Second-gen Intel Xe GPUs to mix 7nm silicon with real-time ray tracing

It's all kicking off in the GPU game, with an unprecedented three-way battle starting next year

Intel Xe graphics card

July 2, 2019 Update with Intel’s clarification that the Xe graphics card publicised by Intel China was still just a fan-render and not official.

Intel has taken the opportunity of a surge in interest in the graphics card market by releasing a little more information about the Intel Xe GPUs set to arrive next year. The 10nm graphics card has more fan-made renders and reports of a second-gen with hardware-based ray tracing support. It’s getting mighty interesting again in the GPU world…

We are, after all, reportedly just a matter of days away from one of the biggest bun fights in graphics card history, with both AMD and Nvidia set to release new GPUs within a week of each other. The RTX 2070 Super has already been through our rigorous testing, and you can bet the RX 5700 XT will soon follow…

The latest Intel Xe rumours have come from Intel China, via a Weibo-posted video showing a fan-made render of Xe graphics card spinning around in all its LED-lit glory. It represents the first Intel GPU set to release next year, and features one of the designs on show at the Odyssey event in Taipei during the Computex show a little while back.

Intel has been keen to point out that this is not any kind of official render of next year’s Xe GPU, but hey, it still looks pretty cool…

“Intel China mentioned our upcoming Intel Xe graphics product in a post,” an Intel rep explained to us, “and included a video pulled from @IntelGraphics handle, what they didn’t do was call out the video they posted was not showing actual Intel Xe product but a community generated concept design of a graphics shroud.”

While Intel China’s Weibo activity (via Vortez) has shown off some more of this Xe render, the chip-manufacturing giant isn’t going to rest on its laurels and will follow up the 10nm 2020 graphics card with 7nm-based cards in 2021. And those will reportedly be the ones to support hardware-based ray tracing, at a time when seemingly everyone is going to have to.

Whatever your feelings about Nvidia firing the starting gun on real-time ray tracing, the technology world is now following suit. With both Sony and Microsoft confirming that their respective next-gen consoles will have some form of ray tracing support come their initial launch in 2020, and AMD manufacturing the silicon behind them both, the high-end lighting effects are going to become far more pervasive in the next 12-24 months.

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At the International Supercomputing Conference Intel divulged more detailed plans for its new graphics card roadmap. While the next generation of Xe GPUs will sport some 7nm silicon, the fact that it’s reportedly using both EMIB and Foveros packaging technologies in its future means that we’re likely going to see mixed architectures in the second-gen release.

Intel Xe graphics card

Because it was unveiled at the ISC event Intel was talking to the supercomputing future of its graphics silicon going into the Aurora machine due in 2021 for the US Department of Energy, but given that its first-gen GPUs will cross from integrated to discrete and into the server/high-end datacentre business, it’s not much of a stretch to expect that technology to filter down into consumer-level Xe graphics cards too.

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