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Intel’s first discrete GPU could launch soon. Should gamers be excited?

It seems that the release of the first gaming graphics card from Intel is imminent. Known as the Intel Xe-HPG DG2, the GPU is likely coming to both desktop and mobile devices, and will be the company’s entrance into the gaming sector. Intel has been teasing its release, and as some benchmarks have already been released, we now know more about the card’s potential performance.

Intel announced the upcoming release of the card by inviting Odyssey cardholders to redeem their rewards. In a short statement on the Odyssey Cardholder website, Intel made things clear — the development of the card is nearing the finish line.

Concept art of an Intel DG2 graphics card.

The company stated: “We are soon heading toward a milestone moment, the pending release of the Xe HPG microarchitecture from Intel.” During the International Supercomputing 2021 (ISC) event, Intel also stated that the DG2 lineup of cards is already being sampled.

The Odyssey is a program started by Intel in 2019 with the purpose of promoting, testing, and improving Intel’s discrete graphics cards using input from a group of volunteers. 

“The Odyssey is […] a beta program, it’s a two-way conversation, it’s a listening opportunity, and the net result I’m hoping for is that once we start to launch more visual computing platforms — discrete graphics, things like that — that the community is going to be excited because they’d had a chance to provide that input and are getting products and technologies that they’re really excited about,” said Chris Hook, Intel’s director for Visual Technologies Marketing.

Intel’s DG2 is likely to be released in both desktop and mobile formats. That means we could see gaming laptops powered by the DG2, throwing a wrench into the AMD/Nvidia duopoly. It’s even possible that the mobile version of DG2 is going to be paired with Intel’s upcoming 12th generation of processors, called Alder Lake. Benchmarks that included a DG2 GPU paired with a 14-core, 20-thread Alder Lake-P CPU have already been spotted. 

Although this is a big change for Intel, it’s clear that the company is not likely to compete with the best graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD just yet — at least not until more models from the DG2 lineup are released. The benchmarks point to performance similar to that of Nvidia’s rather dated GeForce GTX 1050. 

Out of the two leaked tests, one seems to be a discrete graphics card, while the other is an integrated GPU combined with the Alder Lake processor. When it comes to the possible discrete GPU variant, the card comes with 256 execution units (EUs) and a clock speed of up to 1,400MHz. Previous rumors pointed to the card having 8GB of GDDR6 memory, but the benchmarked model only had 6.22GB. In an OpenCL benchmark, this discrete GPU scored 18,482 points, compared to up to 18,895 for the GTX 1050. 

The second benchmarked unit comes with 96 EUs and a clock speed of 1,200MHz combined with 1.5GB of memory. This is likely an integrated GPU paired with Intel’s Alder Lake-P chips and intended for mobility. In the same OpenCL benchmark, it scored 6,516 points, which means it performed slightly worse than Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 460. As always, it’s important to note that these are unofficial numbers and will likely change once the cards are released with proper drivers.

A promotional picture of an Intel Iris Xe DG1 graphics card.

Previous to the DG2, Intel’s only discrete graphics card was the DG1, which was a budget card made specifically for manufacturers that showed up in laptops like the Acer Swift 3X. Although it somehow found its way inside a CyberPower PC gaming desktop, it wasn’t intended for the gaming sector. This makes the Xe-HPG DG2 the first real attempt at a discrete gaming GPU from Intel.

Intel’s statements show that the company’s interest in the discrete graphics card market might be more of a long-term commitment, and the Xe-HPG DG2 is just the first step. While no release date has been announced, all signs point to it happening relatively soon.

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