Following plans first unveiled last year during the launch of their DG1 GPU, Intel sends word this morning that the first Iris Xe video cards have finally begun shipping to OEMs. Based on the DG1 discrete GPU that’s already being used in Intel’s Iris Xe MAX laptop accelerators, the Iris Xe family of video cards are their desktop counterpart, implementing the GPU on a traditional video card. Overall, with specifications almost identical to Xe MAX, Intel is similarly positioning these cards for the entry-level market, where they are being released as an OEM-only part.

As a quick refresher, the DG1 GPU is based on the same Xe-LP graphics architecture as Tiger Lake’s integrated GPU. In fact, in broad terms the DG1 can be thought of as a nearly 1-to-1 discrete version of that iGPU, containing the same 96 EUs and 128-bit LPDDR4X memory interface as Tiger Lake itself. Consequently, while DG1 is a big first step for Intel – marking the launch of their first discrete GPU of the modern era – the company is planning very modestly for this generation of parts.

Intel Desktop GPU Specification Comparison
  Iris Xe
Tiger Lake
Ice Lake
Kaby Lake
ALUs 640
(80 EUs)
(96 EUs)
(64 EUs)
(24 EUs)
Texture Units 40 48 32 12
ROPs 24 24 16 8
Peak Clock 1500MHz 1350MHz 1100MHz 1150MHz
Throughput (FP32) 2.11 TFLOPs 2.1 TFLOPs 1.13 TFLOPs 0.44 TFLOPs
Geometry Rate
2 2 1 1
Memory Clock LPDDR4X-4266 LPDDR4X-4266 LPDDR4X-3733 DDR4-2133
Memory Bus Width 128-bit 128-bit
VRAM 4GB Shared Shared Shared
TDP 30W Shared Shared Shared
Manufacturing Process Intel 10nm SuperFin Intel 10nm SuperFin Intel 10nm Intel 14nm+
Architecture Xe-LP Xe-LP Gen11 Gen9.5
GPU DG1 Tiger Lake
Ice Lake Integrated Kaby Lake Integrated
Launch Date 01/2021 09/2020 09/2019 01//2017

The first DG1 GPUs were shipped in the fall as part of Intel’s Iris Xe MAX graphics solution for laptops. At the time, Intel also indicated that a desktop card for OEMs would also be coming in 2021, and now, right on schedule, those desktop cards have begun shipping out.

Overall, Intel is taking a very OEM-centric approach to their DG1 products, and that goes for both laptops and the desktops. Even the desktop Iris Xe cards won’t be sold as retail – as entry-level cards, they are unlikely to fly off of shelves – and instead are only being sold to OEMs for use in pre-built systems. And even then, the cards were co-designed with ecosystem partners – of particular note, ASUS – rather than Intel building and shipping out their own video cards. So by desktop video card standards, Intel is being somewhat hands-off at the moment.

In a curious twist, the desktop cards will have slightly lower specifications than the laptop parts. While I’m still waiting to hear what the TDPs and final clockspeeds will be, Intel’s announcement confirms that the Iris Xe cards will only ship with 80 of 96 EUs enabled, rather than being fully-enabled in the case of the laptop parts. Given that this is an entry-level part, any further drop in performance isn’t doing the part any favors, but at the same time it was never going to be a speed-demon to begin with. At any rate, given that no chip has perfect yields, we now know where salvaged DG1 chips are going.

Meanwhile, like their laptop counterparts, the Iris Xe desktop cards will ship with 4GB of LPDDR4X memory. Intel has also confirmed that the cards will ship with up to three display outputs, with ASUS's card using a mix of HDMI, DisplayPort, and even a DL-DVI-D port.

Another DG1 Card

As for Intel’s target market, the company is targeting what they’re calling the “high-volume, value-desktop market.” Notably, unlike the Iris Xe MAX launch, Intel’s (admittedly brief) news release doesn’t spend much time focusing on the cards as a secondary accelerator, and instead are promoting these as a superior solution over existing graphics options. Given the focus on things like AV1 decoding, HDR support, and deep learning inference performance, I’m assuming that these will primarily be showing up in Atom (Gemini Lake Refresh) systems. Though it may also show up in low-end Comet Lake Celeron and Pentium systems, where vendors are looking to add a few more display ports and take advantage of the additional hardware accelerator blocks for things like video encoding, similar to how Intel positioned Iris Xe MAX for laptops.

