Enlarge / Intel is seeking to change Nvidia because the “one cease GPU store,” with a complete line of GPUs geared toward every thing from laptops to gaming to the datacenter.


At Intel Structure Day 2020, many of the focus and buzz surrounded the upcoming Tiger Lake 10nm laptop computer CPUs—however Intel additionally introduced developments of their Xe GPU expertise, technique, and planning that might shake up the business within the subsequent couple of years.

Built-in Xe graphics are prone to be one of many Tiger Lake laptop computer CPU’s greatest options. Though we do not have formally sanctioned check outcomes but, not to mention third-party checks, some leaked benchmarks present Tiger Lake’s built-in graphics beating the Vega 11 chipset in Ryzen 4000 cell by a large 35-percent margin.

Assuming these leaked benchmarks pan out in the true world, they will be a much-needed shot within the arm for Intel’s flagging repute within the laptop computer house. However there’s extra to Xe than that.

A brand new challenger seems

Enlarge / Intel’s 7nm Xe structure is meant to cowl all the vary of GPU functions, however Ponte Vecchio—the primary Xe product—particularly targets high-end deep studying and coaching in datacenter and supercomputing environments.

Intel Company

It has been a very long time since any third occasion actually challenged the two-party lock on high-end graphics playing cards—for roughly 20 years, your solely practical high-performance GPU selections have been Nvidia or Radeon chipsets. We first bought wind of Intel’s plans to vary that in 2019—however on the time, Intel was solely actually speaking about its upcoming Xe GPU structure in Ponte Vecchio, a product geared toward HPC supercomputing and datacenter use.

The corporate wasn’t actually prepared to speak about it then, however we noticed a slide in Intel’s Supercomputing 2019 deck that talked about plans to broaden Xe structure into workstation, gaming, and laptop computer product traces. We nonetheless have not seen a desktop gaming card from Intel but—however Xe has changed each the previous UHD line and its more-capable Iris+ substitute, and Intel’s much more keen to speak about near-future enlargement now than it was final yr.

After we requested Intel executives about that “gaming” slide in 2019, they appeared fairly noncommittal about it. After we requested once more at Structure Day 2020, the shyness was gone. Intel nonetheless does not have a date for a desktop gaming (Xe HPG) card, however its executives expressed confidence in “market main efficiency”—together with onboard hardware raytracing—in that section quickly.

A more in-depth take a look at Xe LP

When you adopted our earlier protection of Tiger Lake’s structure, the primary graph within the gallery ought to look very acquainted. The Xe LP GPU enjoys the identical advantages from Intel’s redesigned FinFET transistors and SuperMIM capacitors that the Tiger Lake CPU does. Particularly, meaning stability throughout a larger vary of voltages and the next frequency uplift throughout the board, as in comparison with Gen11 (Ice Lake Iris+) GPUs.

With larger dynamic vary for voltage, Xe LP can function at considerably decrease energy than Iris+ might—and it will probably additionally scale to larger frequencies. The elevated frequency uplift means larger frequencies on the identical voltages Iris+ might handle, as nicely. It is tough to overstate the significance of this curve, which impacts energy effectivity and efficiency on not just a few however all workloads.

The enhancements do not finish with voltage and frequency uplift, nevertheless. The high-end Xe LP options 96 execution items (evaluating to Iris+ G7’s 64), and every of these execution items has FP/INT Arithmetic Logic Models twice as large as Iris+ G7’s. Add a brand new L1 information cache for every 16 EU subslice, and a rise in L3 cache from 3MiB to 16MiB, and you may start to get an concept of simply how giant an enchancment Xe LP actually is.

The 96-EU model of Xe LP is rated for 50-percent extra 32-bit Floating Level Operations (FLOPS) per clock cycle than Iris+ G7 was and operates at larger frequencies, as well. This conforms fairly nicely with the leaked Time Spy GPU benchmarks we referenced earlier—the i7-1165G7 achieved a Time Spy GPU rating of 1,482 to i7-1065G7’s 806 (and Ryzen 7 4700U’s 1,093).

