Intel pits Xe against Big Navi using 7nm 'enhanced' process for its gaming GPU

Intel Xe GPU
(Image credit: Intel)

Intel has chosen a newly enhanced version of TSMC's 7nm production process for its upcoming Xe-based DG2 gaming card. So, says Reuters in a report which pegs the release date for the new GPU as later this year or early 2022.

DG2 is the high-performance follow up to the Xe graphics cores seen in Intel's new Tiger Lake mobile CPUs and due to appear in the incoming Rocket Lake desktop chips. Intel has also produced a discrete DG1 GPU based on the new Xe architecture designed for thin-and-light laptops.

However, DG2 is expected to be a very large step forward over DG1. As we reported recently, an Intel graphics driver dump indicates DG2 will up the execution unit count from 96 in DG1 to fully 512 EUs. If that's correct, and assuming higher clocks from a desktop GPU compared to the mobile-optimised DG1 and integrated Xe graphics, DG2 could well be competitive with AMD and Nvidia's latest graphics cards.

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Indeed, if the report is correct and Intel has secured access to TSMC's enhanced 7nm process, that would give it an advantage over AMD and Nvidia. Nvidia is using Samsung's 8nm node for its new Ampere GPUs, a node that's thought to be inferior to the 'standard' TSMC process used by AMD. 

Exactly what advantage the mooted enhanced 7nm process brings isn't clear. However, slight improvements in transistor density, better power efficiency and improved clock speeds are likely candidates.

If true, Intel having a process advantage in the GPU market courtesy of farming out manufacturing to a third party would be distinctly ironic given the well-publicised travails involving its in-house 10nm process.

For the record, the report also suggested DG2 is intended to compete in the $400 to $600 space, which aligns with previous rumours suggesting that DG2 should be fast enough to take on the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070.

As we've said before, with supply of Nvidia and AMD's GPU so incredibly tight, another competitive entrant into the gaming graphics market would be extremely welcome. Intel's DG2 wouldn't need to be the fastest GPU in town to really shake things up. If it's competitive with AMD and Nvidia's $500 offerings, that will be a fantastic achievement and of real value to gamers.

Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.