Intel gaming GPU rumours suggest six Xe cards coming in 2021

Intel Iris Xe Max GPU
(Image credit: Intel)

A new specs list for the upcoming Intel Xe DG2 graphics cards has popped up on Twitter, shared by the usual tweetering suspects. It does feel a little like extrapolated data mixed with speculation based on prior leaks and rumours. Some sort of rumour mill round-robin, if you will. There are ruder ways to explain it, but I'm going to rise above.

The listed numbers here seem logical, given the more reliable end of the specification speculations, and with the Intel Xe DG1 and Tiger Lake's Iris Xe GPU silicon already out in the wild. The listing highlights six different variants of Intel's prospective discrete graphics card, though I'm a little sceptical about all of those options actually making it out into the market.

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The most recent noises we've heard from any sort of Intel official channel came from the drivers Intel dropped back in January. These listed support for a 128 EU version and a 512 EU version of the discrete DG2 graphics card, and didn't show any other supported Xe silicon.

We have seen early DG2 testing kits being listed on the EEC database recently, so it would seem that at least the early test GPUs might be of the 128 and 512 EU (execution unit) variety. 

If you're thinking the EU count might be analogous to the stream processors, or shader units, Nvidia or AMD refer to as GPU or CUDA cores, you're probably thinking these look a little off the pace of current graphics cards. But the way Intel's execution units work (PDF warning) is that each has a pair of floating point units (ALUs) inside them which can process four 32-bit floating point operations per clock. That means each of Intel's EU can almost be said to be equivalent to eight stream processors.

Though each of those ALUs in the execution unit is able to run either integer or floating point operations, in a similar way to the FP/INT branch inside Nvidia's GPUs. That gives Intel's chips the opportunity to mix and match floating point and integer operations, but does mean you wouldn't always get the full FP32 potential at all times.

Intel Execution Unit diagram

(Image credit: Intel)

The point of all this is that we can talk about the top-end 512 EU Intel Xe DG2 card coming with 4,096 stream processors, which would potentially put it above the AMD RX 6800. Though only if it could hit the same 1.7GHz clock speed. But, even if we take the released DG1's current 1.65GHz clock speed as a starting point we get a potential 13.5 TFLOPS of processing power, vs. the 13 TFLOPS the base RX 6800 starts at. 

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It is fair to say, however, that the RX 6800 is capable of boosting to 2.1GHz in which case it can deliver around 16.2 TFLOPS, which would mean the top DG2 would have to be capable of at least 2GHz performance to be able to consistently beat big Navi.

If this latest GPU list is correct, the 384 EU card would also sit above the AMD RX 6700 XT, clock speeds notwithstanding. The rest of the anticipated cards could then fill in the low end of Intel's Xe DG2 lineup, with the bottom 96 EU chip potentially matching the placement of the current DG1 card with OEMs looking to deliver low-end editing machines.

We still don't have an expected release date for these genuine gaming versions of Intel's Xe GPUs, but we're still positive about a 2021 release for the cards. And if Intel can get some out while Nvidia and AMD are still struggling with stock, then it could be a hell of a time for Intel to offer a third way for gamers to get graphics cards. If they're competitive, anyway.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.