Intel have teased their first discrete graphics card, known as Arctic Sound, and the company have confirmed that they’re still aiming at a release window of 2020.
Currently, the company have two ways it provides graphics to customers using its own processors. The first its own Intel GT GPUs, but these are smaller affairs, scaled to fit inside the processors of say their 8th generation chips. It also leverages AMD’s Mobile Vega parts for some of the higher end SKUs to power various laptops.
Intel have technically worked to release a high end GPU in the past, known as the infamous project Larrabee – which underwent multiple different iterations and project changes before eventually being canned. Intel’s Project Larrabee was very different from a traditional GPU though, and used X86 instructions and included very little specialized graphics hardware.
But back in the closing months of 2017, it became clear Intel wanted back in the high end GPU race, when Raja Koduri, who’d acted as AMD’s Senior VP and Chief Arcitect over at AMD (head of RTG) suddenly found himself working over at Intel, and according to the companies own press statement, it would be to develop a dedicated graphics solution for the company.
There were rumors (and then confirmation) the company were working on both a 12th generation and 13th generation GPU, which would be turned in discrete graphics solutions (an add in card to be plugged into a PCIe slot). These generations were code named Arctic Sound and Jupiter Sound respectively.
Currently Intel’s latest generation is Gen 9,5m found in Coffee Lake processors, while Cannonlake will move Intel’s Graphics on to generation 10.
It’s only fitting then, during the same week where Nvidia announced their Turing architecture, with full Ray Tracing support, that Intel should tease their upcoming Arctic Sound GPU. In the video, we can see what appears to be a metal fin blower for the cooler, and clearly a PCIe connector at the cards underside.
Intel’s newly created Twitter Account had a very simply caption “We will set our graphics free.”
What remains less clear is what markets Intel will be targeting their GPUs at – the 3 obvious markets are of course Gaming, Prosumer and finally the Professional market (such as servers for compute orientated tasks).
There’s a lot of theories – and obviously very little information right now. But the fact is, there was a lot of discussion regarding pixels… and this clearly hints that we’re looking at a GPU which at least includes gaming, Given how lucrative gaming is, it’d be unlikely that Intel would decide against it.
We’ve also seen Intel become considerably more aggressive where gaming GPUs are concerned too – earlier this year, the company launched new driver software which automatically tweaks and configures your game settings (a little like Nvidia’s GeForce experience).
But given that GPUs are inherently great for Compute workloads (assuming Intel’s GPU is slightly similar to either AMD or Nvidia’s) it’d make sense for it to also be launched for the data center too.
It’s also possible that Arctic sound could be a smaller GPU focused on gaming (and possibly cheaper too, say a bit like RTG’s strategy with Polaris back in the day) and then the company use Juptier Sound to really push the performance envelope.
It’s quite likely that by the release of these GPUs, Intel will have got its 10nm process rolling where they’d be comfortable to push out a complex product such as a graphics core using it, too.
Naturally, the final question is how gamer’s will react to the product and if they’d opt to buy Intel. Frankly, from a market and competiton perspective, having more players in the market is only a good thing for customers. Particularly if they all push one another and drive down the prices. I love what Nvidia are doing with the upcoming Turing architecture, but we can only hope in the short term AMD are there to poke Nvidia and keep the mid range sector interesting, while we await Navi or something else to provide customers choice.