Intel set up a new Twitter account for its graphics division and its introductory tweet teases (opens in new tab) a discrete GPU that's scheduled to arrive in 2020.
It's probably not a coincidence that Intel timed its tweet just days ahead of Nvidia's upcoming GeForce RTX launch, which is expected to take place on Monday, August 20, a day ahead of Gamescom 2018. Welcome to the fun world of marketing.
Intel's teaser consists of a video highlighting the company's efforts and accomplishments in graphics. "We brought the world its first fully compliant DX12 graphics processor," Intel stays at the 28-second mark. Toward the end, Intel provides a brief, foggy glimpse of a discrete graphics card standing tall.
The video doesn't reveal any details about the upcoming card, nor is there any indication of whether it will be a gaming card or, more likely, aimed at the professional market. Either way, Intel makes clear that its first discrete graphics product in a long, long time will be "just the beginning."
Intel also mentions the relative popularity of its graphics solutions, which power more systems than any other GPU, lighting up "quintillions of pixels across the planet every day." Proof that quantity doesn't equal quality, because in our most recent testing (Monster Hunter: World) Intel's HD Graphics 630 is about one fourth the speed of a budget GTX 1050.
We will set our graphics free. #SIGGRAPH2018 pic.twitter.com/vAoSe4WgZXAugust 15, 2018
While Intel isn't talking specifics about the hardware or architecture, the fundamental principle of graphics cards is that graphics work is highly parallel. It's why modern GPUs like the GTX 1080 Ti have up to 3,584 graphics processing cores, and the upcoming Nvidia Turing GPUs increase that number to 4,608 cores. Intel's current HD Graphics 630 solution by contrast checks in at 23 EUs (Execution Units), each with 8 shader cores, for a total of 184 cores.
That's a huge deficit in core counts, but Intel already has the ability to scale the number of shader cores / EUs up and down. The HD Graphics 610 has just 12 EUs (96 cores) while the Iris Plus Graphics 640/650/655 have 24 EUs (384 cores). Iris Plus also includes embedded DRAM to help alleviate the bandwidth bottleneck, since integrated graphics has to share system memory bandwidth with the CPU.
How far could Intel go with a dedicated GPU solution? Increasing EU / shader counts by a factor of 10 or more is possible, and the new GPUs will definitely have a new architecture. With everything Intel has learned in the CPU space over the past 40 years, it certainly has the capability to produce a GPU that's significantly faster than its current integrated solutions. Whether it will be enough to catch AMD and Nvidia is a question we won't be able to answer for at least another 18 months.