Intel Xe: everything you need to know about Intel's dedicated GPUs

Exclusive: Intel internal documents reveal 500W Xe graphics

Intel plans to make discrete graphics cards, and yes, that's exciting. But so far, it has maintained a tight seal on the details.

Digital Trends has obtained parts of an internal presentation of the Intel data center group that give us our first real glimpse of what Intel Xe is capable of (codenamed "Arctic Sound"). The presentation details the features that were in effect at the beginning of 2019, although Intel may have changed some of its plans since then.

These details show that Intel is serious about attacking Nvidia and AMD from every possible angle, and provides our best look at GPUs so far. The company clearly intends to go big with the new line of graphics cards, especially one with TDP(Power of thermal design, for its acronym in English), 500W, the most we have seen of any manufacturer.

Intel declined to comment when we contacted a spokesperson for an answer.

Intel Xe graphics use “tiled” chiplets, probably with 128 execution units each

Xe is the unifying architecture of Intel on all its new graphics cards, and the slides provide new information about Intel's design.

The documentation shows that Intel Xe GPUs will use "tiled" modules. Intel does not call these modules “chiplets” in the documentation, but the company revealed in November that its Xe cards will use a multi-matrix system, packaged together by Foveros 3D stacking.

The technique is similar to that developed by AMD in its Zen processors (which makes sense: consider who has hired Intel). But in graphics, this approach differs from how AMD and Nvidia cards are designed.

The mentioned cards include a GPU of a mosaic at the bottom of the stack, a two mosaic card and a maximized four mosaic card.

500W Xe graphics, mosaic architectureThis slide describes the details of the Xe release, also known as ATS (Arctic Sound) enablement platforms. Neither Digital Trends nor our source could identify part of the terminology, although Sawtooth Pass refers to a family of Intel core server core cards.

The documentation does not indicate how many units of execution (UE) will be included in each tile, but the mosaic counts are aligned with a mid-2019 controller leak that lists three Intel GPUs and their corresponding UEs: 128, 256 and 512. Assume that each tile has 128 UEs, the 384-UE configuration is missing. That aligns with the configuration of three missing tabs of the filtered slides we receive.

We assume that Xe use the same basic architecture shared by the previous Irisu Plus (Generation 11) graphics of the company, since Xe (Generation 12) arrive only one year later. The Intel Gen 11 GPUs contain a division, in which there were eight “sub-divisions,” each with eight UEs for a total of 64.

This is the basis of Xe, which begin to join several divisions into a single package. For the same math, a single mosaic will have two of these sectors (or 128 EU). The two-tile GPU, then, will present four slices (or 256 UE) and the four-tile GPU will get eight slices (or 512 UE).

Intel has been investing in multiple connection technologies that could allow these mosaics to work with high efficiency, known as EMIB (Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge), perhaps the "co-EMIB" mentioned by Intel last summer. It is a technology that Intel debut in the revolutionary but unfortunate Kaby Lake-G chips of 2018.

The thermal design power ranges between 75W and 500W

500W Intel Xe graphics and mosaic architectureA photo of DG1 of CES 2020.

Intel has at least three different cards in process, with a TDP ranging from 75W to 500W. These numbers represent the full range of graphics, from basic level consumer cards to servers for data centers.

Let's address them one at a time, starting from the bottom. The base TDP of 75W to 150W applies only to cards with a single box (and, presumably, 128 UE). These seem the most suitable for consumer systems, and are aligned with the preview we have seen so far of a card called “DG1”.

At CES 2020, Intel revealed the DG1-SDV (software development vehicle), a discrete desktop graphics card. It did not have an external power connector, which indicated that it was probably a 75W card. That is a coincidence with the SDV card of a mosaic that appears first in the previous box.