Last year Intel announced a new line of graphic cards, the Xe Graphics, this will be a first for Intel since 1998 with their i740. Intel has been utilizing integrated graphics since then, but this method only gave a performance only a 3rd of Nvidia’s GT 1030, one of Nvidia’s lowest rated cards. Intel expects Xe Graphics to be released in 2020 and has confirmed that the cards are still on track to release on time. 2020 has a whole appears to mark a big shift in the graphics market, AMD is coming out with Big Navi/RDNA 2, Nvidia is releasing their 3080/Ampere along with Intel’s Xe and possibly Huawei entering the market.
Intel’s preparation for Xe Graphics appears to have began back on 2018, with Intel poaching several people from AMD. Intel hired from AMD: lead Architect Jim Keller, Graphics Chief Raja Koduri, and Sr. Director of Global Product Marketing Chris Hook. Raja Koduri was a large actor in AMD with his work in Radeon Technologies Group founded in 2015 and helped develop both Vega and Navi architecture. All three of them were confirmed to work on a then secret GPU division for Intel.
Making decent graphics cards requires more than merely stacking the deck and Intel is still a newcomer to the dedicated graphics cards market, a market that is currently dominated by AMD and Nvidia. That being said, Intel is not unfamiliar with GPUs with their Ice Lake CPUs use an IGPU, where the GPU circuit is is built into the same die as the CPU. Currently, Ice Lake CPUs use Gen11 Graphics architecture and the their 11th generation of GPUs as the name implies. Xe Graphics will be Intel’s 12th GPU generation and the second series of dedicated cards since with their first being the i740 and the first generation GPUs. The other generations, except 10th who never was released, were all integrated into the CPUs.
Intel claims to be making drastic changes to their current architecture with the Xe Graphics: with expanding the GPU cores, the need for dedicated VRAM, and increasing per-core performance. Intel divides their GPUs into “slices” and “sub-slices” which can be compared to AMD’s CUs and Nvidia’s SMs. Xe Graphics is aiming for more extraction cores and larger GPU sizes. The base slice for Xe Graphics will have 64 extraction cores enabled. Architectural changes for the VRAM issue is not yet disclosed. Xe Graphics will have full DX12 and Vulkan support with any further details is not yet known.
Currently, Xe Graphics will have three classifications: Xe LP, Xe HP, Xe HPC. Xe LP is meant for low performance machines, HP is meant for high performance, and HPC is most likely intended for supercomputers and will not likely be sent to the consumer market. Xe LP appears to be for integrated graphics and is apart of the upcoming Tiger Lake CPUs. The Xe HP will mostly likely have a large range of cards falling under its umbrella. Intel has promised to support ray tracing, but it is unknown when that support will happen or how many cards can support it. Ray tracing support will most likely be a subset inside the Xe HP and HPC umbrella.
The changes with Xe Graphics will make the company competitive in the GPU market for gaming purposes as Intel has suffered against AMD and Nvidia. Technically, Intel sells the most GPUs but that comes from the integrated graphics in the CPUs. Intel is still a controlling actor in the CPU market, but they have recently lost some of the market to AMD, who has become popular among the gaming crowd. Xe Graphics is expected to quadruple the performance of their popular 9th generation GPUs but that will still fall behind the GTX 1650 Super. A higer preforming GPU could come out as well, which may be more competitive with Nvidia or AMD’s better preforming cards. Intel has not confirmed a release date beyond sometime 2020 nor an expected price point or even the official design.