Intel Alchemist, aka DG2, GPUs are set to become the first gaming graphics cards spun out of the Intel Xe-HPG yarn, something that is promised to be the basis for many more competitive GPUs from the chipmaking goliath. Alchemist also happens to be the first offering from Intel’s high-performance graphics brand, Arc, which covers hardware, software and services. It’s all set to kick-off at the start of next year, when we’ll see Intel put its best foot forward in hopes to heave open the hydraulic grip of Nvidia and AMD over gaming GPUs.
There are two key battles in PC gaming hardware: Intel vs AMD and AMD vs Nvidia. It’s been that way for millennia. Or a handful of decades, at least. Yet that could be all about to change with Intel Alchemist and the Xe-HPG architecture.
Intel will be hoping to claim a stake of a market historically split between the red and green teams and with it a share of the mammoth profits on offer from gaming GPUs.
Intel isn’t entirely a stranger to the GPU market, either, as it’s one of the largest GPU makers in the world by sheer volume. All but a few Intel CPUs come with an integrated GPU, and while that won’t mean all that much to gamers, that silicon actually forms the basis of Intel Xe-HPG, the architecture powering Intel’s high-end gaming dreams.
It’s what we know of Intel’s Gen12 Tiger Lake iGPUs, its Ponte Vecchio datacentre chips, and the odd rumour here or there that helps us piece together our expectations for Intel Alchemist, formerly DG2, and the Xe-HPG architecture.
Even on the surface, though, Intel’s entry into the graphics game is a welcome one. As GPU prices rise, not the least bit more now that shortages are rampant, it’s high time someone else gave AMD and Nvidia a run for their money.
Whether you’re a potential customer, on the fence, or a diehard fan of the other guy, Intel Alchemist and Xe-HPG should get you excited like a kid at Christmas.
Intel Alchemist isn’t a single graphics card, it’s actually a range of graphics cards. Official documents suggest these will be segmented firstly by Execution Unit (EU), the fundamental building block of Intel’s graphics compute.
There are five possible loadouts of Alchemist graphics cards that we know of today.
Exactly how these will rear their heads in terms of desktop and mobile chips is unclear, but you can be sure that Intel will be keen to drive as many options in the mobile and notebook segment as it possibly can. It’s likely that Intel’s discrete cards will come in 512 EU and 384 EU configurations, leaving the lower-spec cards for laptops. At least that’s what since-deleted entries on the Intel website (via an also now non-existent tweet from leaker Komachi_Ensaka) indicate.
If everything remains the same between Xe-HPG and Xe-LP, the version found within Intel’s current generation 11th Gen Tiger Lake mobile processors, which it most certainly will, then we can expect the equivalent of a total of 4,096 FP32 cores within the 512 EU chip. That’s one eight-wide ALU per EU, each capable of eight floating-point operations per clock.
Each ALU is also capable of running eight integer operations instead, however, which means that if some integer ops are required that will mean fewer floating point operations will be available. To combat some of that potential slow down, Intel has dropped a further two-wide ALU into each EU to cope with what it calls ‘extended math’.
There’s good reason for us to assume a lot of what is found in the lower and higher-powered Xe architectures announced today will make it into the Xe-HPG and Alchemist graphics cards, too. The Xe architecture is effectively a shared one, utilised across many strata of performance and applications. These subdivisions of the Xe architecture are denoted with handy suffixes: Xe-HPC, Xe-HP, and Xe-LP.
Xe-HPG is the gaming subdivision, and itself included within the wider Xe-HP subset alongside datacentre GPUs that Intel’s touting with multiple ’tiles’, or chiplets. For the record, one tile is reportedly up to 512 EUs, meaning the gaming GPU is built out of just one (which tracks with current difficulties in multi-GPU operation in gaming workloads), and that means the top datacentre chip could feature 16,384 ALUs (cores). That’s not to say a two-tile gaming GPU is entirely impossible, however, just improbably right off that bat.
AMD is certainly eyeing up a multi-GPU chip, but we’re still not sure of its gaming intentions just yet.