Intel Xe GPU header

Rumor: Intel’s upcoming XE-HPG “DG2” graphics chip to be built using TSMC’s 7nm enhanced process node

According to a recent report coming via Reuters, Intel’s first discrete gaming graphics card based on the Xe-HPG graphics architecture will be fabbed on TSMC’s enhanced version of its 7-nanometer process node, with Reuters citing sources “familiar with the matter.”

“The chip, known as “DG2”, will be made on a new chipmaking process at TSMC that has not yet been formally named but is an enhanced version of its 7-nanometer process”, two people familiar with the development process said in the report.

Some previous reports and findings have already suggested that Intel will give ramp up the DG2’s specs as well, such as enabling 4,096 unified shaders across 512 execution units/EUs, and slapping 8 GB of GDDR6 video memory. With two DG2 GPU listings spotted, it looks like Intel has created two separate DG2 graphics processors, with one offering users 128 execution units while the other offering 512 execution units.

For comparison, Intel’s DG1 graphics chip, also known as Iris Xe Max featured in laptops sports 96 execution units.

Intel DG1 Iris Xe Max

A recent driver leak has already confirmed that one of the SKUs might feature 512 Execution Units, each carrying 8 unified cores. The GPU is thus expected to be paired with either 6GB or 8GB GDDR6 of VRAM/memory.

Back in October 2020, Intel taped out its first discrete Gaming GPU, the Xe-HPG ‘DG2’ graphics processor. The company reaffirmed that it is working on a full stack of discrete Xe-HPG-based GPUs that will target the mid-range/mainstream, and also the enthusiast gaming market segment sometime later this year.

The new Intel DG1 is Intel’s first discrete GPU in over 20 years. Intel’s DG1 GPU is already shipping in volume. DG1 is codenamed as Intel Iris Xe MAX GPU, which is used in ultraportable and thin laptop designs. It is based on the Xe-LP architecture for iGPUs and low-power models, and entry-level gaming PCs.

The new Intel DG2 discrete gaming graphics processor on the other hand was in “alpha silicon” form back then, but Intel said they’ve already powered-on this new DG2-based GPU in their labs. DG2 isn’t just a successor to DG1, but instead is a higher performing bracket GPU based on the company’s latest Xe-HPG architecture.

Xe-HPG is the enthusiast, and gaming focused GPU architecture, incorporating hardware-enabled features found in similar discrete GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA like e.g. ray tracing/RTX etc.

This GPU was already rumored to be manufactured outside of Intel’s fabs, in an external foundry. Back then while Intel didn’t mention which fab and process node was going to be used, but if this new report from REUTERS is anything to go by, they might tap TSMC’s enhanced 7nm process node.

Intel has actually used a lot of other third-party IP, such as the memory controller and interface, and display interface to optimize the overall design costs. Intel’s family of Xe-HPG graphics processors will consist of multiple SKUs targeting different market segments spanning all the way from mid-range to the high-end enthusiast level.

Though, Intel hasn’t clarified whether DG2 is a flagship-grade bigger chip, or a more modest, and smaller high-volume part. For now, the company is simply saying that DG2 will, “take our discrete graphics capability up the stack into the enthusiast segment.”

Intel Xe-HPG slide-2

With its graphics chips, Intel is looking to tap into the booming PC gaming market. Its DG2 chip is expected to be released late this year or in early 2022 and will compete with Nvidia and AMD gaming chips that cost between $400 and $600, the sources said.

The chip manufacturing technology for the DG2 is expected to be more advanced than the Samsung Electronics Co Ltd 8-nanometer process used in Nvidia’s most recent round of Ampere graphics chips, the report said. They added it would also have a leg up on the Advanced Micro Devices’ graphics chips made on TSMC’s 7-nanometer process.

Intel is expected to unveil its DG2-based graphics cards later this year. Though at the recent January 11 CES 2021 event, there was no mention of this discrete gaming GPU.

Stay tuned for more tech news!