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Raja Koduri shows off an Intel Xe GPU wafer… and his scarf

Could this be an Intel Xe wafer? Our money's on 'obviously...'

Intel Xe DG1 graphics card

Raja Koduri, Intel’s chief architect, has tweeted a picture of a “fresh wafer” – a big, shiny disc encased inside a large letter ‘X’. Call me crazy, but I think that shiny wafer might actually be Intel Xe, Intel’s first proper attempt at a discrete GPU (we’ll do it a favour and forget its cancelled 2010 Larrabee chip).

The reason we think it’s Intel Xe is largely due to the giant ‘X’ plastered across the wafer, combined with the look of satisfaction on Raja’s face. (P.S. I want that scarf). If this is a photo of Xe, it’s good news for us gamers, as it means we’re one step closer to a third player in the graphics card market – and potentially a rising tide that lifts all boats (and lowers all prices).

It’s not as if the GPU itself isn’t something to get excited about, either. Based on the foundations laid out within Intel’s integrated Gen 11 graphics, the Xe architecture will include Xe-HPC, Xe-HP, and Xe-LP GPUs for a range of workloads. Intel confirmed 7nm Ponte Vecchio GPUs, fit with the Xe-HPC GPU, for use in the Aurora supercomputer will be arriving sometime in 2021.

Although precise information about the architecture isn’t yet known, we’re expecting the Xe-LP DG1 to host 96 Execution Units (EUs). Considering 10th Gen CPUs with 64 EUs perform well in games running at 720p, even the lower-spec Xe-LP should perform relatively well at lower resolutions – but we’re hoping for a lot more gaming performance than that from the lineup.

The main bulk of the chatter surrounding this image on Twitter seems to be regarding Xe’s potential architecture. Is it 7nm? 10nm? Who knows? Well, our bets are on ‘10nm++,’ as that’s the manufacturing process Intel’s Tiger Lake 11th Gen CPUs will use. Tiger Lake processors will be much more powerful than current Ice Lake ones and will feature Gen 12 Intel Xe graphics on-chip, so if this manufacturing process is used for Intel’s discrete Xe GPU, great things await us.

As for the picture itself, what more can be said that Raja’s anticipatory smile doesn’t already tell you? He knows what we want, and he’s going to tease us until we can get it. Our best guess at an Intel Xe release date for DG1 chips, given Raja’s previous potential launch window tease tweet and other industry sources, is this coming June, but this hasn’t been confirmed. Please don’t keep us waiting too long!