performance

The new DG2 architecture from Intel will not only succeed last year’s DG1, but also bring new functions and improvements to make it attractive to avid gamers. Features that the new Xe-HPG card supports and that have been confirmed by Intel include hardware-based ray tracing and mesh shading. Ray tracing makes the HPG GPU competitive with the GeForce RTX 3000 series from Nvidia and the latest Radeon RX 6000 series from AMD. Mesh shading means that the card supports Microsoft’s DirectX Ultimate framework.

Early rumors suggest that the Xe-HPG-GPU will be equipped with 512 execution units, out of just 80 EUs in the DG1. This means that if rumors are accurate, DG2 will have 4,096 cores. And like AMD’s cards and Nvidia’s midrange offerings, the DG2 will also support GDDR6 memory, which means that GDDR6X memory will remain exclusive to Nvidia’s flagship cards for some time to come.

With DG2, Intel may move to a 7nm process that should make it competitive against AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 cards, and the company will likely rely on an outside manufacturing lab to manufacture it. According to Reuters, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has been tapped and DG2 will be based on an “improved version of its nanometer process,” the publication reported, citing two unnamed people familiar with Intel’s plans.

This would evolve the DG2 as the 8nm Samsung node that rival Nvidia is using for its RTX 3000 series.

Most recently, Raja Koduri, senior vice president of architecture, software, and graphics at Intel and graphics veteran at AMD, teased that DG2 will perform well when it comes to mesh shading.

“Xe HPG mesh shading in action with the upcoming UL 3DMark Mesh Shader Functional Test,” tweeted Koduri alongside a fully rendered game image with intricate details (see below).

The mesh shaders referenced by Koduri are part of Microsoft’s DirectX 12 Ultimate APIs that enable systems to render complex scenes in a video game more efficiently by making geometry processing more like compute shaders, as Microsoft describes the technology. This means that players can experience detailed and dynamic worlds without compromising on performance.

Koduri did not publish the 3DMark benchmark results, so it is too early to say how the Xe-HPG’s performance will compare to competing GPUs.

Ray tracing on board

Intel previously detailed that Xe-HPG has native support for real-time ray tracing. However, it is unclear how the company will implement this feature. Nvidia uses a feature called DLSS to improve speed and performance when ray tracing is enabled in a game. DLSS uses artificial intelligence to learn the game and scenes. This allows the GPU to save resources by rendering the image at a lower resolution of 1080p before upscaling it to 4K on your monitor without affecting fidelity.

With its second generation ray tracing cores on the cards of the RTX 3000 series, Nvidia has been able to further improve ray tracing performance.

In the absence of a proprietary implementation of DLSS, the reviewers found that while the AMD Radeon RX 6000 cards were strong competitors, the ray traced performance was not nearly as good as that of Nvidia’s competition. Given Intel’s recent moves towards artificial intelligence – integrated AI processing has been an integral part of Intel’s recent generations of processors and integrated graphics – we can conclude that AI can be meaningfully implemented on Xe-HPG to to speed up ray tracing.

When Intel uses some sort of AI-powered DLSS, gamers can experience ray traced games without dropping frame rates significantly.

At launch, Intel’s Xe-HPG not only has to compete against AMD and Nvidia, but also against Apple’s custom silicon, which powers a whole new generation of Macs. The current M1 processor of the M1-based MacBook Pro is equipped with Apple’s very powerful integrated graphics solution.

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