Intel recently announced its entry into the high-end graphics card market to better compete with Nvidia and AMD with its Arc Alchemist line of GPUs. The powerful chipmaker said the Arc line will span multiple generations of hardware targeting gamers and content creators, coupled with its software and services for high-performance graphics. Its new generation of gaming GPUs based on its Xe-HPG architecture will begin to hit the market in consumer graphics cards for laptops and desktops by the first quarter of 2022.
In an interview with TechToSee.com, Akshay Kamath, Director of Customer Sales, Intel India, explained why the company decided to develop dedicated GPUs and what it means for the industry. Edited excerpts:
For the first time, Intel will face AMD and NVIDIA directly in the dedicated GPU segment. Why did it take you so long to build these graphics cards and why now?
Akshay: We’ve been in the graphics space for a while because we’ve been developing integrated graphics for some time as part of our CPU roadmaps and platforms. What we also intend to do is leverage our rich heritage in PC gaming and esports to bring choice to the market. The idea here is to give truly smooth and frictionless gaming and content creation experiences on the GPU side and hopefully provide more choice in terms of hardware for the software developer community.
I think what we do is in addition to the strengths of the architecture that we bring, we also take a very software approach with the Xe architecture. It is developed in very close collaboration with the developers. We align very closely with all industry standards. Whether it’s Microsoft DirectX12 Ultimate or the latest game engines like Unreal Engine 5, we work with a variety of game developers. We work closely with these people to ensure that the game engines, corresponding game visual effects, as well as the various technologies are optimized on both the CPU and GPU. It’s a strength that we really bring to the table. But I think, with that in mind, the legacy that we have in PC gaming, the strength of the architecture that we bring on the graphics side, as well as the first software approach that we take here, is something really. unique that we will bring to the market on the GPU side as well.
So, last year Xe LP Graphics in Tiger Lake was introduced for the first time. Do you think that was a precursor of what was to come? Can you give an overview of what strategy is?
Akshay: Intel developed the Xe architecture which was designed to be a fully scalable graphics architecture to serve many markets and many product segments. Xe architecture covers the full spectrum of GPUs, from low-power integrated graphics to entry-level discrete graphics to high-end gaming and performance graphics, as well as data center graphics for HPC . So what we launched last year with our 11th generation Tiger Lake family are Iris Xe graphics based on the Xe LP architecture, which is the low power architecture. Now high performance graphics is called Xe HP, then graphics optimized for HPC and AI segment is our Xe HPC line. It is a new discrete graphics microarchitecture specially designed to accommodate passionate class performance for both gaming and creative workloads.
These graphics cards will be launched on the market next year. The announcement was made in the midst of a semiconductor shortage, when graphics cards are hard to get hold of. What would be the impact of Intel on the market in these crucial times?
Akshay: Intel’s IDM 2.0 strategy gives us the flexibility and the ability to explore different options and use the best process technology for each architecture. So for the GPU that we are bringing to market on the Xe HPG architecture, which is Alchemist in Q1 2022, there is a strong collaboration with TSMC. This is a great example of how our IDM2.0 strategy is going to work. We work closely with TSMC to ensure a robust supply chain.
There are a lot of options for consumers today to choose from when it comes to graphics cards. So, is there room for a new player in the market?
Akshay: The games are getting more and more complex. There are now games that have more and more advanced simulations. There are a lot of NPC characters in the game and all of those NPC characters, the AI that runs them, are getting more and more complex and intelligent. 4K graphics are becoming more and more mainstream now, ray tracing is gaining popularity and even the technologies that we are looking at like variable rate shading, all of those things, I think there is a good opportunity for one. player like Intel to come in and deliver technologies that can ensure smooth and consistent gameplay.
How would this foray into the GPU market impact Intel’s overall strategy?
Akshay: GPU and graphics have been part of our strategy for some time. We’ve always been very clear about our intention to focus from the lower, low-power graphics down to the HPC side of things. I think it has been very clear that we intend to participate in all of these areas.
But do you think it is very difficult to break into the GPU market?
Akshay: The current dynamics of the discrete GPU market, leveraging the strength of Intel, these are proven strengths in terms of the technology and the scale that we bring, we believe the discrete GPU market is ripe now, for the market disruption and much needed competition. So, from our perspective, now is the right time to enter the GPU market.
– Intel Graphics (@IntelGraphics) August 19, 2021
What do you think of the gaming market and how Arc fits into it?
Akshay: At a very high level, we have seen the game develop tremendously, not only globally but also in India. One of the things we have seen is that over the past 4-5 years, games, especially the PC gaming market in India, have grown exponentially. What we’ve also seen is that after last year’s pandemic, gaming use cases and the number of people who have turned to PC gaming have grown even more. This is currently reflected in the sheer demand we’re seeing for gaming desktops, gaming laptops, as well as discrete GPUs, and we believe those trends are here to stay. So, even looking to the future, starting next year, we believe that the demand for gaming products, especially PC gaming products, will be quite robust.
So Intel wants to break the duopoly of AMD and Nvidia in the GPU market?
Akshay: We believe that we can make a difference in terms of GPU technology… we have the right architecture, we have the right solutions, we have an extensive legacy on the CPU side and working with the software. I think we can bring something really differentiated to the table. We see the opportunity and we are here to make sure that we deliver truly enjoyable gaming and content creation experiences to consumers.
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