Intel shows off the Intel Xe DG1 discrete graphics card for the first time


Intel took its first tentative steps into actually bringing dedicated graphics cards to market at CES 2020, showcasing the DG1, its first Xe-based GPU.

The actual unveiling was a little unusual. Intel talked a big game but had precious little to show. Lisa M. Pearce,  Intel vice president, chose to showcase some on-stage gameplay from Destiny 2 yet provided zero detail on frame rates, resolutions, or graphics settings. 

Pretty much any graphics card under the sun can run Destiny 2 at decent settings, it’s a beast in terms of optimisation, so there’s not really much credibility to be gained from running this two-year-old game.

As for the Intel DG1 (Discrete Graphics 1) itself, the graphics card will be using the Xe GPU architecture and utilises the 10nm fabrication process. It’ll have 96 Execution Units (EUs), which are pretty much CUs, and will have an undisclosed quantity of GDDR6 video memory.

Since then though, Intel has now decided to reveal the actual Intel Xe DG1 prototype designs. It’s worth bearing in mind that this isn’t a design for a consumer product at this time, these are going out to ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) to give them the opportunity to optimise for Intel Xe ahead of launch.

Despite this, it does give us some idea of how the Xe architecture is shaping up. Intel Xe will be a single scalable graphics architecture, suitable for mobile up to gaming (Xe LP), workstation (Xe HP) and, right at the top, High Performance Computing (HPC) and Deep Learning (Xe HPC).

This particular Intel DG1 card appears to be a bottom rung Intel Xe LP. There are no power connectors visible in the renders so we’d assume it’s drawing less than 75W, making this a low-end video card. All first-gen gaming CPUs from Intel will be based Xe LP, which we have to presume stands for Low Performance. Not the best look even if it is factually accurate when compared to the higher-end uses.

Performance-wise, we’ve really got nothing to hang this one just yet. There’s a whole lot of fluffy language and not enough concrete facts to form an opinion but, most importantly, it does at least indicate Intel is well and truly on track with its discrete GPU plans.

We’d hazard a guess that Intel’s inroads toward high-end graphics hardware are going to be slow, to say the least. Intel has a lot of clout, a lot of money and a lot of experience, but turning all of that into a genuine competitor to Nvidia GeForce or AMD Radeon is a different matter entirely.