Intel Alchemist SoC-based PCs will be available in market in Q1 2022, says Intel’s Prakash Mallya
We had a conversation with Prakash Mallya, VP and MD, Sales, Marketing and Communications Group, Intel India, to take a closer look at Xe HPG, which is a new graphics microarchitecture for gaming. Here's what he had to say…
Intel recently hosted its Architecture Day 2021 conference. At its annual event, the company introduced a new brand dedicated to high-performance graphics called Intel Arc. Intel's Arc brand includes software and services, and hardware spanning multiple hardware generations, with the first generation called the Alchemist being based on the Xe HPG microarchitecture. Intel also shared details about its graphics architecture roadmap. At the event, the company said that its Xe architecture-based graphic cards will serve many markets, right from entry level discrete to high-end gaming and data center graphics for HPC and AI workloads.
In addition to this, Intel gave an in-depth look at its Alder Lake SoC consisting of two new generations of x86 cores and the Intel Thread Director workload scheduler and introduced Sapphire Rapids processors for data centres. It also introduced Mount Evans, which is Intel's first ASIC Infrastructure Processing Unit (or IPU), which is designed to enable cloud and communication service providers to reduce overhead and free up performance for the central processing unit or the CPU.
On the sidelines of these developments, we had a conversation with Prakash Mallya, VP and MD, Sales, Marketing and Communications Group, Intel India, to take a closer look at Xe HPG, which is a new graphics microarchitecture for gaming. Here are snippets of our conversation with Mallya.
Alchemist is based on Xe-HPG architecture. How is it different from Xe-LP and Xe-HPC architectures?
We've built Intel's Xe architecture to scale the breadth of the GPU spectrum from the efficiency and mobility focused Xe LP architecture, the gaming and enthusiast focused Xe HPG, right up to the AI and data center-focused Xe HPC architecture.
The Xe HPG microarchitecture is designed for scalability and enthusiast-class performance. Compared to the Xe LP IP in our Iris Xe MAX product, we increased the relative operating frequency and the performance per watt each by roughly 1.5X through a combination of logic and circuit designs, optimizations, and new process technology. Xe-cores in Xe HPG GPUs are higher performance compute blocks with new Vector Engines and new Matrix Engines (referred to as XMX – Xe Matrix eXtensions). Xe HPG GPUs also benefit from improved fixed function with full DirectX12 Ultimate support.
While Xe-cores in both Xe HPG and Xe HPC microarchitecture can deliver up to 256 FP32 ops/cycle, we have fully leveraged that flexibility to optimize them for their respective targeted workloads and market segments. Xe HPG Xe-cores are tuned for gaming and graphics workloads while arithmetic resources for Xe HPC Xe-cores have been optimized for higher density compute and AI.
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What is XMX (Xe Matrix eXtensions)?
XMX are the engines that accelerate convolution and matrix operations commonly found in AI workloads. With more and more workloads infused with AI, XMX is a key engine for delivering more efficient compute power.
How is Alchemist different from Intel's existing lineup of Xe graphic cards?
Alchemist is the name of the family of SoCs based on our high-performance gaming Xe HPG microarchitecture. Alchemist SoCs were previously referred to as DG2. Our DG1 product named Iris Xe MAX is based off the Xe LP microarchitecture, the same microarchitecture found in 11th Gen Core processors but unleashed in its own package.
How many Xe cores and Render Slices are found inside Alchemist?
The Xe HPG microarchitecture can scale to different configurations up to 8 slices. Each slice contains 4 Xe-cores and 4 new Ray Tracing Units.
Does the Arc brand also support mobile gaming devices? Could you share some of the products/devices where we hope to see Alchemist?
Intel Arc graphics solutions will deliver high performance gaming, immersive visuals, seamless game streaming and creation experiences across mobile and desktop PC platforms. Alchemist SoCs will be our first gaming class, high performance discrete graphics products and our first products under the Intel Arc brand. The first Alchemist SoC-based products will be available for consumers to purchase in Q1 2022.
What are the gaps that you saw in the gaming graphic cards market and how are you mitigating them with your Arc-branded graphic cards?
Given the current discrete GPU market dynamics and Intel's technology and scale, we felt that the discrete GPU market is ripe for market disruption and much needed competition. Every game, gamer, and creator has a story to tell, and every story has an arc. Inspired by this, we've introduced Intel Arc as our consumer high performance graphics brand. This brand represents Intel's commitment to empowering users to experience and create amazing new stories. It also represents our commitment to delivering frictionless gaming and content creation experiences, providing greater choice in hardware coupled with open and accessible software tools and services.
Currently, the gaming GPU market is mostly dominated by NVIDIA and AMD. How does Arc differentiate itself from them?
We have an existing Intel Deep Link technology feature set that already takes advantage of Intel CPUs and GPUs enabling power and performance enhancements. Having control over the CPU and GPU enables deep optimizations and benefits and we will share more platform benefits at a later date.
We also have very strong and close working relationships with all game developers, from emerging developers to well-established developers. Our ISV and engineering teams work very closely with them to ensure game engines and corresponding visual effects, features and technologies are optimized across both CPU and GPU hardware. As game developers begin to tap into the Xe architecture that underpins gaming platforms across affordable notebook platforms all the way up to enthusiast-grade desktop PC systems, gamers should expect to see even more benefits to their gaming experiences.
The Arc brand includes hardware, software, and services. Alchemist, Battlemage, Celestial, and Druid cover the hardware aspect of the Arc brand. Could you talk a little about the software and services that you will offer under this brand?
Intel is taking a software-first approach and is designing for industry standards, such as Microsoft DirectX12 Ultimate, the latest game engines such as Unreal Engine 5, and game developer innovations. We will have more details to share later this year.
What is XeSS? Will XeSS work with graphics cards from other vendors?
XeSS or Xe Super Sampling is a novel upscaling technology that enables high performance and high-fidelity visuals. It uses deep learning to synthesize images that are very close to the quality of native high-res rendering.
It works by reconstructing subpixel details from neighboring pixels, as well as motion-compensated previous frames. This reconstruction is performed by a neural network trained to deliver high performance and great quality, with up to a 2x performance boost.
We are committed to enabling XeSS on a broad set of hardware, including hardware from other vendors. This is accomplished by using the DP4a instruction which is available on a wide range of shipping hardware. As part of our commitment to pushing the gaming industry forward, as XeSS matures, we want to open-up XeSS SDK and tools for everyone to implement.
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