It has been long-rumored and speculated that Intel has been working on its own line of discrete desktop and notebook GPUs and that would go toe-to-toe with the big dogs i.e., AMD and Nvidia. Well, earlier today, Intel took to Twitter to finally, officially announce their upcoming GPUs along with a new brand name that will now umbrella all upcoming high-performance hardware, software and services from Intel.
— Intel Graphics (@IntelGraphics) August 16, 2021
Intel Arc will launch early early next year with two GPUs, both part of the “Alchemist” lineup. Alchemist is the codename for what was previously known only as DG2. Intel has also announced the codenames of future generations of their discrete GPUs. After Alchemist, we will get Battlemage, then Celestial and finally Druid. The Alchemist GPUs debuting in early 2022 will be DG2-128EU and DG2-512EU. As the name suggest the former has 128 execution units while the latter has 512 execution units. DG2-512EU will be the top-of-the-line flagship card from Intel Arc. Both GPUs will also launch with desktop and mobile counterparts.
Intel Arc Alchemist GPUs will support real-time hardware-accelerated ray tracing and are based on the Xe-HPG microarchitecture launched by Intel last year. Xe-HPG is Intel’s first and only high-performance architecture meant for high-end consumer graphics. Previously, the DG1 graphics card was based on Xe-LP (low-powered) microarchitecture, comparable to only a mere RX 550. That was to be expected, though, as Xe-LP was only meant for entry-level graphics.
Alchemist, the successor to DG1, will be the first pair of GPUs to be based on the high-performance Xe-HPG microarchitecture. This architecture will enable Alchemist to support ray tracing, as mentioned, along with variable rate shading, mesh shading, video upscaling, DirectX 12 Ultimate, and an upcoming super-sampling AI tech akin to the likes of DLSS. This is a pretty standard set of capabilities as both AMD and Nvidia’s GPUs offer these features.
There’s still a lot we don’t know. Intel didn’t tell us what nodes these new GPUs are fabricated on, although there are conflicting reports that it’s either TSMC’s 7nm or 6nm process. Also unrevealed are on-paper specs such as the core-count, memory, or maximum TDP. It goes without mentioning that this early in the life cycle where the marketing has just kicked off, Intel would prefer to slowly reveal information instead of dumping it all at once, especially since this is their first serious discrete GPU launch.
Why The Super-Sampling Tech Matters So Much
Apart from ray tracing, AI-powered super sampling is what has set the red and green teams apart so far. Nvidia’s DLSS has changed the way we value image quality over FPS by offering the perfect balance between the two. However, AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution has not been able to replicate the same success as it adheres to only spatial upscaling instead of temporal upscaling like DLSS 2.0.
So, Intel’s foray into this world is sure to be an interesting one as, after Arc’s launch, all three major GPU manufacturers will have ray tracing in common, but will be ultimately distinguished by how well their super sampling tech can upscale the game without a noticeable compromise in image quality.
Intel’s Vice President Of Graphics Research, Anton Kaplanyan, has even said that their AI-powered super sampling tech deserves a separate announcement. Thus, we can expect to hear more about this technology in the coming days leading up to next year’s launch.
In case you were curious, Intel Arc GPUs will come with full DX12U support, including mesh shading, and high-performance ray tracing. Bonus, high-quality neural supersampling deserves a separate announcement. https://t.co/HIBJ8tWhwr
— Anton Kaplanyan (@Kaplanyan) August 16, 2021
Intel also showed off some games running on pre-production silicone, however, no FPS counter or any kind of performance metric was displayed atop the gameplay so there is no way we can compare the performance to Nvidia or AMD’s offerings at the moment. That being said, the GPUs are months away from their public debut and Intel marked the demo as a teaser so we technically can’t complain either. Still, there are some big-name titles, such as PUBG, Days Gone and Forza Horizon 4, on display here which can be seen as a sign that the Alchemist GPUs will be able to run these games smoothly.
— Intel Graphics (@IntelGraphics) August 16, 2021
Clearly, this launch holds massive significance for Intel. After years of only limiting themselves to mobile graphics chips powering mostly its own APUs, the silicone giant is now ready to step foot in the discrete GPU market. Nvidia and AMD already have a solid footing in the industry so it’ll be interesting to monitor how Intel’s entrance into an entirely new market pans out for them and for the PC community at large. A third player in the game only means stricter competition and thus more choice for the consumer.
Intel is also breaking into the GPU market amidst history’s worst chip shortage created by history’s worst pandemic. So, maybe their introduction will breed a mitigation of sorts for the on-going graphics card shortage. More GPUs can possibly ease the supply chain constraints and stabilize the prices of graphics cards to the point of normalcy. Perhaps, this is exactly what Intel needs to win back the lost hearts of gamers who’ve turned to AMD and Nvidia in times of despair.