Following plans first unveiled last year during the launch of their DG1 GPU, Intel sends word this morning that the first Iris Xe video cards have finally begun shipping to OEMs. Based on the DG1 discrete GPU that’s already being used in Intel’s Iris Xe MAX laptop accelerators, the Iris Xe family of video cards are their desktop counterpart, implementing the GPU on a traditional video card. Overall, with specifications almost identical to Xe MAX, Intel is similarly positioning these cards for the entry-level market, where they are being released as an OEM-only part.

As a quick refresher, the DG1 GPU is based on the same Xe-LP graphics architecture as Tiger Lake’s integrated GPU. In fact, in broad terms the DG1 can be thought of as a nearly 1-to-1 discrete version of that iGPU, containing the same 96 EUs and 128-bit LPDDR4X memory interface as Tiger Lake itself. Consequently, while DG1 is a big first step for Intel – marking the launch of their first discrete GPU of the modern era – the company is planning very modestly for this generation of parts.

Intel Desktop GPU Specification Comparison
  Iris Xe
Tiger Lake
Ice Lake
Kaby Lake
ALUs 640
(80 EUs)
(96 EUs)
(64 EUs)
(24 EUs)
Texture Units 40 48 32 12
ROPs 24 24 16 8
Peak Clock 1500MHz 1350MHz 1100MHz 1150MHz
Throughput (FP32) 2.11 TFLOPs 2.1 TFLOPs 1.13 TFLOPs 0.44 TFLOPs
Geometry Rate
2 2 1 1
Memory Clock LPDDR4X-4266 LPDDR4X-4266 LPDDR4X-3733 DDR4-2133
Memory Bus Width 128-bit 128-bit
VRAM 4GB Shared Shared Shared
TDP 30W Shared Shared Shared
Manufacturing Process Intel 10nm SuperFin Intel 10nm SuperFin Intel 10nm Intel 14nm+
Architecture Xe-LP Xe-LP Gen11 Gen9.5
GPU DG1 Tiger Lake
Ice Lake Integrated Kaby Lake Integrated
Launch Date 01/2021 09/2020 09/2019 01//2017

The first DG1 GPUs were shipped in the fall as part of Intel’s Iris Xe MAX graphics solution for laptops. At the time, Intel also indicated that a desktop card for OEMs would also be coming in 2021, and now, right on schedule, those desktop cards have begun shipping out.

Overall, Intel is taking a very OEM-centric approach to their DG1 products, and that goes for both laptops and the desktops. Even the desktop Iris Xe cards won’t be sold as retail – as entry-level cards, they are unlikely to fly off of shelves – and instead are only being sold to OEMs for use in pre-built systems. And even then, the cards were co-designed with ecosystem partners – of particular note, ASUS – rather than Intel building and shipping out their own video cards. So by desktop video card standards, Intel is being somewhat hands-off at the moment.

In a curious twist, the desktop cards will have slightly lower specifications than the laptop parts. While I’m still waiting to hear what the TDPs and final clockspeeds will be, Intel’s announcement confirms that the Iris Xe cards will only ship with 80 of 96 EUs enabled, rather than being fully-enabled in the case of the laptop parts. Given that this is an entry-level part, any further drop in performance isn’t doing the part any favors, but at the same time it was never going to be a speed-demon to begin with. At any rate, given that no chip has perfect yields, we now know where salvaged DG1 chips are going.

Meanwhile, like their laptop counterparts, the Iris Xe desktop cards will ship with 4GB of LPDDR4X memory. Intel has also confirmed that the cards will ship with up to three display outputs, with ASUS's card using a mix of HDMI, DisplayPort, and even a DL-DVI-D port.

Another DG1 Card

As for Intel’s target market, the company is targeting what they’re calling the “high-volume, value-desktop market.” Notably, unlike the Iris Xe MAX launch, Intel’s (admittedly brief) news release doesn’t spend much time focusing on the cards as a secondary accelerator, and instead are promoting these as a superior solution over existing graphics options. Given the focus on things like AV1 decoding, HDR support, and deep learning inference performance, I’m assuming that these will primarily be showing up in Atom (Gemini Lake Refresh) systems. Though it may also show up in low-end Comet Lake Celeron and Pentium systems, where vendors are looking to add a few more display ports and take advantage of the additional hardware accelerator blocks for things like video encoding, similar to how Intel positioned Iris Xe MAX for laptops.

Finally, given the OEM-centric nature of today’s launch, Intel isn’t publishing any specific availability dates for their Iris Xe video cards. But we expect that they’ll begin showing up in short order.

Source: Intel

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  • zodiacfml - Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - link

    because the integrated gpu was born from Tiger lake at 10nm. it would cost them to adapt this to 14nm
  • Klimax - Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - link

    And 14nm is oversubscribed as it is.
  • mode_13h - Thursday, January 28, 2021 - link

    These chips should be pretty small. And since they're selling them for laptops (where the perf/W advantage of 10 nm is most beneficial), it makes sense that the OEMs get the partially defective ones.
  • powerarmour - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    Should be decent for a HTPC or an older Linux workstation etc, purely for the video decode/encode capabilities (AV1 especially)
  • evilspoons - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    Give me one of these in half-height passive form and I'll stick it in my HTPC as soon as I can get my hands on it.

    I'm having a hard time with my GK208-based GT730 not having certain video decode blocks (VP9 and AV1 are missing, h.265 is only partial) but I'm also having a hard time getting interested in a $100+ (CAD) 1030 that is essentially four years old at this point.
  • zodiacfml - Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - link

    I wonder if Intel can produce a mining card with this GPU using 8 gigs of GDDR5. I don't know whether this is powerful enough to match the hashrates of an RX 480/570/580
  • Samus - Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - link

    I'm curious if this card would add QuickSync support to a system.
  • lmcd - Thursday, January 28, 2021 - link

    It would, but not to anything that needs it. I think this thing flat out can't be initialized without the mobo chipset directly emulating how the CPU would initialize its onboard iGPU.
  • bill.rookard - Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - link

    I would totally get a few of these for... my servers. Asus quality, Intel hardware, low power, passive cooling, 1 slot design. Hopefully a few of them wind up on eBay and I'll pick them up, either that or I hope Asus puts some of them out into the retail market.
  • abufrejoval - Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - link

    Not to mention Linux device driver support, which tends to be rather good for Intel iGPUs...

    ...except perhaps for the newest variants including this.

    I love the Iris Plus on my NUC home lab servers, because it works with every x86 OS on the planet and gives me a very reasonable KDE Plasma desktop at 4k. The NUC8i7BEH sold at €300 in October and November, which was a steal, and with 64GB of RAM and plenty of SSD storage they are generally very attractive.

    Too bad Ryzen 4800U NUCs where never really available, I fear it will be the same with the 5800U while they cost (and likely deliver) double.

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