Finally, given the OEM-centric nature of today’s launch, Intel isn’t publishing any specific availability dates for their Iris Xe video cards. But we expect that they’ll begin showing up in short order.

Source: Intel

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  • jeremyshaw - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    Now, my curiosity is intrigued. Does this have a 4 lane PCIe gen4 link? Is this a harvested Tiger Lake U part, with the CPU mostly disabled? Is this dedicated silicon?
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    Yes, it's dedicated silicon (so no, it's not a harvested TGL-U part).

    And yes, it's just a 4 lane PCIe link.
  • Kurosaki - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    Still avoiding the fun cards huh? ;)
  • ksec - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    I still remember the i740.....So hyped, so good on paper, and it was the day we learned for GPU, or they were simply called Video Cards at the time, the quality of Drivers meant "Everything".

    This time around Xe has all the Drivers work they have been working on with iGPU. Hopefully it will be a lot better. Although likely let down by their Fabs again.
  • Samus - Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - link

    Intel didn't have a choice but to make bad drivers. They totally lacked partner support with game developers which is why virtually no games ran properly on the i740. Synthetically it should have been competitive with the top cards of the time but there was some serious lack of communication between Intel and the community, which all considered, isn't really surprising. This is Intel we are talking about here...
  • cyrusfox - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    I am really intrigued and would love to get my hands on this, I run a passive 1030 and both Nvidia and AMD don't cater to the low end space (Rumored 1010 coming, how exciting...).

    This computer is used for photo work. If this can do better acceleration and performs comparable/better than a 1030, sign me up(Looking for ebay second hand I guess...). I seem to recall DG1 being around 1050 performance. Think of all the Ryzen workstations as well that could use this as a home as well thanks to the very much depleted and marked up GPU market we currently have (My GTX1080 sells for more than I paid for it 2 years ago). DG2 can't come soon enough!
  • michael2k - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    The 1050 is almost 2x the Iris XE or 1030, and the Iris XE isn't really any faster than the 1030. The 1650 is 3x faster than the 1030.

    There are passively cooled 1050 and 1650:
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    There are no bad products, just bad prices. :) As it is OEM-only, perhaps we'll see a few on eBay or some Amazon sellers...

    Your comparisons are a little off here, as this is a much lower power part, so it's best for SFF, HTPC, & OEM systems. 75W+ of passive heat would hamper thermals in most of these small cases.

    DG1 = 25W TDP
    GT 1030 = 30W TDP (the actual comparison)
    GTX 1050 = 75W TDP
    GTX 1650 = 75W TDP

    The benefits of DG1 over the GT 1030:

    1. 3x simultaneous display output
    2. AV1 decode
    3. Relevant & recent driver support
    4. 2x to 4x the RAM (4GB vs 1GB / 2GB options)
    5. GT1030 often exceeds TDP with 50W spikes (under 50ms)
    6. Often ultra-cheap VRMs that throttle before the GPU

    A review:

    I don't expect *much* better from DG1, but I'd take DG1 over a GT1030 any day...
  • Slash3 - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    They reportedly require an Intel platform with specific BIOS support compatibility, so they may have effectively killed DG1 off for DIY users before it even hit retail. Sigh.
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - link

    Oh, that's silly. Why? A PCIe dGPU is a PCIe dGPU the last I remembered. Does DG1 piggyback off the CPU iGPU in some hidden ways (thus it won't work with F-SKU CPUs)? Or Intel is very worried AMD HTPC owners might have another option?

    Or is it PCIe incompatible, so they need vendor-specific shenanigans to avoid destroying their cards? Or its memory? Cheap GPUs have long used non-GDDRx VRAM. Or there are some Tiger Lake entrails left inside, so it'll muck up systems?

    What a silly restriction. Sigh x2.

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