Here at Ars, we’ve been talking about Intel’s eventual run in the desktop graphics market for a while now. (Technically, this is Intel’s second run — it made an ephemeral and unloved graphics card using only AGP in 1998, the i740.)
This week, Intel announced the sale of Intel DG1 graphics cards to OEMs and system integrators for inclusion in pre-built systems. So far, two variants of the DG1 have been announced at least in part: a passively cooled card from the Asus brand and an actively cooled version from an unannounced vendor.
If you’re hoping to score a DG1 on the gray market and include it in a home-built system, you’re out of luck. Intel told LegitReviews that DG1 cards only work on very specific systems, with custom UEFI (BIOS) supporting the card:
The Iris Xe discrete add-in card mates with 9th Generation (Coffee Lake-S) and 10th Generation (Comet Lake-S) Intel® Core™ desktop processors and Intel(R) B460, H410, B365 and H310C chipset-based motherboards and sold as part of pre-built systems. These motherboards require a special BIOS that supports Intel Iris Xe, making the cards incompatible with other systems.
While this is disappointing news for reviewers like yours, it’s probably nothing to get mad about if you’re an enthusiast looking for the next hot gaming GPU. Assuming the leaked DG1 Fire Strike benchmarks from May 2020 are still accurate, it won’t come close to breaking any records.
Think value, not pious
With a Fire Strike of 5,538, the Intel DG1 dev card from that May leak is faster than the onboard graphics card, but slower than entry-level discrete GPUs from AMD (RX 560) and Nvidia (GTX 1050), and it’s not. once. almost on par with advanced gaming GPUs. Sure, those leaked benchmarks were on a development version of the DG1 and it’s possible the newly launched OEM version will be faster, but we don’t actually expect that to be the case.
The OEM version might even be slower in hardware than the dev version was – the new OEM versions offer 80 Execution Units (EUs), while at least some versions of the dev cards had 96. performance, but we doubt this will change the card’s ultimate place in the market – the DG2 may be a different story altogether, but DG1 seems destined to drive relatively cheap desktops without a heavy gaming focus.
On the catchy side, if Intel (and its partners) can actually produce the DG1 in significant volume and on time, it could be a huge success with OEMs despite mediocre performance – Nvidia’s GTX 1050 and AMD’s RX 560 are faster if you really have them, but they are hard to find. The GTX 1050 should be a $110 card, but we couldn’t find a new GTX 1050 today on Amazon for under $300 or on Newegg for under $180.
Both launched versions of the DG1 card feature 4GB LPDDR4X, support PCIe 4 (despite no Intel CPUs to support it yet), and offer HDMI, DisplayPort, and dual-link DVI-D outputs with support for up to three simultaneous 4K displays.
We expect the DG1 cards to appear in the value-oriented desktop lineup of OEMs later in 2021.
List image by Intel