Intel Xe graphics could beat Nvidia and AMD — here's how

Intel Xe graphics
(Image credit: Intel)

While Nvidia and AMD are preparing to do battle in the fall with the GeForce RTX 3080 and Big Navi, Intel could bring a new graphics challenge in 2021. 

Intel’s already said its first discrete GPU in decades will aim to deliver serious gaming performance and ray-tracing capabilities, to challenge GPUs from AMD and Nvidia. But according to ITHome, Intel’s Xe-HPG graphics card will have a GPU built on a 6-nanometer process node. 

Chip manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) will produce the chipset for Intel and use cutting-edge lithography technology to do so. By making a 6nm GPU, Intel is apparently expecting to have an 18 percent hike in logic density compared to TSMC’s 7nm process, which is used in Apple’s A13 Bionic chips found in the iPhone 11

AMD is currently on the 7nm node with its RDNA 2 GPU architecture that’s coming in Big Navi and the GPUs of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Nvidia Ampere GPU architecture uses TSMC’s 7nm process node, while its Turing architecture found in the current GeForce graphics cards use a 12nm node. 

While it’s not a hard fact, it’s usually expected that the lower the node number, the more transistors that can be packed into a chip. As such, on a 6nm node the Intel Xe-HPG graphics card could have a powerful GPU at its heart. 

But sheer specs alone won’t cut it, as hardware and software optimizations are needed to get the most out of a graphics accelerator. This is an area AMD and Nvidia both have a lot of experience in when it comes to games. 

However, Intel is no stranger to getting the most out of processing units, with its CPUs often delivering more performance than their number of cores would suggest. So Intel could bring this expertise, alongside other GPU knowledge it has built up making integrated GPUs for processors, to the dedicated graphics market. 

It’s still early days for the Xe-HPG graphics, so we won’t know for a while if Intel can be the cat among the pigeons of the graphics world. But more innovation brought to the area means more competition, and thus better products at more attractive prices for PC gamers and builders. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.