Bettering buy-in with OneAPI

One of many greatest enterprise keys to success within the GPU market is reducing prices and rising income by interesting to a number of markets. The primary a part of Intel’s technique for large attraction and low manufacturing and design prices for Xe is scalability—somewhat than having solely separate designs for laptop computer elements, desktop elements, and datacenter elements, they intend for Xe to scale comparatively just by including extra subslices with extra EUs because the SKUs transfer upmarket.

There’s one other key differentiator Intel wants to essentially break into the market in an enormous method. AMD’s Radeon line suffers from the truth that irrespective of how interesting they may be to avid gamers, they depart AI practitioners chilly. This is not essentially as a result of Radeon GPUs could not be used for AI calculations—the issue is easier; there’s a whole ecosystem filled with libraries and fashions designed particularly for Nvidia’s CUDA structure, and no different.

It appears unlikely competing deep-learning GPU structure, requiring huge code re-writing, might succeed until it gives one thing way more tantalizing than barely cheaper or barely extra highly effective hardware. Intel’s reply is to supply a “write as soon as, run anyplace” setting as an alternative—particularly, the OneAPI framework, which is predicted to hit manufacturing launch standing later this yr.

Many individuals anticipate that each one “critical” AI/deep-learning workloads will run on GPUs, which typically provide massively larger throughput than CPUs—even CPUs with Intel’s AVX-512 “Deep Studying Enhance” instruction set—probably can. Within the datacenter, the place it is simple to order no matter configuration you want with little in the way in which of house, energy, or heating constraints, that is at the least near true.

However in relation to inference workloads, GPU execution is not all the time the most effective reply. Whereas the GPU’s massively parallel structure gives probably larger throughput than a CPU can, the latency concerned in organising and tearing down brief workloads can incessantly make the CPU a suitable—and even superior—various.

An rising quantity of inference is not achieved within the datacenter in any respect—it is achieved on the edge, the place energy, house, warmth, and value constraints can incessantly push GPUs out of the working. The issue right here is you can’t simply port code written for Nvidia CUDA to an x86 CPU—so a developer must make arduous selections about what architectures to plan for and help, and people selections impression code maintainability in addition to efficiency down the highway.

Though Intel’s OneAPI framework is really open, and Intel invitations hardware builders to write down their very own libraries for non-Intel elements, Xe graphics are clearly a first-class citizen there—as are Intel CPUs. The siren name of deep studying libraries written as soon as, and maintained as soon as, to run on devoted GPUs, built-in GPUs, and x86 CPUs could also be sufficient to draw critical AI dev curiosity in Xe graphics, the place merely competing on efficiency wouldn’t.


As all the time, it is a good suggestion to keep up some wholesome skepticism when distributors make claims about unreleased hardware. With that mentioned, we have seen sufficient element from Intel to make us sit up and listen on the GPU entrance, notably with the (strategically?) leaked Xe LP benchmarks to again up their claims thus far.

We imagine that the largest factor to concentrate to right here is Intel’s holistic technique—Intel executives have been telling us for a number of years now that the corporate is not a “CPU firm,” and it invests as closely in software program because it does in hardware. In a world the place it is simpler to purchase extra hardware than rent (and handle) extra builders, this strikes us as a shrewd technique.

Excessive-quality drivers have lengthy been a trademark of Intel’s built-in graphics—whereas the gaming won’t have been first-rate on UHD graphics, the person expertise overwhelmingly has been, with “simply works” expectations throughout all platforms. If Intel succeeds in increasing this “it simply works” expectation to deep-learning improvement, with OneAPI, we expect it is bought an actual shot at breaking Nvidia’s present lock on the deep studying GPU market.

Within the meantime, we’re wanting very a lot ahead to seeing Xe LP graphics debut in the true world, when Tiger Lake launches in September.


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