Intel has decided to enter in the GPU market, showcasing new GPU designs at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC). However, these designs don’t have anything to do with Intel’s desire to release their own dedicated GPU in the future. According to Intel, these designs are related to a different project altogether which is on power efficiency.
Intel is best known for its processors. It doesn’t have a dedicated GPU lineup like popular companies such as Nvidia and AMD. Almost every new laptop comes with an Intel processor and Intel HD Integrated graphics. However, that’s it. Intel hasn’t ventured further than integrated graphics in the realm of graphics.
However, Intel seems to be keen on competing in the GPU market as it has recently set up their own new graphics division which is going to be responsible for coming up with the company’s first discrete GPU since two decades. Intel has also hired Raja Korduri, the mastermind behind AMD Radeon’s technology who’s considered one of the top GPU-minds in the world today. Having acquired his services, it’s clear that Intel is serious about wanting to compete in the GPU market.
Although Intel definitely has the right people working for them, it’s just not possible to come up with a prototype in just a few months. Converting years of effort into a few months is near impossible. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that we won’t be seeing designs for Intel’s discrete graphics card anytime soon. Therefore, the designs and the prototype that was showcased at ISSCC won’t be available for purchase anytime soon.
The design is part of a research project. It features a graphics chip based upon Intel’s 9th gen graphics architecture. The design is built on a 14 nm fabrication process and it contains 18 Execution Units (EUs). It contains around 1.5 billion transistors in total. The number of transistors should be evidence enough that this prototype is not related to Intel’s discrete GPU project. Nowadays, 1.5 billion transistors in a GPU is too low. To put this into perspective, the AMD Vega 64 has around 12.5 billion transistors in it. A powerful GPU can not have a low amount of transistors especially not 1.5 billion.
According to the diagram, it’s a two-chip implementation, a very simplistic design. If this was to be Intel’s new discrete GPU, it would likely be a very low-end GPU intended for systems like laptops. One chip would contain the GPU while the other chip would be responsible for connecting to the PC.
The prototype’s speeds and frequencies range from 50MHz at 0.51V to 400MHz at 1.2V. The speeds are nowhere near fast. However, this is just a prototype and Intel are not currently going for raw power. These designs as mentioned were part of a separate project on power efficiency. This prototype does exactly that: it shows better and more efficient voltage and power control implemented in a GPU.
One of the main things considered when selecting a GPU is its power consumption. This is especially the case nowadays due to the increased popularity of cryptocurrency mining. One needs a good, power-efficient GPU in order to make a profit out of mining. Therefore, Intel taking its time over researching on power efficiency and in general, taking their time with the discrete GPU is a good sign.
Intel has a lot of competition in the form of AMD and Nvidia as there are many great GPUs out there already. Therefore, they need to come up with something that will stand out against high-profile competitors. A GPU with high performance and efficient power consumption would be the thing that separates Intel from the rest. If Intel can use the current prototype and build on it, then the competition in the GPU market is bound to get more fierce with Intel joining the fray.
No one knows when Intel actually releases its first discrete GPU in a long time. However, don’t expect it to be soon as they’re just getting started. Intel’s intentions for GPUs aren’t clear yet either. It remains to be seen whether Intel will make gaming GPUs or just standard cost-efficient lower-end GPUs. Expect more details to be released in the coming months when Intel gains more ground.