Intel will release a dedicated graphics card in 2020 and in doing so will join the competition against NVIDIA and AMD. How much will it cost and how it will perform is yet to be seen.
Yes, as of 2020 Intel confirmed that they will start making dedicated graphics cards. This applies to both consumer and enterprise products. Altough there is little information on what price range they will target, based on what the company has shown and leaks we expect to see both budget oriented and higher-end models. Intel tried this market before without any success, but we think the story is different now as the Chief Architect is Raja Koduri and the technology looks promising.
NVIDIA and AMD have shared the market for dedicated graphics cards for years, one that Intel had not entered, limiting itself to the development of processors with much less powerful integrated GPUs. That will change soon, because Intel is preparing to launch its own dedicated graphics cards.
The lead of this project is Raja Koduri, who until very recently had been head of AMD GPU development, and who has suddenly switched sides to lead Intel's ambitious project. The rest is significant considering the experience that NVIDIA and AMD itself have in this segment, but if Intel has an advantage it is in terms of resources. Now, in addition, it has one of the most important engineers in this field.
Koduri has worked for both AMD and Apple. In AMD he was well respected for his confident yet easy-going demeanor, he was senior vice president and chief architect of the Radeon Technologies Group, in this position he reported directly to the CEO Lisa Su.
In 2017 he resigned from AMD to join Intel, explaining that the later company has all the resources to accomplish his vision. In June 2018 Koduri announced Intel's plans to compete in the dedicated GPU market, with a planned launch for 2020.
Intel officially joins the consumer GPU market with Intel Xe Graphics card, which will sport the same architecture you'll find in Intel Tiger Lake's integrated graphics. Although Intel did show its new consumer GPU at CES 2020, making it a sure thing, the official release date has not yet been leaked. Based on rumours only, we expect it to be sometime in 2020 or early 2021.
Ponte Vecchio is the name, the new architecture for Intel's graphics chips. The company indicated that it finally started using chiplets in its design (following in AMD's footsteps). It will combine 1, 2 or 4 to develop different versions of the chip, and that makes it so the final result has the aspect seen in the image. Compared with the AA battery we can guess the smallest chips are around 50mm on a side, while the largest is close to 85mm when an Intel CPU is usually around 37.5mm on a side.
Koduri also made a brief mention of its power and spoke of having "peta ops" in the palm of the hand, but without more data it is impossible to know what we can expect from these chips. We will have to wait for its release to know those details, but what we have now is way more promising than previous Intel's attempts in the consumer graphic cards market.
While Intel hasn't released official information about the die package, its performance or dimensions. They continue to share some images in their social media. This is one of its latest publications in the topic: "Silicon bring-up with many tens of billions of transistors needs surgical teamwork of various engineering functions. With only remote access to labs spread worldwide, this was deemed impossible, until now".
Again, using only the image, we can see that the new chip uses HBM2e technology -which is the most recent and competitive type of memory, sporting a whooping 460GB/sec memory bandwidth-. It is important to notice that the package presented in the image is not what we are going to see in consumer products, but the information it gives us we can have an idea about what will be in gaming computers.
Intel has mentioned the idea of a future GPU with thousands of EUs and is delivering. The GPU you see in the image could easily sport 512 EUs per chip, and 2048 EUs across all four chips. All this together with HBM2e memory, FP64 support and INT8, makes it for a great data center product.
Intel has not given any official information yet, but the company and Koduri have released images of their work. Based on this and leaks we have a rough idea of what to expect.
An accidental Intel graphics driver posting from June 2019 revealed Intel has 128 EU, 256 EU, and 512 EU Xe HP Graphics in the works. Also Intel themselves has revealed that there are three brands of Xe Graphics, scaling from the low power/mobile sector to work stations and data center applications. Given the information we currently have here are the potential specifications we expect to see:
Intel Xe Graphics potential specifications
The chips shown in images published by Koduri hint at a multi-die configuration or an approach like the AMD Chiplets seen in Ryzen CPUs.
This might allow for multi GPU configuration, but don't expect anything like NVIDIA's SLI or AMD's Crossfire. Intel is just in its first -probably competitive- GPU generation.
The three configurations target the budget, mid and mid/high range in the consumer GPU market. Intel is possibly going to be competitive against NVIDIA and AMD current generation, that is, if Intel's GPU cores prove to be as good as their counterparts, which is a 'best-case scenario'. This still leaves Intel behind because NVIDIA will release its next -Ampere- generation at around the same time Intel is going to launch its first consumer GPU generation. In the same way AMD is going to release it's Big Navi and RDNA 2 GPUs.
AMD and NVIDIA are challenging Intel's entrance into the market. Although both generations (Ampere and RDNA 2) are targeting the mid/high tier range, Intel is probably going to struggle against such value propositions. If Intel doesn't surprise us, meaning, if they make GPUs only competitive against pre-2020, then they will have to seriously lower their margins in order to be competitive. Much in the same way AMD has done in the CPU market for many years.
In 2018 Intel announces that it would launch its first consumer dedicated GPU in 2020, and despite everything they still seem to be on track. Given that Intel is the manufacturer of the GPUs, delays are less likely. Late summer or early fall 2020 is the expected release date, although keep in mind this is not official.
Xe Graphics are also going to be present in the Tiger Lake line up of CPUs. Those will target laptops and mobile devices, thus being a successor to the current Ice Lake lineup.
Over the last years Intel has decayed from its dominant position in the market. Risks and innovation were lacking and AMD took the opportunity with its Ryzen lineup. We were used to seeing Intel as the established/dominant company and AMD as the underdogs. The graphics market will tell another story, now Intel is the underdog and Raja Koduri seems to like to be in this position, as he leads the efforts.
A new player in town is great news, it means more competition and therefore lower prices, but the problem is Intel has to deliver or it will be all for nothing. Delivering in the current market, with the current competition is pretty hard as both NVIDIA and AMD are launching new generations this year.
In order for Intel to be competitive it would have to make a galactic jump from its previous (integrated) graphics generation. Intel graphics performance would have to improve more than 5 times in relation to their UHD Graphics 630 in order to compete against the RX 5500 XT or GTX 1650 SUPER.
If Raja Koduri and his team pull this off it would make for an outstanding feat, not only they have to achieve a competitive price to performance ratio, but also they have to deliver drivers for their first generation that are comparable with those of NVIDIA and AMD.
We really hope that Intel finds success in their efforts as this would benefit the consumer and push the existing companies to do better.